MANILA — The Philippine military is fighting Islamic militants on two fronts in the country’s south, with recent battles having left dozens dead and driven more than 82,000 people from their homes, according to government officials and international organizations. An aid worker said a “growing humanitarian crisis” was underway in camps for people who had fled the violence.
The intensified fighting is taking place as lawmakers in Manila are debating a bill that would formalize the provisions of a landmark peace deal reached a year ago with the country’s largest rebel organization.
Last March, the rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front agreed to lay down their weapons in return for the creation of a Muslim-dominated autonomous region in the southern Philippines. Under the deal, the newly established area would receive a generous portion of local tax revenue.
The deal was put in jeopardy in January, when the Philippine National Police conducted a raid in the small southern town of Mamasapano to capture several internationally wanted terrorism suspects. That botched operation, which resulted in a firefight with some members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and left 44 police officers dead, has generated harsh public criticism of the peace agreement.