Ending The Armed Conflict In The Philippines (Cordillera)

Ending The Armed Conflict In The Philippines (Cordillera)

Year(s): 1986 – present.

Location: Cordillera, Philippines.

UN Regional Group: Asia-Pacific.

Type of Conflict: Vertical (state-based) Intrastate Conflict.

Type of Initiative: Mediation of a peace agreement and a monitoring mission.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The Government of the Philippines.

Impact: Lasting.

Summary: The peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army that began in 1986 reached a formal peace agreement in 2011 which continues to be implemented with oversight from a monitoring committee.

Description of Case 

Originating from some of the Philippine resistance movements that fought the Japanese during the Second World War, the Philippine Communist Party (Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, PKP) continued its armed struggle against the post-war administration in Manila with the aim of leading a Maoist revolution until 1954. In 1968, the PKP split, with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) emerging as the more powerful force and launching an insurgency against the Government of the Philippines across the country.[1] In the mountainous and relatively sparsely populated Cordillera Region (on the island of Luzon), the communist movement was heavily influenced by a spectrum of local indigenous communities with grievances of their own against the authoritarian regime of Ferdinand Marcos. A key point of contention was construction of a hydroelectric dam and the exploitation of natural resources in Cordillera, both of which threatened the livelihoods of the local population.[2] When  Marcos was forced to flee the country in the face of widespread political and military opposition to his rule in 1986, the CPP cadres in Cordillera rejected the decision of the Central Committee to continue the armed struggle against the new, elected Government of Philippines, and formally split from the organisation to form the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA).[3] Despite the name, the CPLA sought autonomy for Cordillera within a federal Philippine state rather than full independence.

The same day that the CPLA was established, it entered into a traditional sipat (ceasefire) agreement with the new government at a ceremony held at the Mount Data Hotel in Bauko. This ended the fighting between the CPLA and the Government of Philippines in Cordillera and laid the foundation for the creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) by the administration of Corazon Aquino later that year. This polity was governed by a 200-strong Cordillera Regional Assembly and a 29-member Executive Board, providing a degree of political representation to the population.[4] Despite these gains, the CPLA refused to disarm, and the government failed to create a permanent autonomous status for Cordillera and stopped funding the CAR in 2000, leaving the conflict unresolved for decades. In 2011, the CPLA agreed to disarm in return for investment and autonomy for the region, and positions in the armed forces for some of its personnel. These arrangements were formalised with the signing a Memorandum of Agreement on 18 January 2011.[5] This was met with public celebrations of the Mount Data Accord on its 25th anniversary in September 2011 in support of the peace process.[6] In 2019, the Government of Philippines created a Joint Evaluation and Monitoring Committee to track the implementation of the terms of the agreements and serve as a mechanism to prevent renewed conflict.[7]


[1] UCDP. Government of Philippines – CPP. (UCDP, 2022) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/statebased/411 (Accessed 28/01/2022)

[2] Miriam Coronel Ferrer. “The Moro and the Cordillera Conflicts in the Philippines.” In Kusuma Snitwongse & W. Scott Thompson, eds. Ethnic Conflicts in Southeast Asia. (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2005) p.118

[3] Ibid. p.120

[4] Ibid. p.131-2

[5] Memorandum of Agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the CBA/CPLA towards the CPLA’s Final Disposition of Arms and Forces and its Transformation into a Potent Socio-Economic Unarmed Force (Closure Agreement), 2011. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/philippines-closure-agreement2011 (Accessed 28/01/2022)

[6] Karl de Mesa. “Cordillera celebrates 25th anniversary of peace accord.” GMA News Online. (20 September 2011) Available at: https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/regions/232874/cordillera-celebrates-25th-anniversary-of-peace-accord/story/ (Accessed 28/01/2022)

[7] Isabela Gamu. “CPLA elders, AFP, OPAPP join peace month celebration.” Philippine News Agency. (17 September 2019) Available at: https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1080654 (Accessed 28/01/2022)