Officials in the Philippines’ autonomous Muslim region said on Monday that a deradicalization center aimed at helping former militants reintegrate into the community is being built in the southern Philippines as part of government efforts to maintain peace in one of Southeast Asia’s most conflict-torn regions.
After nearly four decades of conflict, the government reached a lasting cease-fire agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao, which covers mostly Muslim portions of Mindanao.

In a referendum held in 2019, the residents of the region voted for increased autonomy as part of the peace process. This came after the Philippine army and pro-Daesh terrorists, notably members of the Abu Sayyaf Group, fought for months in Mindanao’s Marawi City in 2017.

Since then, the threat posed by ASG has decreased; the Philippine military announced in April that its operations had reduced the risk of militants linked to Daesh. As more ASG members surrender to the military, the Bangsamoro administration is working to reintegrate them into society.
“This facility is part of our commitment to the Western Mindanao Command and the local government… as we help them in reconstructing the lives of (former) ASG members,” said Naguib Sinarimbo, the head of the Bangsamoro department in charge of local governance.

The $469,000 facility will be built in Barangay Langhub in the Sulu province’s southwestern region, which was once an ASG stronghold.

The facility will conduct activities to ensure that former militants “become productive citizens as they return to the community” once it is created.

Col. Alaric Delos Santos, the regional military spokesperson, emphasized the need of the center “for the deradicalization of former ASG members.”

“We all know that what they were taught inside the ASG was an extremist version of Islam. This time, they’ll go through the procedure and gain a thorough comprehension of Islam. We’ll also be able to assess their potential in order to identify the type of livelihood that each of them requires,” Delos Santos told Arab News.

According to official figures, around 860 members of the ASG have surrendered to the military in Sulu since 2017. More than half will participate in the center’s first round of programming, according to Delos Santos.

According to security expert Rikard Jalkebro, the facility is critical to maintaining calm in Sulu.

“It’s something that has to be done,” Jalkebro told Arab News, “otherwise you won’t be able to have enduring peace or any kind of sustainable peace scenario in Sulu.”

Jalkebro said it was vital to “integrate these people into society” by teaching them skills and offering vocational training in order to establish trust between former fighters and the local community, but that these processes take time.

“It’s quite challenging, and it’s all too easy for them to revert to their old habits.”


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