BANGSAMORO DEV’T. President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. delivers his keynote speech during the ceremonial opening of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Parliament session in Cotabato City on Thursday (Sept. 15, 2022). Marcos urged the BTA to pass legislative measures that would bring progress to the Bangsamoro region. (Screengrab from RTVM)

MANILA – President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Thursday urged the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) to pass legislative measures aimed at bringing progress to the Bangsamoro region.

Marcos made the call, during his first visit to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) since he assumed the presidency.

During the ceremonial opening of the session of BTA Parliament in Cotabato City, Marcos emphasized the need to enact important pieces of legislation for the development of BARMM.

"I also encourage the BTA to pass measures that will secure the welfare of the Moro people, particularly in agri-fishery, healthcare, transportation, communication, digital infrastructure, and e-governance," Marcos said in his keynote speech.

Marcos also stressed the need to pass all the crucial legislations on fiscal policy, particularly on taxation.

The BTA, composed of 80 members appointed by the President, is a governing body tasked to pass priority measures, in accordance with the implementation of the Republic Act (RA) 11054 or the landmark Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

During the transition period, the BTA is mandated to ensure the passage of the remaining priority codes stated in RA 11054, which include the Bangsamoro Administrative Code, Bangsamoro Revenue Code, Bangsamoro Electoral Code, Bangsamoro Local Governance Code, Bangsamoro Education Code, and the Bangsamoro Civil Service Code.

BTA Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, who was reappointed as presiding officer of the BTA Parliament, assured Marcos of the passage of the priority codes either by end of 2022 or by the first quarter of 2023.

"Rest assured, Mr. President, that we will complete all the remaining transition priorities and finish setting up the government, not only ready for a peaceful and orderly election in 2025 but also a government capable of continuing the transformation of a BARMM into a progressive and responsive region," Ebrahim said.

Ebrahim noted that the BTA is also set to file over 20 bills upon the start of the formal session of the parliament.

The bills, he said, include the Gender and Development Code, the Internally Displaced Peoples Law, Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities, Irrigation System bill, and Energy Development Corporation of the Bangsamoro Chapter.

'Morally upright, progressive' BARMM

Marcos said the passage of important legislations, as well as the approval of the Bangsamoro Transition plan, are "cornerstones of BARMM moral self-governance."

He, however, acknowledged that the accomplishments in the Bangsamoro region are merely "a glimpse of what will happen in the future."

He said he looks forward to the full transformation of BARMM as a "morally upright and progressive" region.

"Nonetheless, no matter how impressive the gains that the Bangsamoro have already seen, I always think this is just the beginning. As we go on and formalize the structure and institutionalize the functions of the Bangsamoro government, we will see that those efficiencies will come in," Marcos said.

"[With] the establishment of your offices and their functions, I look forward to the fulfillment of your vision to realize a united and enlightened self-governing, peaceful, just, morally upright and progressive Bangsamoro," he added.

Peace development

Marcos also guaranteed that Bangsamoro peace process will remain a top priority of his administration.

He said the government will continue the implementation of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program, a project aimed to pursue community-driven development projects in remote, conflict-stricken areas in the country.

"As your President, I assure you, the BTA and all the Bangsamoro people, of this administration’s full and unwavering commitment to the peace process and to BARMM," he said.

Marcos also reiterated his call to ensure orderly and clean elections in the BARMM in 2025.

"The path to lasting peace is always under construction. But we walk this path together and we walk it, not because it is an easy one. We walk this path together because even if it is difficult, we know that at the end of the journey is historical justice, progress, peace, stability, and the unity that our peoples and our nation have long aspired for and so rightly deserve," he said. (PNA)