Mitigating The Impact Of Armed Conflict On Civilians In The Philippines
Year(s): 1986 – present.
Location: Municipality of Sagada, Cordillera, Philippines.
UN Regional Group: Asia-Pacific.
Type of Conflict: Vertical (state-based) Intrastate Conflict.
Type of Initiative: Local action.
Main Implementing Organisation(s): Local people and organisations.
Summary: By creating and maintaining zones of peace, local people and organisations reduced the impact of armed conflict on the civilian population.
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. The fall of the regime of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 heralded an opportunity for a negotiated settlement to ongoing conflict, but although some talks were held with the Government of the Philippines, now led by newly elected Corazon Aquino, the parties failed to come to terms. In January 1987, Philippine security forces fired on a crowd of protesters (killing thirteen and injuring hundreds), leading the CPP to withdraw from the talks and return to armed struggle. The scale of the armed conflict intensified for the ensuing three years, only to recede again in the early 1990s.
In this context, many communities caught in the crossfire between the CPP armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), and the Philippine military and police developed a relatively effective method of mitigating the impact of the ongoing conflict on their lives. Inspired by the local community of Hungduan, who successfully negotiated ad hoc arrangements for the NPA to withdraw from the locality and for government forces to remain outside the area in 1986, preventing the destruction of their homes and businesses, people in other areas worked to implement similar arrangements in their localities. In 1988, the population of Sagada (in Cordillera) issued a 12-point declaration signed by municipal leaders, the clergy, civil society, and tribal elders which banned military operations (and alcohol) in the entire municipality and called for tribal customs to be respected and sanctuary for the wounded to be offered. This declaration met with widespread public support and was endorsed by the Government of the Philippines in 1989. Similar frameworks were applied in Sitio Cantmanyog in the Western Visayas, Tulunan (Barangay Bituan) on Mindanao, and Tabuk, near Sagada, over 1989 and 1990. With committees established to represent the zones in negotiations, local communities had access to a mechanism to consistently engage in delicate talks, make adjustments to certain arrangements with one party to the conflict or the other, and ultimately try and keep the armed conflict away from their homes and businesses. By creating and maintaining these zones of peace, local people and organisations reduced the impact of armed conflict on the civilian population.
 Kevin Avruch & Roberto S. Jose. “Peace Zones in the Philippines.” in Landon E. Hancock & Pushpa Iyer. Zones of Peace. (Bloomfield: Kumarian Press, 2007) p.53
 Ibid. p.55
 Ibid. p.65