COTABATO CITY – The Save Sulu Movement (SSM), a peace advocact group, has joined the call to extend the three-year Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) transition period.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law sets the BARMM transition phase in 2022, but regional leaders and various sectors are pushing to extend it up to 2025 due to the disruptions brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
SSM argued in recent statement that the BTA’s three-year term is “insufficient to implement institutional reforms that will truly weed out systemic problems of corruption, injustice and grinding poverty that plagued the Bangsamoro homeland”.
It also underscored the BTA’s importance, noting the quick BARMM government’s response in delivering basic services in Sulu. It likewise cited the regional government’s assistance to the fire victims at the Chinese pier, and the medical aid to victims of a bombing incident in Jolo in February and September last year.
In the same vein, SSM lauded BARMM’s “exemplary response” in addressing Covid-19 pandemic by regularly distributing foods, safety kits, and medical supplies to its province-components.
“For the Covid-19 pandemic response alone, the region’s Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD) 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 remote and isolated communities including island municipalities; and released P3-million financial support to the Integrated Provincial Health Office of Sulu, P5-million to its provincial government, and P1-million each to its 18 municipalities,” it added.
Earlier, North Cotabato Gov. Nancy A. Catamco and Catholic church leader Orlando Cardinal Quevedo also issued separate statements supporting the extension for another three years of the BTA, claiming three years were not enough for it to be able to complete its mandate.
Catamco said her support for the BTA term extension is anchored on the welfare of the people in the 63 villages in the province that voted to join the Bangsamoro region.
“Nobody wants the Mindanao peace process to fail; North Cotabato wants it to succeed because everybody will benefit from the dividends it will bring. The BARMM leadership should be given ample time to fulfill its enormous tasks of improving the lives of its people, address historical injustices, and show to the world that peace is feasible and attainable in Mindanao,” she added.
Cardinal Quevedo, for his part, said the Covid-19 pandemic “has made it impossible for the BTA to have regular face-to-face sessions, and 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,” he added.
Lanao del Sur local government executives have recently also earlier expressed their support for the BTA transition period extension.