Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 17 November 2021


The Republic of the Philippines signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997 and ratified it on 15 February 2000, becoming a State Party on 1 August 2000.

There is still no specific national law on landmines.[1] The Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL) has been advocating a “Philippines Landmines Bill” since the 12th Congress (2001–2004). Bills on national implementation measures have been before the House of Representatives and the Senate for several years, but none have been passed.[2] However, R.A. No. 9851 implements certain obligations under International Humanitarian Law which would criminalize use of antipersonnel landmines.[3] Production of improvised antipersonnel mines is also criminalized by R.A. No. 9516.[4]

The Philippines last provided an updated Article 7 transparency report in April 2020. Its previous Article 7 reports were submitted in March 2017 and cover the calendar years 2015 and 2016.[5]

The Philippines attended the Mine Ban Treaty Eighteenth Meeting of States Parties, held virtually in November 2020, and the intersessional meetings held virtually in June 2021.

The Philippines is a State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It is also party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its Amended Protocol II on landmines.

In June and August 2021, PCBL held virtual briefings on the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) which function like landmines, and condemned the use of these IEDs by non-state armed groups (NSAGs).[6]

At the June 2021 intersessional meetings, PCBL made a statement on sustainable national capacity, mine action coordination, and responsive community liaison in situations of clearance of explosive ordnance, including IEDs which function as antipersonnel mines.[7] In August 2021, PCBL provided technical details on an improvised antipersonnel landmine used by an NSAG in the Philippines at the Group of Experts meeting on CCW Amended Protocol II.[8] In February, June, and December 2019, PCBL condemned the use of landmines by the New People’s Army (NPA) rebel group.[9]

On 9 September 2021, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (PCHR) and PCBL signed a memorandum facilitating verification missions by PCBL in incidents involving explosive weapons that appeared to function like antipersonnel mines, including risk education and advocacy.[10]

Production, transfer, stockpiling, and use

In its Article 7 report submitted in 2020, the Philippines did not report the discovery or destruction of previously unknown stocks. In its Article 7 report covering calendar year 2015, the Philippines recorded having discovered and disposed of 10 antipersonnel mines after inspections at ammunition depots. The Philippines also reported recovering and disposing of 14 improvised mines and eight IEDs. In its Article 7 report, for calendar year 2016, the Philippines recorded having discovered and disposed of one Claymore mine, 14 antivehicle mines, and seven improvised Claymore mines.[11]

The Philippines has reported that it has never produced or exported antipersonnel landmines. It destroyed its entire stockpile of antipersonnel mines—all Claymore-type mines—in 1998 and has not retained any live mines for training purposes. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has stated that it has never used antipersonnel mines to combat insurgent groups within the country.

Media reports regularly state that authorities have recovered “landmines” during operations against insurgents, most of which appear to be command-detonated IEDs.[12] Previously, in December 2009, the Philippines told States Parties that all landmines and improvised mines recovered from non-state armed groups (NSAGs) are destroyed immediately.[13]

Non-state armed groups

In the past, at least four NSAGs have used antipersonnel landmines or victim-activated improvised mines in the Philippines, including the NPA, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). Some NSAGs, including MILF, have formally pledged in writing not to use antipersonnel mines.[14] In February 2017, PCBL encouraged the government and the NPA to include cessation of improvised mine use in ceasefire talks between the parties.[15]

Sporadic use of improvised antipersonnel mines has occurred in the Philippines. Most recently, in December 2020, the AFP displayed evidence of such mines, found in Barangay Itaw, South Upi, Maguindanao province, manufactured from recycled unexploded ordnance (UXO), and attributed their production to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).[16] Previously, in 2017, the AFP was engaged in battles with four allied Islamic State-aligned militant groups—ASG, Ansar Khalifa Philippines (AKP), BIFF, and Maute Group (MG)—in Marawi, Lanao del Sur province. The groups reportedly left behind many booby-traps and IEDs, resulting in casualties.[17] Periodic reports of improvised mine use attributed to the ASG have also surfaced in previous years.[18]

The Philippine government and MILF signed a comprehensive peace agreement in March 2014.[19] A provision of the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) concerns “Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance,” which mandates PCBL and the Swiss Foundation for Demining (Fondation Suisse de Déminage, FSD) to assist in mine action work in the Bangsamoro region, in the western part of the island of Mindanao. The implementation of this agreement is ongoing and is supported by the European Union (EU).[20]

The NPA continued to use command-detonated IEDs in 2020–2021.[21] Philippine authorities and the media continue to refer to these as “landmines.” The NPA, as the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), signed a Comprehensive Agreement to Respect Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) with the government in 1998.[22] The CARHRIHL commits both parties to protect civilians by not violating the “right not to be subjected to...the use of landmines,” but does not define “landmines.” In June 2021, PCHR condemned antipersonnel mine use by the NPA, particularly in an incident which led to the death of two civilians in Masbate City. From available information, it is difficult to assess if the device was an improvised landmine or a command-detonated IED; but regardless, it was a criminal act under law R.A. No. 9851.[23]

In 2017, the Monitor was provided a technical drawing of remotely-detonated explosive devices used by the NPA. The devices are fitted with an antihandling device that can be turned on or off manually. When used in the antihandling mode, the device would be considered banned under the Mine Ban Treaty. It is unknown how many IEDs used by the NPA are fitted with this feature, or how often it is used.[24]

In August 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte called on the NPA to cease using landmines if it wanted to continue peace talks with the government.[25] The NPA refused, stating that its use of command-detonated landmines was not in violation of international law.[26] In response, PCBL issued a statement in August 2016 noting that NPA use of command-detonated mines might be in line with the Mine Ban Treaty but still threatened civilians, and requested the NPA publicly declare a halt to use of all types of landmines.[27]

[1] The Philippines 2017 Article 7 Report stated: “An Act Providing for a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Landmines, for Other Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Landmines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices, Creating for this Purpose a Philippines Coordinating Committee on Landmines, and for Related Purposes” was introduced in July 2016 to the First Regular Session of the 17th Congress, had a first reading, and was referred to the Committees on National Defense, and Security and Finance, as of August 2016. Philippines Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2016), Form A, 3 March 2017. See, Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Database. A corresponding Bill 239 was pending in the Senate, also as of August 2016. Implementation legislation for the Mine Ban Treaty was again introduced into both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2016. Both bills failed to be passed in the 17th Congress. In the 18th Congress, a bill at the House of Representatives, House Bill No. 00121, “An Act Providing for a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Landmines, for Other Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Landmines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices, Creating for this Purpose a Philippines Coordinating Committee on Landmines,” was filed by Rep. Juan Miguel Macapagal Arroyo on July 1, 2019. A similar bill has yet to be filed in the Senate. The scope of the new bills exceed the Mine Ban Treaty, in that they also prohibit “manually emplaced munitions and devices, including improvised explosives, made to kill, injure or damage, whether designed to be activated manually, by remote control, or automatically after the lapse of time.” Monitor interview with Alfredo Lubang, Coordinator, PCBL, 15 September 2021.

[2] See ICBL-CMC, “Country Profile: Philippines: Mine Ban Policy,” updated 21 November 2016.

[3] R.A. No. 9851, “Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity,” of 2009 is a Philippine law implementing International Humanitarian Law. Among the “war crimes” defined and penalized in Section 4 (c) (25) (iv) is: “Employing means of warfare which are prohibited under international law, such as… Weapons, projectiles and materials and methods of warfare which are of the nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering or which are inherently indiscriminate in violation of the international law of armed conflict.” The quoted provision is read as a Philippine legal characterization that the use of victim-activated antipersonnel mines, which are banned under the Mine Ban Treaty, is a war crime. R.A. No. 9851 is more expansive than the Mine Ban Treaty by not only banning victim-activated antipersonnel mines but also treating their use as a war crime. See, Soliman M. Santos, “The law on the use of landmines and the case of the NPA,” Balay Mindanaw Foundation, 13 June 2013.

[4] R.A. No. 9516, “Authority to Import or Possess Chemicals or Accessories of Explosives,” prohibits the possession of chemicals which can be used in the manufacture of explosives or explosive ingredients. While this law, and R.A. No. 9851 may criminalize use, they do not address important elements of the Mine Ban Treaty, such as victim assistance or mine action.

[5] Philippines Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2019). See, Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Database. In the previous 10 years, the Philippines submitted only three annual Article 7 reports: in 2017, 2013, and 2011.

[6] See, PCBL Facebook posts, 6 and 9 June 2021. Also stated at the National International Humanitarian Law ad hoc Committee on 12 August 2021, and in email from Alfredo Lubang, Coordinator, PCBL, 15 September 2021.

[7] Statement of the PCBL, Thematic Session: Completion and Sustainable National Capacities, Mine Ban Treaty intersessional meetings, held virtually, 22–24 June 2021.

[8] Statement of the PCBL, Group of Experts meeting on CCW Amended Protocol II, 17 August 2021.

[9] PCBL Facebook posts, 11 February 2019, 2 June 2019, and 14 December 2019.

[10] PBCL Facebook post, “Closing Remarks for the CHR-PCBL MOU Virtual Signing,” 9 September 2021.

[11] Philippines Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report, 3 March 2017, Form G (for 2015 and 2016). See, Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Database.

[12] See, for example, Alexander Lopez, “Tip-off leads Army to NPA landmine depot in Agusan Sur,” Philippine News Agency, 24 June 2019. The photograph and information contained in the article suggests explosive materials were for the manufacture of IEDs.

[13] Statement by Erlinda F. Basilio, Special Envoy of the President of the Philippines, Mine Ban Treaty Second Review Conference, Cartagena, 3–4 December 2009.

[14] MILF, the Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa-Mindanao/Revolutionary People’s Army (RPM-M/RPA), Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa-Pilipinas/Revolutionary People’s Army (RPM-P/RPA) faction of Nilo de la Cruz, and the Marxista-Leninistang Partidong Pilipinas/Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan (M-LPP/RHB) signed PCBL’s “Rebel Group Declaration of Adherence to International Humanitarian Law on Landmines.” MILF, the Revolutionary Workers Party of the Philippines/Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, and the Revolutionary Workers Party of Mindanao/Revolutionary People’s Army, signed the “Deed of Commitment under Geneva Call for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action.”

[15] PCBL press release, “Statement on the CPP-NPA-NDF’s offer for bilateral ceasefire agreement negotiations,” 21 February 2017. The press release states: “PCBL urges both parties to tackle the issue of improvised landmines and IEDs as part of any ceasefire agreement. Ceasefire should also mean cease-the-use-of-improvised-explosives-and-landmines. Ending the use of landmines and IEDs will definitely boost the confidence of both parties to pursue other equally difficult agenda on the negotiating table.”

[16] AFP 57th Infantry Masikap Battalion Facebook post, 12 December 2020. See also, Jeoffrey Maitem and Julie Alipala “2 soldiers, 2 militias injured as landmine planted by local IS forces blasted in MaguindanaoPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 24 October 2020.

[17] See, Vito Barcelo, “53 unexploded IEDs need recovering in Marawi City,Manila Standard, 20 August 2018; and “AFP: 2 soldiers lost legs after tripping on land mines in Marawi,” GMA News, 18 August 2017.

[18] Bong Garcia, “Bomb explosion kills farm owner in Basilan,” SunStar Zamboanga, 20 March 2017.

[19] Government of the Philippines and MILF, “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” 28 March 2014.

[20] Email from Alfredo Lubang, Coordinator, PCBL, 10 October 2017.

[21] Alexander Lopez, “NPA's continued use of landmines alarming: Army official,” Philippine News Agency, 22 April 2020; and Delfin T. Mallari, “AFP slams NPA use of landmine that killed soldier in Quezon,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5 November 2019.

[22] CARHRIHL, Part III: Respect for Human Rights, Article 2(15), 16 March 1998. The government considers use of command-detonated devices, or any type of landmine, banned by CARHRIHL, while the NPA considers only use of victim-activated devices banned under the agreement.

[23] Soliman M. Santos, “[ANALYSIS] The law on landmines and the Masbate killings,” Rappler, 12 June 2021; and Jelly Musico, “Use of anti-personnel mines violation of IHL: CHR,” Philippine News Agency, 7 June 2021.

[24] Technical drawings of “NPA Improvised Remote Firing Switch with integral anti‐lift device,” based on a device recovered by FSD in June 2015 in Sarangani, South Cotabato province. Provided to the Monitor by email, 9 September 2017.

[25] Edith Regalado and Giovanni Nilles, “Reds told: Stop using landmines or no peace talks,” Philippine Star, 8 August 2016.

[26] Ben O. Tesiorna, “Communist leadership to combatants: Use more land mines,”CNN Philippines, 9 August 2016.