The Southern Philippines. Since defeating groups affiliated with ISIS in the siege of Marawi in October 2017, the Philippine government has closely tracked terrorist groups that continue to operate in some areas, particularly in the southern Philippines. The government has sustained aggressive military and law enforcement operations to deny safe haven to such groups and prevent the flow of FTFs through its territory. The government further deepened close counterterrorism cooperation with the United States, enhancing military and law enforcement efforts to address the full spectrum of terrorist threats, including from WMD. The government welcomed support from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency to help reduce the risk of non-state actors acquiring or using improvised chemical weapons.
International reconstruction assistance focused on Marawi continues, but concerns remain that efforts are not including local stakeholders and adjudicating competing land claims – both factors that terrorists can exploit.
Although the Philippine government possesses the political will to apply security measures against terrorist threats and has consistently partnered with the United States and other nations to build the capacity to do so, it struggles to apply a coordinated whole-of-government approach to prevent terrorism. The continued ability of terrorist organizations to operate in the southern Philippines reflects the centuries-long challenge of governing effectively in the country’s more remote areas and establishing consistent security in a region characterized by a strong separatist identity, endemic poverty, and religious differences.