By Philippine Muslim Today News
NORTH COTABATO – The so-called special geographical area (SGA) comprising 63 autonomy-opting villages in this province has continued to rake in glad tidings from the Bangsamoro autonomous governance.
The Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) officials converged on Monday in either inaugurating or launching infrastructure projects in the SGA areas in joy-packed ceremonies in Pigcawayan town of this province.
The infra projects are funded under the Bangsamoro Integrated Rehabilitation and Development (BIRD) program led jointly by the MILG and UNDP for a period of at least five years to hasten the growth of conflict-affected communities including parts of the SGA, Philippine Muslim Today news sources said.
Monday’s convergent projects under the BIRD program’s phase I included an inauguration of 900-meter paved road linking the 63-village SGA to highways leading to the BARMM government center in Cotabato City, and installation of solar-powered street lights at Barangay Datu Binasing in Pigcawayan town, MILG Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said.
Senior Minister Abdulraof “Sammy Gambar” Macacua, representing Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim, had touched hearts in the 12 villages with his handover of P25,000 initial cash assistance to 150 Bangsamoro widows of former mujahideens (freedom fighters).
Interviewed by reporters, Macacua said the struggle for self-determination that led to the creation of BARMM involved all facets of sacrifice, and the highest of which was the loss of lives among surviving bangsamoro families.
“Now that the BARMM governance is gradually gaining momentum, Chief Minister Minister Ebrahim wants to see all those who endured painstaking trials to reap the fruits of what they had sacrificed for,” Macacua said in Filipino.
Spectators including media workers saw elderly widows shedding “tears of joy” while receiving initial cash aids and other household items including medicines and health supplements.
The ceremonies were witnessed by North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco, who had campaigned for people in the SGA or 63 villages’ constituents to join the BARMM territory in the February 2019 plebiscite to gain supports from regional level for their faster socio-economic growth.
The 63 villages tagged now as BARMM’s SGA are predominantly Muslim communities located in the towns of Pikit, Pigcawayan, Midasayap, Aleosan, Kabacan and Carmen in this province.
Last March, Sinarimbo and BARMM Public Works Eduard Guerra alongside Gov. Catamco launched the concreting of 63-kilometer roads at one kilometer for each of the SGA villages, and the construction of modern barangay halls worth P3.6-million each in the same villages.
Monday’s event initially served 12 villages in Pigcawayan, namely Simsiman, Buricain, Balacayon, Matilac, Datu Mantil, Kadingilan, Libungan Toreta, Upper Pangankalan, Lower Pangankalan, Lower Baguer, Datu Binasing, and Patot, all formerly conflict-affected
Minister Sinarimbo told reporters that Monday’s BIRD program initial phase was aimed at transforming conflict-affected areas into peaceful and productive communities.
He said the program components also include strengthening village governance through capacity building ventures, rural infrastructure development, and livelihood projects funded from the Special Development Fund (SDF) of the autonomous government.
Monday’s ceremonies also covered initial handover of 20 out of 100 units of motorized banca for target fishermen- beneficiaries, and provision of wheelchairs for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the same 12 villages.
Meanwhile, Gov. Catamco renewed her full support to the public clamor for extension in the transitional operations of the BARMM government via congressional postponement of the 2022 parliament election.
“I am supportive not only in words but with my whole heart. This is because I have already seen brighter prospects in uninterrupted BARMM transitional governance,” Catamco said in Filipino.
Also present in Monday’s events were Minister Guerra, BARMM Chief Planner Mohajirin Ali, UNDP advisor Chetan Kumar, Pigcawayan Mayor Jean Dino Roquero, 34th Army Battalion commander Lt. Col. Edgardo Vilchez, Jr., 602nd Infantry Brigade head Col. Jovencio F. Gonzales, SGA Administrator Mohammad Antao, and Bangay Buricain chair Badruddin Awil. ALI G. MACABALANG