Struggle for self-determination in Mindanao
At the heart of the conflict in Mindanao lies deep-rooted prejudices against a minority Muslim and indigenous population. However, recent developments have seen an historic breakthrough in the form of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines. This is a major milestone for settling decades of armed conflict by creating a new self-governing region called the Bangsamoro.
Islam arrived in Mindanao in the 14th century, 200 years before the colonial Spanish Catholics, and a number of Sultanates were able to resist attempts of external dominance until the US took over as the colonial power in 1898. The US (and later the newly independent Government in Manila) promoted the settlement of Christians from the rest of the Philippines to the fertile lands of Mindanao. This displaced local populations (Muslim and non-Islamilsed indigenous peoples). By the 1960s the local population was in a minority in their own homeland.
The armed struggle for an independent state began in 1969, sparked by discrimination, Islamic revivalism, opposition to the Marcos dictatorship and the Jabidah massacre of Muslim soldiers during their military service. This struggle was first against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos and continued when democracy was reinstated in 1986.
On the road to peace in Mindanao
On 7 October 2012, there was a historic peace breakthrough in the form of a Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. This agreement set the road map for a transition, envisioning the creation of a new self-governing region in Muslim-dominated areas of Western Mindanao, called the Bangsamoro. The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF in March 2014. The focus now is on transition – implementing the peace agreement and creating the new Bangsamoro. This new process is at least as challenging as the peace negotiations, and will take several years to be completed.