COTABATO CITY — Stakeholders are expecting approval within 2023 of separate proposals to create eight towns out of the 63 Bangsamoro barangays in Cotabato province in Region 12.
Residents of what is now known as the Special Geographic Area (SGA) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) voted in favor of the inclusion of their barangays into the proposed core territory of BARMM during a plebiscite in early 2019.
Dr. Kadil Sinolinding, a member of the 80-seat BARMM parliament, said on Saturday, January 14, there is a proposal each for the creation of the eight municipalities that would cover 63 predominantly Moro SGA barangays.
“There is a need to establish these municipalities so that new local government units can oversee the communities it shall cover that got detached from different towns under Cotabato province in 2019,” Sinolinding said.
The BARMM only has political and administrative control over the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi and the cities of Cotabato, Marawi, and Lamitan.
Residents of the 63 barangays, originally under Cotabato towns covered by Region 12, told reporters Saturday they are grateful to Sinolinding and four other BARMM parliament members, Datu Jambo Matalam, Kelly Antao, Suharto Ambolodto and Paisalin Tago, for helping initiate the establishment of the eight towns.
Barangay officials and traditional Moro elders in the 63 barangays said they are optimistic the BARMM parliament will approve the creation of the eight towns within 2023.
The enabling bills for the creation of the eight towns had been filed at the BARMM regional parliament based in this city last year.
Barangay officials, members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the SGA barangays had repeatedly ranted, in previous peace dialogues organized by Sinolinding’s office, about the separation, without what is for them “fallback preparation,” of their communities from LGUs under Cotabato province.
“Grouping these 63 barangays into eight different municipalities will address that issue. The local communities shall have new LGUs that can serve local residents and implement community peace and development projects,” Ambolodto, a lawyer, said Saturday.
Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza and Congresswoman Samantha Santos separately assured on Saturday of their support for the proposed creation of the eight municipalities.
“These barangays are no longer under our jurisdiction but the provincial government has not stopped helping provide residents with vital government services,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza, the chairperson of the multi-sector Regional Development Council 12 (RDC 12), said her administration is also for creating eight BARMM-led LGUs to oversee the 63 SGA barangays.
“We also have a continuing focus on how we can support socio-economic projects of the BARMM government for MILF and MILF communities in the SGA barangays,” Mendoza said.
Both fronts have separate peace agreements with the government.
Santos, a first-term congressional representative of the 3rd district of Cotabato, said residents of SGA are to benefit too from her office since their barangays are in towns in the community she is representing in the House of Representatives. (JOHN UNSON & TONY MANAYTAY)