The EU wants to stop the violence in the southern Philippines. Source: Wikimedia
The European Union will boost aid to the Philippines, primarily to help a peace process with Islamist Moro militants on its southern islands.
EU ambassador Franz Jessen said 5.5 million euros (US$6 million) would be invested in five projects for the Muslim-dominated areas at the same time as the EU doubled aid in general to the Philippines.
The move comes as a bill to create a Muslim self-rule area has stalled in the parliament despite backing from President Benigno Aquino.
Aquino had hoped to have the Bangsamoro Basic Law passed this year in a bid to end decades of separatist violence in which more than 100,000 lives have been lost since the 1970s.
The new jurisdiction of Bangsamoro was a key provision of the peace deal signed between Manila and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014
Aquino steps down next year and it is feared that the law will be not be a priority for his successor.
“The EU is impressed that the government‘s and the MILF‘s commitment to the peace process, despite the delay in the adoption of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, has not changed,” Jessen said.
“I want to reaffirm the importance the EU attaches to giving life to the [peace process] and to the development of the long-term political, economic and social pillars that will bring the peace dividend to the country as a whole,” the EU ambassador told the media.
Jessen plans to visit the southern Philippines to meet combatants, including Muslim guerrilla leaders.
He also said total EU aid to the Philippines had increased to 325 million euros from 2014 to 2020, more than double the amount from 2007 to 2013, as a means to alleviate problems in the deprived south.
The Philippines’ significant Muslim minority claim the southern island of Mindanao as their ancestral home.
The Muslim population is relatively impoverished in the already poor south, where business struggles with violence and criminality.
Jessen said peace would attract European commercial investment.
A Norwegian and an Italian are believed to be among the people being held hostage by Muslim Abu Sayyaf militants.