LAST OCTOBER, A historic breakthrough for peace took place in Mindanao. In this region in the southern Philippines, an armed conflict has persisted for more than four decades, killing 120,000 people and displacing millions. Now, after 15 years of peace negotiations between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, both sides have signed a framework peace agreement.
For generations, Moro (as traditionally Islamic ethnic groups are called here) and indigenous peoples in Mindanao have been politically, economically, and socially left out and marginalized in the Philippines. It is in this context—and the collective desire of the Moro people in Mindanao for self-governance—that both the armed conflict and the peace negotiations took place. The agreement signed in October outlines a pathway toward the establishment of a political entity, Bangsamoro, that will be autonomous, although not fully independent of the Philippines.
The framework agreement is a welcome consolidation of a long-term peace process that has encountered significant challenges, including periods of lackluster support from the international community and a less-than-successful 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (from which the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is a breakaway group).