Addressing Islamist Militancy in the Southern Philippines

Crisis Group Report
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Addressing Islamist Militancy in the Southern Philippines

What’s new? Nearly three years after Manila granted autonomy to the Bangsamoro, the majority-Muslim region in the southern Philippines, its former main Islamist rebel group is running the interim government. While militant groups outside the peace process are weakened, they are not yet defeated.

Why did it happen? The Bangsamoro’s political transition has brought gains to the war-torn region, depriving militants of some of their appeal. The Philippine military’s operations and the pandemic have also pressured insurgents, who are now very few in number and spread over large areas.

Why does it matter? Despite the interim government’s policies to contain violence, sporadic clashes with insurgents continue in various provinces. Delays in delivering the promised peace dividends will not automatically replenish the militants’ ranks, but they do raise the risk of renewed recruitment.

What should be done? The Bangsamoro’s interim government should step up socio-economic assistance to hard-hit areas, work with local authorities to reintegrate former militants and devote more energy to resolving the local conflicts militants often exploit. For its part, Manila should fast-track rehabilitation of Marawi, the city ravaged by battles with insurgents in 2017.