Cotabato cedes 63 villages to Bangsamoro
COTABATO CITY—The province of Cotabato formally ceded political and administrative control of 63 villages in six towns to the Bangsamoro region, in keeping with the results of a Feb. 6 plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
Together with officials of the interim Bangsamoro government and Cotabato province, Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, Cotabato vice governor and acting governor and Murad Ebrahim, Bangsamoro chief minister, led a handover ceremony at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Center on Wednesday.
In her message, Mendoza expressed optimism that the transfer of the villages to the Bangsamoro region “would further lead to peace and unity in this part of the country.”
Mendoza asked Ebrahim to “please take care of our 63 barangays.”
These villages opted to join the autonomous region in the Feb. 6 plebiscite that sought consent from voters in select areas whether they would like to be governed under the BOL.
Of the 67 villages that exercised the option, the affirmative votes won in 63.
In the 2001 plebiscite on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the yes votes won in those villages, but no became the predominant vote in the rest of the province.
“Today, we see a bridge that reconnects the 63 barangays to its Bangsamoro homeland. Today is all about the people,” Ebrahim said.
Ebrahim, who is still Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief, said the Bangsamoro government “will do everything to ensure that the constituents [in the 63 villages] are not left behind and [will] experience the same amount of service they have enjoyed.”
Bangsamoro Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said the decision of the 63 villages to join the autonomous region “was a reunion for us, more than a separation from the province of North Cotabato.”
“We are not erecting a boundary with our neighbors but are instead creating a connection with them,” Sinarimbo said.
Of the 63 villages, seven are from Carmen town, another seven from Kabacan, 22 from Pikit, two from Aleosan, 13 from Midsayap and 12 from Pigcawayan.
Organized into towns
Of the six towns, Pikit lost the most villages as 22 of its 42 villages are taken from it.
According to Sinarimbo, the 63 villages are to be constituted into eight clusters of geographic units, to be overseen by an administrator.
He added that they will wait for the 2020 population census to determine which of these will qualify to be grouped together and organized into towns.
The Bangsamoro is now composed of the five provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi; the cities of Cotabato, Marawi and Lamitan, and the 63 villages in Cotabato province.
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