Philippines – Emergent epicentre to ISIS SE Asian ambitions


This report focuses on the future prospects of ISIS in Southeast Asia (SE-Asia), contending that, ceteris paribus, the Philippines will soon be the headquarters for ISIS in the region. This report provides the rationale behind this assertion by elucidating the pre-existing presence of terrorist organisations across the Philippines in light of the current domestic political and social conditions. Additional analysis of how regional neighbours, most notably, Malaysia and Indonesia are handling extremism are additional factors that support our thesis. We assert that the Philippines will emerge as the epicentre of Islamic extremism in SE-Asia, but there is no doubt that the entire region will be affected by the establishment of a base in the region. This base will aid in facilitating the movement of followers, planning attacks, fundraising, and cultivating strategic alliances between local terrorist groups.

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With its dominant presence in Iraq and Syria, it is sometimes easy to discount the expansive scope of the Islamic State‟s ambitions of a global caliphate. Our observations and research indicate that, regardless of the success of ISIS in this stronghold, the group is undoubtedly growing in other parts of the world.

The Filipino government is not doing nearly enough to curtail the radical threat of ISIS or, more generally, terrorism in the country. Juxtaposed with the strong-armed efforts by the Malaysian and Indonesian governments in their respective homelands, the use of the Philippines as a jihadist functionary is being ever more exacerbated as alternative operating options in the region dwindle. One of the major issues in the Philippines is the underestimation of the influence of ISIS, illustrated by the labelling of local extremist networks as „criminal gangs‟ or „bandits,‟ rather than Islamic extremists. Currently, the majority of SE-Asian terrorist groups have training camps in Southern Philippines and the state has become the major transit hub for those traveling to Syria. Unfortunately, without proper recognition of the issue by the Filipino government, terrorist activities will only continue to escalate.

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