DAVAO CITY (26 January 2021)- Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA) Administrator and Chief Executive Officer Abdulghani ‘Gerry’ Ajul Salapuddin has disclosed today he is supportive of the proposed six-year extension of the transition period of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
This developed following the filing of House Bill 8222 by Lanao del Norte Representative Khalid Dimaporo proposing for an extension of the transition period in the BARMM from May 2022 to May 2028 (6 years). This was due to the perceived possibility of delays because of the new administration (presidential) and the insufficient budget for the normalization track amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Salapuddin said he supports the proposal of Representative Dimaporo as this enables the completion of the political structure of the organization and ensures the success of the normalization process which includes, among others, the decommissioning of weapons and combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF’s) Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).
Salapuddin added the three-year extension of the transition period of the BARMM as recently proposed by the regional leaders and various sectors in Mindanao may not be sufficient as there are so much work to be done in the region, and further appealed to the present leadership of the BARMM for an equitable representation particularly in the Islands of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi (BASULTA).
He said the people in BASULTA areas, despite the distance, are an indispensable part of the Bangsamoro homeland.
Earlier, calls to extend the transition period of the BARMM for three more years after the 2022 were snowballing among local government and religious leaders in Mindanao.
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop Emiritus of Cotabato, has issued a statement “urgently and formally endorsing the petitions” to extend the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) whose mandate expires June 30 next year.
Some of the reasons that came to light included the prevalence of COVID-19 pandemic that made it impossible for the BTA to have a regular face-to-face sessions as well as security issues posed by some radical armed groups which prevented people’s freedom to travel.
BARMM transition extension supporters also included North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco and peace advocacy group, Save Sulu Movement (SSM) who joined the calls for extending the three-year transition period of the BARMM.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law has set the transition phase of the region in 2022, but the regional leaders and various sectors are pushing to extend it up to 2025 due to the disruptions mentioned above, however, SPDA wanted it to be until 2028.
In a statement Monday, SSM argued that BTA’s three-year term is “insufficient to implement the institutional reforms that will truly weed out systematic problems of corruption, injustice, and grinding poverty that plagued the Bangsamoro homeland.
In 2014, the government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had signed a Peace Agreement to bring the 40 years of armed conflict to an end and establish the BARMM. (Celestino B. Siglos, Ed.D.)