I read the other day that the European Union is willing to assist the Philippines in resolving its dispute with China about territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea. The European Union holds the same view as the Philippines, that international law should determine national borders, and development in international waters should be cooperative, not exclusive.
But that is not the subject of this blog.
It simply serves as a jumping off point to discuss federalism. And a new Muslim nation.
The European Union is a half-baked federalist model. The US is a fully cooked, centralized, federalist model. The Philippines is similar to the US, with capable and powerful provinces operating under a strong centralized national government. Most regions have little complaint, except Muslim Mindanao and adjacent islands, where extremists demand independence and moderate Muslims advocate greater autonomy than now exists.
The European Union consists of states that have not fully committed to a unified "national" or umbrella organization that might dictate how they run their civic business. Each "state" remains substantially independent, able to accept or reject EU dictates. Great Britain still deals its own currency rather than the Euro, but insists on being a party to the debt dialogue being carried out in by the European Union. Germany does not want to put its tax money behind the Union's bailout of nearly-insolvent countries. And so the whole house of cards is tottering. Chaos is only a bad day in Italy away.
|Autonomous Muslim Mindanao|
The argument in Mindanao for an autonomous, nearly independent state within the greater Philippine Nation, is a striking echo of the reason the European Union is on the edge of failure.
You can't serve two masters. Only one.
The large European nations are too proud of their independence. Or perhaps insecure with the notion that former blood enemies can now tell them what to do. They have a hard time conceding authority elsewhere. It is too unsettling to think that a French woman would dictate financial rules to Germans.
Just as in the Philippines it is too unsettling for fundamentalist Muslims to think that a Catholic educator would dictate curricula to Muslim schools. Or that legislators would tell women not to wear full facial coverings, as is done in France.
The Philippines has two choices, it seems to me. In or out. There is no half-way, no negotiated definition of state that allows a Muslim nation to serve two masters.
Choice 1: The Philippines remains whole. The center is dominant and the states/provinces concede to a greater authority when national stability and security so require. The existing conflict would continue forever.
Choice 2: Complete independence for southwest Mindanao and adjacent islands, as a separate country.
There is no such condition as half-wet. And half-baked is just that. Unpalatable.
My own readout is changing. You cannot negotiate or legislate in good faith when the faith you are negotiating with is beyond reason. And, frankly, it is not worth all the deaths and anguish to try to impose a government on extremists when moderate Muslims will not speak up for the Philippines . . . as a nation. Indeed, when you think about it, it is not extremists who dictate separation. There are only a few hundred of them. It is moderate Muslims who do not have sufficient loyalty to the Philippines . . . who don't have sufficient allegiance or dedication to the nation's well-being . . . to rein in their murderous brethren.
I've argued in the past to invest in building an economy to get rid of the wretched poverty that drives most of the animosity in Muslim regions. But that is a long term prospect. And It is difficult to expect those with no food on the table today to wait 20 years for jobs.
Finally, you can't legislate matters of the soul.
If moderate Muslims really want an independent state, and believe that will get more food on the plate, give it to them. Define a clear, defensible border. And defend it.
Run the rest of the Philippines as a vibrant, unified, progressive nation.