Apparent peace in Mindanao


A war underway in the Philippines for half a century may be ending…or not.

The Republic of the Philippines is divided into three main, insular island groups, one of which includes Mindanao, the second largest and southernmost major island in the Philippines.

In a country with a majority Christian population, the island is unique as it is home to the Moro [or Bangsamoro], the largest ethnically indigenous Muslim population in the Philippines, who account for approximately 5% of the country’s population. The Moro have been fighting for their autonomy and independence for what seems like forever, which explains why there are virtually no foreigners and little tourism in the region.

Now, this long-standing battle, virtually unknown to outsiders, which has been the most persistent armed secessionist struggle in Southeast Asia, seems to have finally ended, at least formally. On 27 March this year, a peace agreement was signed between Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the leading independence movement, founded in the 1960s. After jettisoning the goal of establishing an Independent Moro Islamic State, the group began participating in peace talks in 2011, following informal meetings between MILF leader Murad Ebrahim and Aquino.

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