63 N. Cotabato villages under BARMM back creation of new towns

By Edwin Fernandez

June 12, 2023, 6:41 pm

<p>Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao administration building in Cotabato City.<em> (Photo courtesy of Bangsamoro Information Office)</em></p>

Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao administration building in Cotabato City. (Photo courtesy of Bangsamoro Information Office)

COTABATO CITY – Residents of North Cotabato's 63 villages now under the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) fully support the establishment of municipalities within the BARMM Special Geographic Area (SGA).

Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) parliament member Aida Silongan said in a statement Monday that the unified support was a compelling reason to expedite the passage of the bill, with a target approval date set no later than August this year.

The proposal seeks to address the aspirations and demands of communities that have expressed their desire to be grouped as separate municipalities within the BARMM, Silongan said.

The BARMM villages in North Cotabato are situated in the municipalities of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit, and Pigcawayan which have a population of about 300,000.

The 80-member BTA, BARMM's provisional lawmaking body, held public consultations for the first four bills seeking to establish the towns of Northern Kabacan, Kapalawan, Ligawasan, and Malmar.

BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim has included the measures as among the legislative priorities for this year.

Silongan noted that constituents in the 63 villages have been complaining of inadequate delivery of basic services by the government.

“Basic services are now absent in our barangay. We no longer receive services from North Cotabato since we joined BARMM in 2019 and as of now not all barangays are getting services from BARMM,” said Kagi Abdulkahar a BARMM SGA resident in Carmen, North Cotabato.

Adrian Manabilang, another SGA village resident in Pikit, North Cotabato, said they were not allowed to vote for local officials in the 2022 polls as they were not yet constituted as local government units.

“We were only allowed to vote for national candidates at that time. Creating towns for us is very important, so we can receive basic services from the government like health and social services,” he said.  

Silongan said establishing municipalities within the SGA would improve the delivery of basic services and speed up socio-economic development by providing more effective and responsive local governance.

BTA Deputy Floor Leader Mary Ann Arnado said participants in the public consultations showed a consensus in favor of the bill and emphasized their desire for its prompt enactment.

Once constituted into new political units, Ebrahim is tasked with naming local officials from the mayor to town council members until the next local polls in May 2025. (PNA)