SUPPORTING THE CALL. Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles (left) and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana support the call of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) transition extension to 2022-2025, during the 10th leg of the Pre-SONA Series in Cotabato City on Tuesday (June 29, 2021). They were impressed by the BARMM's development since its establishment on Jan. 21, 2019. (Photos by PNA Cotabato)

COTABATO CITY – Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles and Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday expressed support for the extension of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority's (BTA) term for another three years.

The two Cabinet officials guested in a press conference of the 10th leg of the “Kasama sa Pamana: Regional Pre-SONA Series”.

“Realistically, another law should be passed by Congress to amend the existing Bangsamoro Organic Law,” Nograles said, adding that they refrain from commenting on the issue following the stand of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to let Congress handle the matter.

Meanwhile, Lorenzana said the extension would provide the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) enough time to make a genuine and successful transition from 2022 to 2025.

"I will support all efforts and initiatives for the welfare and well-being of the people of the BARMM," he said, noting that the DND and the national government are committed to working with the Bangsamoro administration.

Bangsamoro officials earlier said the three-year transition period from 2019 to 2022 would not be enough to accomplish its targets due to the pandemic.

BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said the President's promise of peace was fulfilled in 2019, resulting in the BOL ratification.

"Above all, the Duterte administration is unprecedented and relentless in putting the Bangsamoro cause in the national platform, allowing the Filipino nation to grasp the history of our struggle and the need to give Mindanao the peace it truly deserves," Ebrahim said in a video message.

The transition authority, he said, is "true to the dream of the President that there can be a special Bangsamoro nation in the Philippine Republic."

As stated in the BOL, the BTA, which serves as the interim lawmaking body of the BARMM, will ensure the completion of priorities to include the enactment of the region’s administrative, revenue, electoral, local government, education, and civil service codes.

To date, however, the 80-member BTA has only managed to pass into law the region’s administrative, education, and civil service codes.

Other priority bills are the determination of parliamentary districts for the first regular election for the members of the parliament; organization of the bureaucracy of the Bangsamoro government during the transition; and the full transfer of powers and properties of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the BARMM, among others.

BTA Speaker Pangalian Balindong said they are working hard to complete the transition and guarantee that the next administration has everything it needs to further improve the region.

He said the parliament would discuss the remaining priority codes, such as local government, electoral, and revenue, during its third regular session.

About 125 bills and 474 resolutions have been filed in the plenary. Out of the 474 proposed resolutions, 145 were approved by the Parliament.

Meanwhile, in his presentation during the pre-SONA activity, lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, the region’s interior minister, said the BARMM had made significant progress in building a stronger autonomous region while delivering major programs to its constituents.

“It includes establishing the bureaucracy in BARMM and crafting the roadmap anchored to the region's 12-point priority agenda,” Sinarimbo said.

He said the regional government had constructed 250 barangay halls, 11 municipal halls, four municipal police stations, and nine water systems across the region's five provinces.

By the end of the year, the government will complete the construction and improvement of 1,073 km. of roads, 114 bridges, 201 flood control projects, 385 water systems, 94 seaports, and 16 other infrastructure projects, he said.

"Next to the President, I am the happiest person working for the success of the Bangsamoro," Lorenzana said.

He promised to return to the BARMM along with Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. to discuss the Bangsamoro peace process' normalization track, particularly interventions aimed at improving the lives of decommissioned Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants, their families, and other members of their communities. (PNA)