US: Lasting peace settlement in PH remains a challenge

by Jose Katigbak, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 21 2015 12:05 PM | Updated as of Jun 21 2015 08:05 PM

WASHINGTON – A lasting peace settlement remains a challenge in the Philippines despite an initial peace agreement designed to set the stage for the creation of a Bangsamoro autonomous government in Mindanao, the US State Department said.

In a report released on Friday, the US State Department said violent clashes with fighters from terrorist groups and splinter groups have erupted periodically in central Mindanao since the signing in March 2014 of a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, “indicating that a lasting peace settlement remains a challenge.”

The State Department in its “Country Reports on Terrorism 2014” said overall Philippine-US counterterrorism cooperation continues to improve.

Terrorist groups, including the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and the Communist People’s Party/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) were unable to conduct major attacks compared to previous years due to continuous pressure from Philippine counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts, it said.

Nevertheless, these groups were able to mount dozens of small arms and improvised explosive device attacks, kidnappings for ransom and extortion efforts, the report said.

It also said the government has made progress in implementing its 2011-2016 Internal Peace and Security Plan that calls for the transition of internal security functions from the army to the police to enable the military to shift its focus to maritime security and territorial defense capabilities.

“To date, however, this transition continued to be slow and ineffective. Continued violent extremist activity, as well as counterterrorism capability gaps between the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police), slowed this transition and forced the AFP to continue playing the lead counterterrorism role in the Philippines,” the report said.

It said in 2014 the US continued to help the Philippines monitor and investigate groups engaged in or supporting terrorist activities.

The Philippines also received counterterrorism assistance from Australia, Britain, Canada and Japan primarily on capacity building on investigation, case management, intelligence and special operations training with the PNP and the AFP.

Read more on The Philippine Star