1. Immediately after the conflict flared up, OIC had taken interest in the resolution of the conflict. The Third Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1972 took cognizant of the problem and decided “to seek the good offices of the Government of the Philippines to guarantee the safety and property of the Muslims” as citizens of the country. It authorized the OIC Secretary General to contact the Philippine government. From thereon until the final peace agreement was signed on September 2, 1996 in Manila, the OIC had been actively involved in the negotiations between the GRP and the MNLF. The involvement of Libya and Indonesia had always been part of the OIC engagement. Although Libya was active participant in negotiating the 1976 Tripoli Agreement but officially it acted as OIC representative. Indonesia’s involvement in crafting the 1996 Peace Accord was because it chaired the OIC Committee of the Eight.
OIC’s interest in the peaceful settlement of the Mindanao conflict that involves the Muslim minority and predominantly Christian national government, Wadi (1993) argues, was because part of its mandates as pan-Islamic organization are to promote Islamic solidarity and peaceful settlement of disputes. As reflected in its various resolutions, the OIC is of the opinion that peaceful settlement of the dispute will be to the best interest of the Muslims in South Philippines.
2. Malaysia’s involvement in Mindanao peace process started at the time when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was consolidating her power after she assumed office in January 2001 when President Joseph Estrada was deposed by EDSA II people power revolution. President Arroyo sought the assistance of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad and Indonesian President Abdulrahman Wahid to convince the MILF to resume the stalled negotiations. The MILF withdrew from the talks it had with the government after government forces launched an all-out war against the secessionist movement in the year 2000. The formal negotiations between the GRP and the MILF started in January 1997 after the conclusion of the peace talks between the GRP and the MNLF.
Kuala Lumpur responded positively to Manila’s request as peaceful and progressive neighbors will be to the interest of Malaysia’s fast developing economy. The Sipadan kidnapping by the Abu Sayyaf Group showed the capability of terrorists to cross borders and caused harmful effect to Malaysia’s tourism industry. The State of Sabah has been host to hundreds of thousand of refugees from South Philippines since the war broke out in 1971 and this has caused security problem to the state.
3. Despite the long historical relations of the United States and the Philippines, the former did not have the interest in the Mindanao conflict other than seeing it as domestic problem. The post 9/11 developments made U.S. policy makers realized the danger that Mindanao might become a sanctuary of terrorists.4 U.S. interest is to deny the “terrorists” the condition they can exploit. President Bush’ remarks before the Philippine Congress on October 18, 2003 is clear on this: “As we fight the terrorists, we’re also determined to end conflicts that spread hopelessness and feed terror.” The U.S. strategic objective is to prevent terrorist infrastructure from developing in the dense jungles of Mindanao.
Auspiciously, MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim wrote President Bush on January 20, 2003 explaining the MILF position and requesting for the U.S. assistance in peaceful resolution of the Mindanao conflict. President Arroyo made the same request during her visit to the U.S. in May. On this basis, the State Department tasked the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) to play facilitating role in the negotiations between the GRP and MILF without supplanting the role of Malaysia. (Martin 2006)