BARMM makes waves in governance in 2023, banner year for infra

By Edwin Fernandez

December 26, 2023, 6:52 pm

<p>BARMM Chief Minister Ahod 'Kagi Murad' Balawag Ebrahim. <em>(BIO-BARMM photo)</em></p>

BARMM Chief Minister Ahod 'Kagi Murad' Balawag Ebrahim. (BIO-BARMM photo)

COTABATO CITY – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), now in its fourth year of governance under the transition period, has delivered adequate services to its constituents through the various ministries of the regional government.

BARMM's development agenda is supported by the peace and order programs of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) and the Police Regional Office (PRO-BARMM), which have both reported significant accomplishments in securing the region from various threat groups.

Among the regional ministries that topped in delivering public infrastructure projects, local governance, high-quality education and advanced health services are the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILG); Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education (MBHTE); and Ministry of Health.


2023 is considered a banner year for the MILG after it poured an accumulated infrastructure investment of PHP2.5 billion that benefitted 2.4 million BARMM constituents and generated almost 10,000 jobs across the region.

BARMM has built 323 barangay halls of which, 66 are completed and turned over while 257 are still ongoing. It planned to build, via MILG, 26 Muslim architecture-inspired municipal halls –six of them are completed and 20 are still under construction.

This year, BARMM also planned to build 32 public markets, six of which have been completed and 26 are still ongoing. Nine police station buildings are in the pipeline and four have been completed.

BARMM reported the construction of barangay halls across the region, with Maguindanao Norte having 56 facilities constructed, Maguindanao del Sur (31), Lanao Sur and Marawi City (96), Basilan (15), Sulu (27), Tawi-Tawi (15), Special Geographic Area in North Cotabato that joined BARMM has 62 units, and Cotabato City (24).

Minister Sha Elijah Dumama-Alba, the first woman to hold the position, lauded her predecessor, lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, for the MILG accomplishments, as she vowed to continue the gains of the ministry.

“I have high respect for our former minister (Sinarimbo), he has done a lot for the BARMM,” she said.

"I am happy to be able to work with you and see how we can continue and perhaps even enhance and improve what the Ministry can do not only for the Bangsamoro government but also for the BARMM," she told the MILG officials and personnel.


The BARMM, through the Bangsamoro Board of Investments (BBOI), introduced Islamic banking in the Bangsamoro region this year.

Islamic banking refers to a banking business whose objectives and operations do not involve interest (riba), as prohibited under Islamic laws, and conducts its business in accordance with the principles of the Shari’ah.

Mohamad Pasigan, chairperson of BBOI, said the initiative is in partnership with the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (Card) Bank, Inc. and Maybank Philippines, Inc. aimed at reinforcing the region’s economic resilience and financial inclusivity by providing ethical and Shari’ah-compliant financial services to the Bangsamoro people.

As of the third quarter of 2023, BBOI has recorded a PHP3.1 billion investment for the region.

“The BBOI recognizes the positive impact that such initiatives have on the socio-economic landscape, enhancing the quality of life for the people of the region,” Pasigan said in a statement.

Pasigan said the achievement improved the region’s investment target for this year, which had been surpassed during the first half of 2023.

“BARMM’s investment target this year is PHP2.5 billion only but as of August 2, the total investment has reached PHP3.1 billion,” he said.


Meanwhile, Bangsamoro health officials are nearing completion of 100 barangay health stations built by the Ministry of Health in a bid to ensure that communities would have more access to health services.

The planned project will cost PHP250 million.

BARMM Health Minister Dr. Rizaldy Piang said building more health stations would address the need for basic health services, especially among the region’s remote communities, whose residents may find it hard to travel to the nearest town.

Marawi rehab

Moreover, BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim said BARMM had provided support to the national government’s Marawi rehabilitation efforts.

Through the Marawi Rehabilitation Program (MRP) and Ministry of Special Services and Development, it continues to provide food and non-food essentials, direct subsistence grants, cash assistance, and psychosocial support to improve the socio-economic status of Marawi siege survivors.


Under the banner “No Bangsamoro children are left behind,” the Bangsamoro government poured in more money into the MBHTE as it is committed to providing quality education.

After the region returned to normalcy following three-year pandemic, the Education Ministry hired more competent teachers to fill in the gap and to ensure Bangsamoro learners are given effective attention by the teachers, built climate-resilient classrooms, and technical and vocational laboratories and workshops to accommodate students in time for physical classes.

Peace and order

Meanwhile, the military reported that over 200 members of threat groups have been “neutralized” by the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) in 2023.

During the same period, about 500 guns were also recovered and surrendered to 6ID field units, said Maj. Gen. Alex Rillera, the 6ID commander and head of Joint Task Force Central (JTFC).

Rillera said this “remarkable feat” was gained by military units in the provinces of Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, parts of Sarangani, North Cotabato and Lanao del Sur.

Rillera said the radical groups “encompass a range of affiliations and ideologies, posing threats to the security and progress of local communities.”

To date, he said the 6ID neutralized 49 communist rebels and saw a notable decline in activities of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Of the 49, seven were apprehended, 12 died during armed clashes and 30 decided to renounce violence and reintegrate into mainstream society.

Rillera said the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) also faced a significant blow after one fighter was arrested, 17 died in armed clashes, and 101 surrendered to authorities.

Before the year ended, the 6ID neutralized 22 Dawlah Islamiya members during surgical operations in Datu Hoffer Ampatuan and Pagalungan, Maguindanao del Sur that resulted in the death of Abdulrah Sapal, the group's alleged new overall Amir of DI-Philippines.

The second-in-command, Nasser Guinaid Saptullah, who had replaced alias Abu Turaifie as the leader of DI-TG, was also killed, alongside nine followers.

Rillera said the military's preemptive action was crucial in disrupting the group's plans to unleash violence in crowded areas during this holiday season.

He underscored the urgency of the operation, noting that "under Sapal's leadership, Daulah Islamiyah intended to train their followers how to make improvised explosive devices, planning to sow violence in populated areas as we celebrate the holiday season.”

"Our soldiers promptly conducted the operation to eliminate any threats to our security," he added.

In Basilan, military forces also killed on Dec. 2 Mudzrimar Sawadjaan during a military operation in Tuburan town. Sawadjaan, a known DI leader, was believed to be involved in the 2020 Jolo bombings.

On the same day, police and military operatives killed DI-Maute Group sub-leader Alandoni Macadaya Lucsadatu in a predawn operation in Piagapo Lanao del Sur.

In the Marawi bombing, all the suspects have been identified and authorities are hunting them, Rillera said.

According to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the security condition in BARMM has significantly improved in 2023.

"We have witnessed the efforts being carried off by the Bangsamoro government in strengthening peace and security efforts in the area. We are confident that these initiatives will continue the momentum in the coming months and years, including the BARMM regional election in 2025," Galvez said via teleconference during the recent 3rd Bangsamoro Public Order and Security meeting.

A stable peace and order means that the regional government is on track with the planned progress going into 2024, BARMM chief information officer Andrew Alonto said.

“In terms of legislation, we were able to enact two priority codes –the Bangsamoro Local Governance Code and the Bangsamoro Electoral Code. We also expect that the Comelec (Commission on Elections) will come out with the IRR (implementing rules and regulations) for the electoral code very soon. The redistricting law, which is essential for the conduct of parliamentary elections in 2025, was also passed,” Alonto said.

Amid challenges to peace and order, Ebrahim said the regional government is on track with its primary goal of improving the lives of every Bangsamoro through moral governance. (PNA)