Blog | | by C. Lohoff
Philippines: Fight against militias
The Philippines are one of Asia's fastest growing economies and an important trade partner for the West.
Moreover, the country is a popular destination among tourists, especially backpackers. Internal tensions, however, are enormous; besides socio-economic disparity and corruption conflicts with Islamist militias such as the Maute group and others endanger positive developments.
The south-eastern country with more than 100 million inhabitants came a long way and is now the 34th biggest economy in the world by nominal GDP. According to estimates it has the potential to rank 16th by 2050. Yet, the security situation is fragile and could be a significant aspect for future developments.
In May controversial president Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law for the entire island of Mindanao, after heavy clashes erupted in the city of Marawi. The Maute group, named after their founders and leaders, captured the city of 200,000 inhabitants in May. Many civilians fled, yet many are still trapped in the city cut off from supplies. The army aimed to free the city in a short-time operation. However, nothing came of it, the clashes last and more and more civilians are among the victims. According to witnesses the Maute group takes inhabitants hostage and frequently beheads some of them.
The Maute group, as well as Abu Sayyaf pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State and aims to erect a caliphate on the second largest island of the Philippines. Abu Sayyaf became a talking point in February when the group beheaded a German sailor, they had kidnaped for the second time. Besides these two other Muslim and communist groups such as the MILF rebels and the New People’s Army claim autonomous regions on Mindanao. Just last week MILF rebels captured two villages and took students of the local schools hostage. Several western authorities advise neither to travel to the island of Mindano nor to the south of Palawan.
Since September the army is allowed to perform police duties in the whole country and police was put on high alert. Travelers are advised to comply with police and army instructions as situations can become violent otherwise. Despite these measures terroristic attacks and kidnappings of foreigners are likely in the whole country. Preparation and caution are essential for trips to the south Asian country.