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Duterte renews pitch for federalism for Mindanao peace

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte (L) raises a clenched fist, as he shouts declaring Marawi "liberated" during a ceremony inside the battle area of Bangolo district in Marawi on October 17, 2017. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on October 17 declared a southern city "liberated from terrorists' influence" but the military said the five-month battle against militants loyal to the Islamic State group was not yet over. Ted Aljibe/AFP
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte believes that the problems in Mindanao will not end with the death of terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute as he renewed his push for a federal type of government.
 
Duterte said failure to change the type of government from unitary to federal would stir more conflict in Mindanao and could threaten the survival of the Filipino nation. 
 
“With regard to federalism, I’ll be frank. If it does not push through or any change that would modify the present structure, which is really an unfair set-up, it will lead into a trouble again in Mindanao,” the president said in a federalism forum in Camarines Sur.
 
“It would be harder for us to survive as a nation, a republic intact. I am not scaring you,” he added.  
 
 
Duterte made the remarks a day after Maute and Hapilon were killed in an early morning encounter in Marawi and hours after he declared that the city has been liberated from terrorists.
 
Maute and Hapilon led the Islamic State-inspired militants that occupied Marawi City last May 23, which prompted the president to place the entire Mindanao under martial law.
 
“It will be easy if we agree to go federal. If not, it will really explode, then I would predict the MI (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), MN (Moro National Liberation Front) would now join with everybody – and they have plenty or firearms,” Duterte said.
 
“I told you during the campaign because I know that it would create a fissure and eventually, maybe a breakage.”
 
 
Duterte said things would become more complicated if the United Nations intervenes and recognizes a belligerent state.
 
“If the United Nations intervenes, then we would be reduced (just like) the Yugoslavia before. Then you have Serbia, you have so many city-states, the Balkan states, they are fragmented. I hope it would not (happen) during my time,” the Philippine leader said.
 
“I am sure this will happen. The problem will be inherited by our children.”
 
Duterte said the unitary set-up was introduced by Spanish colonizers and has caused discontent in Mindanao.
 
 
He claimed that the Philippines is the only country in Asia that has not adopted a federal setup.
 
Duterte encouraged local governments to start the discussions on federalism to inform the public about its advantages.
 
“It is our vision to create system of government that will give peace, prosperity to our people,” he said. 
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