Sulu group, Gov. Catamco, Cardinal Quevedo back Bangsamoro transition extension

By JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL

COTABATO CITY

The Save Sulu Movement (SSM), North Cotabato Governor Nancy A. Catamco, and Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, have released statements backing the extension of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) to be able to complete its mandates, saying three years is not enough for BTA to be able to complete its mandates.

Observers saw their statements to have added to the growing numbers of supporters to extend the BTA to another 3 years which will be until the year 2025.

In a statement released on Saturday, the SSM, a nongovernment organization based in Sulu province, said it recognizes that three years is insufficient “to implement institutional reforms that will truly weed out systematic problems of corruption, injustice and grinding poverty that plagued the Bangsamoro homeland.”

SSM also lauded the Bangsamoro Government’s quick responses in delivering basic services in Sulu, particularly its timely assistance to the fire victims at the Chinese Pier in Jolo, medical aid to the victims of a bombing in September last year, and its exemplary response to address the Coronavirus pandemic by regularly distributing foods, safety kits, and medical supplies.

“For the COVID-19 pandemic response alone, the MSSD (Ministry of Social Services and Development) was able to release emergency cash assistance to 111,453 beneficiaries with social workers braving conflict-ridden and critical areas to be able to reach out to the most remote communities including island municiplaties,” SSM said.

“It has also released financial support of Php3-million to IPHO (Integrated Provincial Health Office) Sulu, Php5-million to the Provincial Government, and Php1-million to each of the 18 municipalities,” SSM added.

SSM also called upon its fellow Tausugs to “rally behind the vision to install and implement moral governance in Sulu.”

Meanwhile, Governor Catamco on Jan. 23 said her stance is anchored on the welfare of the people in the 63 towns in North Cotabato who voted to join the Bangsamoro region.

She said the Bangsamoro Government was drastically hampered by the COVID-19.

“Nobody wants the Mindanao peace process to fail, North Cotabato wants it to succeed because everybody will benefit from the dividends it will bring,” she said.

She believed that the BARMM leadership should be given ample time to “fulfill its enormous tasks of improving the lives of our people, address historical justices and show to the worlds that peace is feasible and attainable in Mindanao.”

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo also released his statement ‘urgently’ endorsing the petitions to extend the Bangsamoro transition period.

“The reasons are indisputable,” Quevedo said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible for the BTA to have regular face-to-face sessions. Security issues posed by radical armed groups prevent freedom of travel for BTA officials to perform their tasks. The constraints of time are simply insurmountable.”

Quevedo said the regional government is yet to resolve several issues, including the status of private sectarian education, decommissioning process of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants, setting up of the Office of Settler Communities, and the critical demarcation of ancestral domain of indigenous peoples (IP).

Furthermore, he said the allotted transition period could not possibly establish “a new political culture within the Bangsamoro that would be ruled by the principle of transparency, accountability and efficiency—which is the professed intent of the Bangsamoro leadership.”

Last week, local chief executives in Lanao del Sur province also expressed their support to the extension of the transition period. JIJ

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