By Roy Mabasa
To counter extreme political or religious fanaticism, one should understand the rationality behind it.
This was pointed out by United States Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim in his remarks at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies workshop on Countering Violent Extremism in Southeast Asia currently being hosted by Manila.
“The true strategy for dealing with violent extremism,” said Ambassador Kim, “is to prevent the next crisis by focusing on the underlying issues that give rise to the violent extremism in the first place.”
According to the top American diplomat in Manila, this is not an easy task.
However, he said events such as the APCSS workshop “where colleagues from across the region can share their experiences and knowledge are an excellent platform to learn from each other and build partnerships that transcend national borders.”
The workshop brings current leaders, decisionmakers and subject experts together to discuss violent extremism with input from all Asia-Pacific nations in the APCSS region.
Both Communist nationalist rebels and Islamic separatist insurgencies have wreaked havoc on the Philippines, especially on the southern island of Mindanao. As a result, several thousands of Filipinos have been murdered in bombings, assassinations, kidnapping attempts, and executions.
Some of the high profile attacks in the Philippines involved the kidnapping and execution of foreigners, including Western missionaries and tourists.
The Philippine government considers the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) together with its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to be one of the most significant internal security threats. Unlike the Islamic extremists who are concentrated primarily in Mindanao, the NPA has members throughout the country including Manila.
Philippine military and police forces have struggled in dealing with extremist groups. The struggles stem from a lack of capacity, poor coordination, and geographical obstacles. However, the government has made efforts to restructure and strengthen its counterterrorism measures in cooperation with the United States and its Southeast Asian neighbors. Through military and economic initiatives, the Philippines has increased its capability to constrain violent activity and reduce financing for extremist groups.