MANILA -- Inter-tribal conflict is on the rise in the Bangsamoro region, according to reports by peace organization International Alert Philippines.
The peace organization reported that while overall incidents of violence from 2011 to 2020 have declined, horizontal (or inter-tribal) conflict is accelerating – largely spurred by land disputes and shadow economies (such as the illegal gun trade).
“The numbers declined from 2018 onwards, but again we emphasize that 2021 numbers has not come back to pre-2015 levels so it's still unsustainable and fragile,” as stated by Conflict Alert’s country director Nikki de la Rosa on Thursday.
These findings – presented in Conflict Alert’s latest book ‘Conflict’s Long Game: A Decade of Violence in the Bangsamoro’ – prove that the region has an enduring history of instability and violence, giving rise to what the organization terms as a “conflict trap”.
Senior peace and conflict advisor Francisco 'Pancho' Lara Jr. cited the local government’s narrow scope of conflict de-escalation, pointing to the government’s decision in choosing to focus on the tensions between the government and rebels and consequently negating the tensions between local families and clans.
“There was no knock-on effect. The vertical conflict that was resolved by the settlement [and] the retirement of rebellion did not affect the level of horizontal violence happening [...] And so you have had an explosion of what we call inter-clan, inter-tribal, inter-ethnic, inter-identity violence,” said Lara.
As emphasized De la Rosa, “Identity sits at the core of the issue – identity that is instrumentalized based on the interest at play.”
Lara further reported that the overall decline in violence within the region was directly attributed to the former administration’s declaration of martial law as opposed to peacebuilding initiatives by local groups.
On the topic of violent extremists (VEs), publication author Judy Gulane reported clashes between violent extremists and indigenous persons (IPs).
“[Violent Extremists] have engaged in land conflicts involving the IPs, which have resulted in large displacements of families,” she said.
International Alert’s report, which addresses the severity, magnitude, and causes of conflict in the Bangsamoro region, also included chapters on social media and polarization, as well as gender-based violence.
In addition to the book launching, database website Conflict Alert was launched, which documents conflicts across the Philippines.
Highlights of Conflict Alert Findings