THE European Union on Wednesday expressed concern over the recruitment efforts of the Islamic State and other self-described jihadist groups in Southern Mindanao.
In a study cited by Tim Johnson, Asia program director for the International Crisis Group, the EU also warned the Philippines that, after watching at least three other peace talks, the people in Mindanao might lose faith in the process and return to guerrilla warfare or tip deeper into lawlessness in the “next few months.”
“The next few months will make or break this process,” Johnson told reporters in a round-table discussion hosted by the EU delegation and attended by representatives from the government, civil society and non-government organizations.
“The new government came into office with the goodwill of all the key players in the South, but the honeymoon period will end and violent alternatives--including jihadi militancy and criminality--are available for those who become disaffected,” Johnson said.
He made the statement even as Malacañang said the formal holding of the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will be on a “high-level,” with several ranking government officials being involved.
“The biggest development here is the development that the government is open for talks with the MILF, and having additional members of MILF in the Bangsamoro Transition Committee,” Presidential Spokesman Martin Andanar said in a breakfast forum.
Other factions were invited to have seats aside from the MILF.”
Johnson also warned of the efforts by the IS and other jihadist groups to foment disorder outside the Middle East.
He said his team conducted a one-year study funded by the EU entitled “The Philippines: Renewing Prospects for Peace in Mindanao,” where they interviewed dozens of stakeholders from the government, the MILF, community activists and ordinary citizens.
He said the study found that the people from Mindanao were now being skeptical after witnessing at least three other proposed agreements founder.
He said that behavior might put the greatest danger to peace should the people return to guerrilla warfare or tip deeper into lawlessness.
Johnson then recommended to the Duterte administration that the most effective way of avoiding those dangers was to pass enabling legislation quickly that would quickly deliver at least as much autonomy as was promised by former President Benigno Aquino III.
He also said there was a need for the government to “move fast” with practical measures, including substantial financial support, to convince the skeptical people in Mindanao.
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