The non-government group International Alert reported that the Bangsamoro region in Mindanao is facing an intensification of violence over land despite the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement on June 24, the group said its Critical Events Monitoring System captured conflict incidents and tensions in communities in recent weeks.
“These flash points are tied to land issues, the groups’ access to weapons and manpower, and their links to State apparatus,” said Nikki de la Rosa, country manager for International Alert Philippines.
“They have access to resources and have political connections, that is why they are able to engage in long-term violence,” she added.
On May 29, violence erupted on portions of land that are occupied by the indigenous Teduray tribe but are also claimed by Maguindanaon Muslims in South Upi town.
The contested land is also being eyed by agribusiness and mining groups.
A series of armed clashes also occurred in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces between Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front fighters.
Francisco Lara Jr., International Alert senior peace and conflict adviser, said the failure to end violent land conflicts proves that massive weaponry are still in the hands of combatants.
The rebel Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces kicked off phase two of its normalization process in September 2019 as part of its peace deal with the government in 2014.
The rebel group aimed to decommission 30 percent of its 40,000 members in March 2020.
Meanwhile, there has been an increase in the purchase of small arms and light weapons across the region, according to International Alert.
The group said it was enabled by people’s access to subsidies during the coronavirus pandemic and points to people’s anxiety amidst loss of livelihood and unresolved clan wars.
The International Alert report indicated that the situation during the pandemic that resulted in loss of livelihood and limited access to subsidies contributed to the rise of violence.