The conflict in the Southern Philippines has cost some 60,000 lives, but political will on both sides has enabled hard choices and meaningful concessions to be made for the sake of peace.
Despite the fanfare surrounding the October 2012 peace agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), the security environment in central Mindanao is far from secure. Although it is a great opportunity for peace and the subsequent development of the poorest region of a poor country, there are four developments to watch: 1) the legal impasse in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law; 2) the rivalry between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and MILF which threatens the entire peace process; 3) the recent spate of attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF); and 4) the disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR) of MILF combatants. While any one of them would not be enough to scuttle the peace process, two or more could be a major setback. A durable political settlement is the key to lifting the residents of Mindanao and Sulu out of poverty and ending the cycle of violence that has left some 60,000 people dead.