The Islamic State may soon declare a new province (wilayat) in its virtual caliphate.  The future affiliate is likely to be in the southern region of the Philippines on the island of Mindanao. The Muslims or Moros of this region, for centuries, have battled to remain independent of Spain, the United States, and the Philippines. Negotiations between Manila and the largest Muslim resistance group in Mindanao, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) collapsed just when it appeared that the antagonists were reaching a compromise, which would award the Muslims of Mindanao autonomy status.  Unfortunately, more militant Muslim factions opposed to a negotiated settlement, staged a major offensive which torpedoed the peace talks.

Following the resumption of hostilities, several units from another more militant Muslim guerrilla group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) pledged their loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).  Subsequently, the Abu Sayaf Militia, probably the most battle hardened radical group in Archipelago Southeast Asia, joined the MNLF, offering its fealty to ISIS.  Moreover, ISIS propaganda videos are now featuring various Moro groups training together.  In addition, the video features leaders of various radical Islamic groups posing together for photo ops.

Most significant is that indications demonstrate that if Mindanao declares itself a province of the ISIS Caliphate, the area is likely to become the focus of Jihadi violence throughout archipelago Southeast Asia. For instance, it appears that already Malaysian jihadists are playing the role of introducing Filipino radicals to their Indonesian counterparts.  One report estimates that there are about 1200 Southeast Asian militants whom are acquiring combat experience with ISIS in the Middle East. Many of these now may be exfiltrating Syria and Iraq and returning to their home countries as ISIS is losing territory. Some of these are Filipino from Mindanao.

The newly installed administration in Manila headed by President Rodrigo Duterte is likely to have little time before he is faced with a rejuvenated Muslim insurgency with Islamic State support. Duterte may decide to revive former President Benigno Aquino’s peace talks with less extremist Muslim groups. However, Duterte must move quickly before ISIS unites the various Muslim movements  and solidifies its control. Some older nativist resistance organizations remain interested in a compromise solution granting them autonomy status which would be called Bangsamoro. Other more radical Islamists with ties to the international Islamic jihadis will only settle for Mindanao to be part of a Sharia governed Sultanate.

In testament to the exigency for the need to suppress Muslim terrorist groups in the Philippines, former Philippine Minister of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario publically warned delegates to the April 2015 Association of Southeast Asian Nations  (ASEAN) assembled in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia “that ‘these groups are a threat to all.”  As if to underscore the Minister’s warning, an ISIS-affiliated terrorist shot and wounded a visiting Saudi Arabian scholar and moderate preacher Aaidh al-Qarni and a Saudi diplomat. Al-Qarni had just finished delivering a lecture at West Mindanao State University in Zamboanga, Philippines on 1 March of this year.  This attempted assassination is still another indicator that the Islamic terrorist factions in the Philippines are uniting under ISIS leadership. Al-Qarni was on an ISIS hit list.Future terrorist operations in the Philippines and elsewhere in Archipelago Southeast Asia will prove it in the blood of the innocents.