Creation of new Philippine Muslim region faces challenges

Proposed autonomous territory must still be ratified by the people in the areas that will be part of the new political entity
Creation of new Philippine Muslim region faces challenges

A young woman shows her support for the proposed Muslim autonomous region in the southern Philippines during consultations in the province of Tawi-Tawi early this year. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

 

 

The creation of a new autonomous Muslim region in the southern Philippines will not be as easy as it seems despite the clamor for its immediate establishment.

It's too early to celebrate, said lawyer Benedicto Bacani, executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance in Mindanao.

He said there are "constitutional challenges" in implementing the law that will facilitate the creation of the new autonomous region.

Bacani said the law must first be ratified by a plebiscite in the regions that will be part of the expanded territory.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last week, requires a plebiscite to legalize the creation of the new region.

The creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao aims to end almost 50 years of Moro rebellion in the southern Philippines that had claimed an estimated 150,000 lives.

The proposed expanded autonomous region will include the current provinces under current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao —  Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

A referendum will also be held in 39 villages in North Cotabato province, six towns in Lanao del Norte province, and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela.

Bacani said the despite the challenges, the passage of the law is a "significant step and a good basis for moving forward."

On July 29, thousands of Moro Islamic Liberation Front Moro (MILF) rebels gathered for a "consultative assembly" on the new law in the province of Maguindanao.

The rebel group organized the assembly to discuss the implications of the law, which will allow the rebel group to set up of a self-governing political entity in the region.

The creation of the new Moro region is a result of more than two decades of talks between the government and the MILF.

MILF leader Murad Ebrahim has expressed readiness to decommission all the firearms held by the rebel group once the Bangsamoro government is in place.

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