The Philippines — an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands that was once a U.S. colony and is a current U.S. treaty ally — has faced challenges to its stability and national cohesion since independence, particularly emanating from the violent conflict in Mindanao that began in the 1970s. However, the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in 2019 has presented the greatest opportunity in years to forge a sustainable peace in Mindanao. Building on decades of peacebuilding efforts in the region, USIP is working to expand research on conflict dynamics in Mindanao and to support the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and local civil society.
Engr. Mohajirin Ali is the director general of the Bangsamoro Planning and Development Authority (BPDA), which coordinates the formulation of the Bangsamoro government’s socioeconomic development policies and plans, and monitors and evaluates those plans. Aliah Adam, who serves as the coordinator for local NGO Singanen O Mindanao and as a consultant for USIP, recently interviewed Ali to discuss the BPDA’s role, the major achievements of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and the importance of the three-year extension of the transition period of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The following are edited excerpts from the interview.
The election in May of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the 17th president of the Philippines presents an opportunity to reset U.S.-Philippines relations after six rocky years while President Rodrigo Duterte held the office. After Marcos’s sweeping election victory, President Biden called to congratulate him and then dispatched a series of U.S. officials to Manila, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Any concerns that the Marcos family’s corruption and lingering legal issues in the United States would hold up relations have been pushed aside due to the enormous interests the United States has in a functioning U.S.-Philippines alliance.
The normalization track of the Bangsamoro peace process involves the decommissioning of 40,000 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants and their firearms, as well as their transformation to civilian and productive members of society through the provision of socioeconomic development programs and other peace dividends, extending to their families and communities.
In recent years, peace processes — such as the track 2 intra-Afghan negotiations — have shown that on both a moral and practical level, women’s inclusion is essential. Women’s involvement in peace processes increases their likelihood of success and longevity and can increase legitimacy. While more literature on women contributing to mediation and negotiation efforts is slowly being produced, little attention is currently being paid to the already existing work of women who employ their faith and mobilize religious resources for peacebuilding.