Philippines and the stability of Mindanao Islamic Province
By: Zaiem Al-Hilmee
South Philippines or Mindanao has been a focus in Muslims maps in Southeast Asia. The land that has gone through turbulent witnessed the battle between Muslims that has victimized about 150,000 Mindanao Muslims since the conflict with the Philippines government from the time of President Ferdinand Marcos in 70s era.
Sparkling from this conflict, a movement to free the Mindanao province emerged to lead citizens of the province; which is Moro National Freedom Movement (MNLF) that is conducted by Prof Nur Misuari, a lecturer at University of Philippines. The movement disunited and new movement is formed; Mindanao Islamic Freedom Movement (MILF) that was directed by Hashim Salamat and now Dr Murad Ebrahim.
The conflict lasting, peace treaties are being signed including Tripoli agreement that was supported by other OIC countries comprising Saudi Arabia, Libya and Malaysia, that plays a role in seeking stability in South Philippines. The comprehensive agreement 1996 and peace treaty in 2014 with President Benigno Aquino III are a valuable starting point between Philippines government and MILF to end the conflict and figured out ways to form peace in the province that is now called Muslim Mindanao Autonomic province (ARMM) that was led by a governor.
Muslim Mindanao Autonomic province (ARMM) is consists of 5 regions; Basilan, Lanao De Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-tawi have the population of approximately 3 million Muslim residents. Until now, Malaysia`s role is still needed as monitor in assisting the stability of the province.
Phillipines President, Rodrigo Duterte who is newly appointed is expected to be more open towards Mindanao Muslim because of his preceding relationship with the MNLF leaders, Nur Misuari. The presence of Nur Misuari at Istana Malacanang, Manila recently as he turns out from his hideaway was seen as a bright opportunity that his arrest warrant that was issued by the Philippines government will be dropped.
Plus, Duterte aggressive approach in international coherence was seen distinctive towards US, that was highly influenced Philippines government before. Nowadays Philippines is witnessed to be more prone towards China and Russia, choose to buy defence assets and joint training and criticise US that is deemed to interfere in Philippines drug abuse eradication. At once it is an attemp to end US influence on that country.
Regional issue on Philippines claim towards Sabah and state invasion among Abu Sayyaf that was based in Jolo and until now collected nearly RM30.3 million ransom towards a series of abduction was prompted towards a settlement. Philippines actions that allows Malaysia to enter Philippines shorelines with the cooperation of Philippines marine defence and its plan to open Philippines consulate office in Sabah as a comprehensive way towards taking care of Muslim Mindanao residents in Sabah; it acts as an assurance in conserving Malaysia-Philippines diplomatic connection.
It is undeniable, the survival of Muslims in South Philippines has improved after the peace treaty mission, it has become a turning point as long as the tolerance between Manila-Mindanao, south Philippines province that once is the centre of Sulu Sultanate Rule is kept, the province will relish a long lasting peace.