ULAANBAATAR (Mongolia): Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s push for decentralisation in the country may strengthen peace efforts and halt radicalisation in the country’s troubled south.
Speaking to FMT on the sidelines of the 11th Asia-Europe People’s Forum in Mongolia, Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) executive director Gus Miclat explained how decentralisation will strengthen efforts to resolve issues in the south, especially those pertaining to the Muslim community.
He said decentralisation was a longer term measure to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) solution, which is also aimed at addressing problems in the south.
“The BBL was not passed by the previous administration. If it was passed, it would have implemented a basic structure of government for the Bangsamoro people,” said Miclat, who is also the co-founder of the IID, an advocacy and solidarity organisation based in Davao City, in the Philippines.
He voiced hope that the BBL would be passed and said that if it was passed, then decentralisation would further strengthen the goals of the BBL.
It has been reported that Duterte has been pushing for decentralisation, which, he said, would help resolve the armed conflicts in Mindanao as well as alleviate poverty in the hinterlands.
Miclat said that Muslim-majority Mindanao had always been marginalised economically and politically.
On decentralisation, Miclat said it will give Mindanao more economic autonomy, thus empowering them, making them feel less marginalised.
He also said that decentralisation, which would require a constitutional amendment, may help strengthen efforts to combat radicalisation in the south, as it would make it even harder to justify extremist actions, if Mindanao or any other province could chart their own paths.
“Personally, I feel the idea of decentralisation is something that can be explored. However, it must come hand in hand with other reforms.”
Miclat said decentralisation should not be seen as a magic wand which could fix all problems, but part of a holistic solution, and that there were other fundamental issues which needed to be resolved in order to bring stability to the region.
“It is also important that with decentralisation, it does not become a case of power shifting from elites in central Philippines to provincial elites.”
In May, Putrajaya vowed to work with Duterte to bring lasting peace to the conflict-plagued Mindanao region.
The Malaysian Government has been acting as the mediator in the peace process between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Last year, Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Bakri acknowledged that the conflict in southern Philippines put Sabah’s east coast under “permanent” threat from armed insurgents.