By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The decision of residents in 63 villages of North Cotabato to join the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) territory is paying off efficaciously as their communities continue to get focal and unprecedented attention from higher authorities, according to provincial and regional assessments.
“It was a gamble or an expedition on our part…amid notions about adverse consequences to be administered under a Moro-led administration,” a Christian village chairman told the Philippine Muslim Today News in the vernacular, referring to their decision to join the BARMM area via the February 2019 plebiscite.
The official, who asked not to be named and had admitted some prejudices about Muslim leaders in past decades, was all praises during a huddle with this writer that “we are now winning after the gamble.”
He is an elected councilman in one of 63 barangays of six towns in North Cotabato that voted for inclusion in the area of BARMM in the plebiscite ratifying R.A. 11054, known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), in 2019.
Of the 63 autonomy-opting villages, 22 are located in Pikit; 13 in Midsayap; 12 in Pigcawayan; seven in Kabacan; two in Aleosan; and seven in Carmen – all in North Cotabato province.
In the plebiscite, North Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco and Vice Governor Emylou Taliño-Mendoza rallied ratification efforts, saying their 63 mostly Moro dominated barangays in their province could be better off in a regional autonomy. Their projection proved right.
On March 15, 2021, the BARMM government through Ministers Naguib Sinarimbo (Local Government) and Eduard Guerra (Public Works) launched works for 63-kilometer concrete roads for the 63 barangays, allocating P16-million worth of one kilometer-paved road each village.
Minister Guerra earlier announced that his ministry had allocated P1.48-billion worth of concrete roads, three bridges, and a slope protection project in the 63 villages for last year alone.
On the same March 15 ceremonies, Gov. Catamco joined the two ministers in kicking off the construction of modern two-floor village halls for barangays Lower Pangangakalan, Lower Baguer, and Datu Binasing in Pigcawayan. Each barangay hall was programmed with a P3.6-million fund from Sinarimbo’s ministry.
In her speech, Catamco said: “Truly, the newly established government is the best example of good governance.”
Sinarimbo and Guerra said the March 15 projects’ launch pursued orders from BARMM interim Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim for synergized development efforts for 2,590 constituent-barangays, including all 37 villages in this city that also opted for inclusion in the regional autonomy.
BARMM currently covers Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces, the cities of Marawi, Cotabato, and Lamitan and 118 municipalities.
Last Dec. 21, Sinarimbo inked a memorandum of partnership with the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco) to upgrade to three-paced level the electric lines in 11 BARMM-member villages in Pigcawayan for residents to embark on industrial enterprises.
The BARMM government, through its concerned ministries, would provide the 11 villages with heavy equipment and machines for agricultural post-harvest processing that need substantial energy supply, Sinarimbo said.
The existing Cotelco line in the 11 villages is single-paced, not enough for industrial operational requirement, Engr. Felic Canja, Cotelco general manager for PALMA area, told the Philippine Muslim Today news. (Read full details in a separate story.)
Last December 25, the MILG broke the ground for the simultaneous construction of four more two-storey barangay halls in Pigcawayan – namely Kadinguilan, Matilac, Datu Mantil and Libungan Torreta, each edifice similarly allotted with P3.6 fund cost, Sinarimbo said.
Sources from the office of Vice Governor Talino-Mendoza described as “highly elating” the unprecedented attention given by the BARMM to the 63 villages.
BARMM Senior Minister Abdulraof Macacua, who is also minister of environment, natural resources and energy, said other regional ministries have separately pipelined development projects for the 63 villages now classified as special geographical area (SGA). [AGM]