Southern Philippines Conflict


Braving the Waves: Gray-Market Trade and Maritime Security in the Sulu Sea

December 4, 2019

Blog Post

In the Sulu Archipelago, off the Philippine island of Mindanao, a demimonde of illicit traders in radar-evading wooden boats smuggle needed goods from Malaysia, while government agents offer protection in exchange for a cut of the profits.


Marawi and Beyond: A Look at Violent Extremism

June 28, 2017

Blog Post

Given the continued chatter on social media about the tragic attack by a gunman at Resorts World Casino on June 2, it is worthwhile to begin this piece by debunking the notion that it might be connected to Islamic State. Granted, ISIS tried to immediately claim that this was one of their “lone wolf” attacks, but that was clearly not the case. Close… Read more


Unpacking Martial Law in Mindanao

May 31, 2017

Blog Post

Even by Philippine standards, the past week has been a tumultuous one. Militants linked to Islamic State fought security forces in the Islamic City of Marawi, President Duterte cut short a state visit to Russia and declared Martial Law in Mindanao, and peace negotiations with the Communist insurgents seem on the verge of breakdown. President Dutert… Read more

Photo from Mindanao, Philippines: soldier at a checkpoint. 

Local Data Sheds New Light on Violence in Southeast Asia

November 16, 2016

Blog Post

In the last few months, a spate of coordinated bomb attacks in Thailand days after a constitutional referendum, new bloodshed in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, and violent protests in the lead-up to gubernatorial elections in Jakarta, have served as a somber reminder of the violence that simmers under the surface of an otherwise relatively stable and eco… Read more

Rodrigo Duterte 

What’s Next for Mindanao Peace Process Under Duterte Leadership?

June 1, 2016

Blog Post

In the lead-up to May 9 Philippine elections, anxiety mounted over how the decades-long Bangsamoro peace process to resolve the protracted conflict in Mindanao would continue – if at all – under new leadership. Now, as President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, who will be sworn into office on June 30, sets about naming his new cabinet, peace advocates are w… Read more


Philippine Elections: Politics and Peace Make Strange Bedfellows

May 18, 2016

Blog Post

On May 9, a record-breaking 81.6 percent of Filipino voters went to the polls to elect a new president. Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who ran a tough-talking, polarizing campaign that focused on criminality and promised to instill law and order, won with over 38 percent of the votes. On May 9, a record-breaking 81.6 percent of Filipino voters w… Read more


Amid Tensions, Lanao’s Butig Municipality Holds Violence-Free Election

May 11, 2016

Blog Post

In the Philippines, violence has always been an issue of great concern come election time, and May 9 was no exception, especially in Lanao del Sur, one of the five provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao where the risk of violence is compounded by the presence of private armed groups, local conflicts, and loose firearms. At the bullet… Read more


Imperatives for Peace Face New President in the Philippines

May 4, 2016

Blog Post

“No administration can afford to ignore the costs of conflict in Mindanao – not the human costs of conflict, the costs of development delayed or foregone, the budgetary and security costs of conflict, nor the risk of worsening a climate conducive to the spread of violent extremism.” This was the latest assessment of the Third Party Monitoring Team… Read more


Young Advocates Use Art to Promote Peace in Southern Philippines

February 17, 2016

Blog Post

Late last month, a group of young peace advocates sponsored “Piece of Peace,” or POP, an art contest at a public elementary school in the town of Patikul in Sulu, Southern Philippines. The event attracted young artists from the area who showcased their talents…


Who Is a Terrorist? Lessons from Thailand and the Philippines

January 20, 2016

Blog Post

The 2015 Global Terrorism Index was recently launched by the Institute of Economics and Peace. The timing of the report, released just three days after the Paris attacks, was sadly opportune. The main message – that terrorism is on the rise and its reach is widening – chimes with a new assertiveness…


Bangsamoro Law Deliberations: Déjà Vu All Over Again?

November 4, 2015

Blog Post

The Philippine Congress resumed session this week, and is potentially in its last stretch in deliberating on legislation that would establish the new Bangsamoro Government. In a recent pronouncement, both houses of Congress declared a self-imposed deadline…


2016 Philippines Election Politics Causes Hiatus in Bangsamoro Law Process

October 14, 2015

Blog Post

This week, tens of thousands of aspiring candidates – from president and vice president, through senators and members of Congress, to governors, mayors, and local councilors – will file for candidacy in May 2016 general elections in the Philippines.


Peace Council Endorses Bangsamoro Basic Law – with Some Tweaks

May 6, 2015

Blog Post

It’s crunch time again for peacemaking in Mindanao. Both houses of the Philippine Congress are now considering the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the implementing legislation for the hard-won peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).


Doing Development Differently: Report from Manila

April 29, 2015

Blog Post

On Monday and Tuesday in Manila, The Asia Foundation, along with Harvard University and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and with media partner DevEx to get the message out, hosted the second Doing Development Differently forum (DDD).


Energy Crisis in the Philippines: An Electricity or Presidential Power Shortage?

March 18, 2015

Blog Post

As predicted, the Philippines is heading into a severe “summer” power crisis. One peculiarity of the widespread use of English in the Philippines is the mismatch between seasonal names and the months of the year. Leaves start falling from trees in March – is it “autumn?”


Registration Symbolizes First Step in Integrating MILF in Philippines Electoral Process

March 11, 2015

Blog Post

It was an admirable effort. On March 7, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), understaffed with just four commissioners left after the retirement of Chairman Sixto Brillantes, held a symbolic special satellite voter registration of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members and their families….


Building A More Solid Evidence Base for Peace and Development in Mindanao

January 14, 2015

Blog Post

Conflict-affected areas of Mindanao in the southern Philippines form a complex, unpredictable, and highly dynamic environment that makes development programming very challenging against a backdrop of general urgency. Over the last 15 years, The Asia Foundation has been engaged in Mindanao…


Philippines 2015: Presidential Speculation, Scandals, and Prospects for Peace

January 7, 2015

Blog Post

A year ago, I predicted that one of the main stories of 2014 in the Philippines would be recovery efforts from Typhoon Haiyan, and indeed it took until October (almost the one-year anniversary) for final approval of the massive rehabilitation phase.


Polling Shows Encouraging Climate of Opinion for Mindanao Peace Negotiations

October 8, 2014

Blog Post

On September 10, Philippine President Benigno Aquino personally turned over the draft Basic Law based on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro to Congress after months of revisions and refinement. The move continues the roadmap set forth in negotiations…


One Year After Siege, Zamboanga Critical to Success of Any Peace Agreement

September 10, 2014

Blog Post

On Sept. 9, 2013, Zamboanga City woke to an unfolding nightmare. Some 200 Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters under the charismatic commander Ustadz Habier Malik had landed. They professed, despite the fact that they were fully armed, an intention merely to have a peaceful march in support of independence for Muslim-dominated areas in the southern Philippines. When government security forces halted their march, MNLF forces took hostages as a string of human shields, tying them together with rope. As a nightmare, this was a recurrence…


Subnational Conflict: New Approaches Needed

August 13, 2014

Blog Post

In last week’s In Asia, I examined how the rise of Asia in recent decades has been accompanied by a growth in deadly subnational conflicts (SNCs). These conflicts are occurring across the continent, including in middle-income and otherwise stable states. Democratization has not been a cure. Asia’s subnational conflicts last twice as long as those elsewhere in the world.


Minorities within the Minority: Indigenous Communities in the Bangsamoro

August 6, 2014

Blog Post

In March this year, a major milestone passed in the 40-year effort to end hostilities in the Philippines between the national government and Muslim separatist fronts. The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a Comprehensive…


Implementation of Bangsamoro Holds Lessons for Philippines as a Whole

March 26, 2014

Blog Post

As we prepare for the long-awaited March 27 signing in Manila between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, one of the striking things of the peace process…


Coronations, Clan Organizing, and Conflict Resolution: Moving Toward a More Peaceful Mindanao

September 9, 2009

Blog Post

This past July, the community of the Islamic City of Marawi gathered to celebrate the enthronement of Attorney Saidamen B. Pangarungan as Sultan of Madaya. For over 10 years the leadership of the Sultanate of Madaya was vacant because of conflict between the Sarip Batua and Datu a Pitiilan family clans. Through the efforts of a local NGO, Reconcili… Read more