Forgotten conflicts: Philippines

Much of the news at the moment is overshadowed by the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, and rightly so, as thousands of people are still desperately awaiting aid and the country is in a state of chaos. However, for today, I’d like to bring your attention to a situation that rarely makes the front page.

The Mindanao region in the southern Philippines has suffered from violence erupting from a conflict between the government and a group of Islamist rebels, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who have been fighting for an independent state for several decades. The problems first started in the 1960s when the Muslim minority launched a struggle to gain independence, laying claim to their ancestral homeland in the south. Attempts to reach a conclusion to the peace process in 2008 failed and new outbreaks of violence began. It is not just political or religious outrage that is fuelling the violence, intense poverty and years of under-investment in the region have added to the situation.

The conflict is ripping through all sectors of society, with children unable to attend school in areas directly affected by the violence, and over 300,000 people have been displaced. Areas sheltering the displaced are becoming overcrowded and typhoons bringing flooding into the area have exacerbated the problems. Aid workers have warned that the area is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis, with many of the displaced living in camps, and others afraid to return home because of the presence of armed groups in the area. Many have become reliant on food aid and relief efforts in order to survive.

Hope is not lost however, as the rebel group MILF have agreed to enter into peace talks with the government once more beginning in December last year. There seems to be some positive progress, as the rebel group freed some 71 hostages, and were disarmed in the process. Nonetheless, the government cannot afford to rest easy, as presidential elections loom in May this year, and threaten a possible return to violence.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m sorry, but there is a group of violent Islamic rebels called MILF?

    • I know, unfortunate really…
      I was waiting to see if anyone would pick up on that!

  2. Yeah…you can rely on me.


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