By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Amid its uncertain yet optimistic stride for favorable Congressional action, the officialdom of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) joined today, July 29, the national delegation to the 11th virtual Tokyo-Manila meeting on Japan-assisted infrastructure development in the Philippines, especially in the south.
The Philippines delegation led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez composed of Secretaries Wendel Avisado of Budget and Management, Arthur Tugade of Transportation, Mark Villar of Public Works and Highways, and Al Cusi of Energy, and National Economic Development Authority Director General Ernesto Pernia, among others, according to BARMM spokesman Naguib Sinarimbo.
Sinarimbo, concurrent Local Government minister, aired gratitude to the Philippine officials for including the BARMM governance represented by him in their delegation for the third time.
He said the last high level committee meeting proceeded physically among delegates because the COVID-19 global coronavirus pandemic had yet to emerge.
“(It) was held in Japan in October 2019 during fall when the leaves of trees turn red. I remember vividly the scenic view from our mountain resort,” Sinarimbo recalled, referring to the first episode.
The serial bilateral high level committee meeting “is the venue for discussion and agreements on major infrastructure projects in the Philippines funded by the Japanese Government such as the first subway project in Manila,” he said.
Sinarimbo said the 11th episode drew the participation of “our Japanese counterpart led by Doctor Izumi, Special Advisor to the Japanese Prime Minister.”
“Thank you Secretary Dominguez and the Japanese government for allowing the BARMM (governance) to take part in this high level meeting. This has never happened in the long history of autonomous government in the country. I’ve been learning a lot of lessons in these meetings. This is the third time I participated in this forum,” he narrated in his Facebook post.
Japan’s Yosuke Tamabayashi responded promptly to Sinarmbo’s post: “Continuation is power to build lasting peace in Bangsamoro. Don’t hesitate to consult with your Japanese counterparts.”
The Tokyo government has been assisting the progressive evolution of autonomy in southern Philippines, providing through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) technical and fiscal interventions for conflict-affected areas, including Muslim Mindanao.
Bigger magnitude of JICA interventions began in the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which lawyer Sinarimbo once served as executive secretary from late 2009 to late 2011.
In 2010, JICA officials had frequently visited the seat here of the regional autonomy until they opted to establish their extension office in this city.
JICA interventions peaked in 2010 when the Japanese ambassador then set foot at the ARMM government seat and saw for himself some of the Japan-bankrolled projects here and in nearby Maguindanao areas. (AGM)
(Attached is a photo of the online virtual 11th Japan-Philippines high level committee meeting today, July 29.)