Young Filipinos favor new Muslim region in Mindanao

Philippine survey shows overwhelming support for ratifying legislation to create new autonomous region in restive south
Young Filipinos favor new Muslim region in Mindanao

Officials and researchers of the group International Alert Philippines present to the media the results of its Survey on Youth Attitudes Toward the Bangsamoro Organic Law in Quezon City on Dec. 6. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Young Filipinos in the southern Philippines favor a law, which will be put to a vote next month, that will pave the way for a new Muslim political entity in Mindanao.

This was the result of a first round of surveys carried out in October and November by the non-government group International Alert Philippines and released on Dec. 6.

A repeat survey will be conducted in the first week of January, two weeks before the Mindanao plebiscite on Jan. 21.

Residents of the region will be asked whether they are for or against the ratification of the so-called Bangsamoro Organic Law.

At least 89.4 percent of survey respondents aged 18-35 registered their intention to vote in favor.

Nikki de la Rosa, International Alert’s country manager, said the figure was "significant considering that the youth comprise 57 percent of the registered voters in the region."

She said those who favor the law should explain how a new region could create more jobs, encourage more investments and prove that it will also be beneficial to non-Muslims.

In July this year, President Rodrigo Duterte signed off on the law that aims to give greater autonomy to Muslims in the southern Philippines.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law comes into effect four years after the government signed a peace agreement with the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro ended the armed struggle waged by the MILF since it broke away from the Moro National Liberation Front in the late 1970s.

The new law provides for the creation of a "transitional" body — composed mostly of former rebel fighters — that will facilitate the expansion of an existing Muslim region.

Under the law, the national government will retain police and military forces in the area while the rebels are expected to lay down their weapons in phases.

The countdown for the Jan. 21 plebiscite to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law began on Dec. 7 with the start of dissemination of information assemblies in villages and towns in Mindanano.

Being eyed for inclusion in the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao are the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, 39 villages in North Cotabato, six towns in Lanao del Norte, and the cities of Cotabato in Maguindanao and Isabela in Basilan.

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