The Government of the Philippines has declared martial law in the southern island of Mindanao, after clashes between the army and extremist groups.

The violence is focused in the city of Marawi, and erupted as the army searched for the leaders of a militant group with alleged links to Islamic State (IS). Most residents have now evacuated the city, which is home to around 200,000 people.

Despite the violent incident being limited to the city of Marawi, martial law has been declared throughout Mindanao, home to some 20 million people. President Duterte has alerted that the declaration may extend beyond its initial 60 days, and cover the rest of the country. This is not the first time martial law has been declared in the country, as our Philippines Programme Director Kristian Herbolzhemier explains in an interview with TRT World:

The declaration of martial law has raised concerns in the Philippines, because of the reminder of what happened 45 years ago when marital law was declared by President Marcos, which led to a dictatorship.

Conflict, too, is not new to this region of the Philippines. Muslim communities in the island of Mindanao have been fighting for self-determination for more than five decades. The Government signed a peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996, and with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014. Conciliation Resources supported these latter peace talks as a member of the International Contact Group. However implementation of these peace agreements is slow:

When there is no implementation, that creates an atmosphere where other groups can take on violence. They are still able to recruit because of the dissatisfaction of some sections of society who still believe the only solution is violence.

Watch Kristian discussing the current situation in the Philippines in an interview with TRT World. 

Find out more about our work in the Philippines.