(Speech delivered by Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Balawag Ebrahim at the opening of the 2nd Regular Session of the interim Bangsamoro Parliament on 16 June 2020 in Cotabato City).
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem Assalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmahtullahi Taala Wa Barakatuh
To the Wali of the Bansgamoro, Shiek Khalifa Nando, Mr. Speaker, colleagues in this august body, friends and partners for peace and development, fellow workers in the Bangsamoro government, ladies and gentlemen, my warmest courtesies to all of you — isang mapayapang hapon po sa ating lahat!
The opening of our session today marks the parliament’s preparedness to embrace the “new normal” shaped by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It also marks the parliament’s commitment to fulfil the amanah that was entrusted to us by our people.
To my dear colleagues who continuously served the Bangsamoro despite the challenges posed by the pandemic; be it through relief operations, providing healthcare support, or even simply reaching out to them, you have helped us in making sure that the Bangsamoro government is always here for its constituents. Mabuhay kayong lahat.
Mr. Speaker and colleagues in the Parliament, I know that we are fully aware of what is expected of us during this transition period: the enactment of priority legislations; the transition plan that we continue to carefully implement; the programs and policies of the government of the day – aligned with our call for moral governance, and the 12 point priority agenda, and the realization of important provisions of the organic law. All of these, on top of running a transition government that is responsive to the needs, struggles, and aspirations of the Bangsamoro. It is indeed a big task. a task that we must, by all means, fulfill to give justice to the blood, sweat, and tears of our people.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we begin the session of the Parliament today, it is important to remind ourselves of the strategies and priorities of the Government of the Day for this calendar year.
In meeting our targets and desired outcome, the government of the day shall be guided further by three strategic directions namely
1.) Institution building and strengthening,
2.) Strategic partnerships, and perhaps more importantly the
3.) Ramdam ng tao. Allow me to elaborate on these strategic directions by using our recent experiences with COVID-19 as these are evident in our ongoing response.
The COVID-19 pandemic is primarily a health crisis but we all know that managing the spread of the virus and protecting our people require convergence of efforts of pertinent ministries and offices in the Bangsamoro region. As such, we were quick in constituting the Bangsamoro Inter Agency Task Force on COVID-19.
Partnership with our national counterparts is also key in the Bangsamoro government’s programs and policies. We likewise engaged in partnership with our local and international civil society organizations, and of course to our local government units as they are at the forefront of our governance. These vertical and horizontal strategic partnerships were crucial in ensuring that our efforts were not only responsive but also complementary from the ground up. After all, we know that for us to truly and quickly heal as one, we need to move as one.
The main component of our COVID=19 response is putting the people, especially the mostly affected families, at the core of our policies and programs. Siniguro natin na ang Bangsamoro Government ay ramdam ng tao.
As of today, we have distributed at least 433,161 food packs and relief goods to our target beneficiaries. Included in our collective effort is the allocation of 200 sacks of rice that each Member of the Parliament distributed to their respective constituents. The government also provided social amelioration and other forms of assistance to our people. We were also one of the first government entities in Mindanao that was able to provide the much-needed augmentation of medical supplies and facilities to our frontline workers.
Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen, the COVID-19 crisis is indeed a big challenge but it also serves as an opportunity for us to test ourselves and showcase what we are capable of doing, despite undergoing the difficult stage of the transition period. Mr. Speaker, colleagues in this august body, let us carry this momentum as we begin our session today. Particularly when we discuss and enact the following important pieces of legislation this calendar year.
As provided in the Bansgamoro Organic Law, we shall fast track the enactment of priority legislations that will serve as the foundation for a strong and responsive Bansgamoro Government. During the last cabinet meeting, we have thoroughly discussed few remaining issues in the Draft Administrative Code. You can expect that this will be transmitted to this august body soon and the cabinet shall conduct special meetings and go through the other draft priority codes to expedite further the finalization of these important legislations.
The Bangsamoro Regional Development Plan also needs to be passed as soon as possible. Members of the Bangsamoro Economic and Development Council (BEDC) which was originally scheduled to convene in March, met two weeks ago to begin the review and approval of the draft plan. I expect that this will be finalized soon so that we can utilize the special development fund for the rehabilitation and development of conflict-affected communities in the Bangsamoro.
Soon we are going to once again deliberate on our budget for next year. I am confident that we will again come up with a budget that will further our programs, aligned with moral governance and our 12-point priority agenda. In this year’s budget, an emphasis should also be given in our ongoing public health crisis.
Our budget should contribute to enabling further a Bangsamoro Government that can address the needs of our people as we continue to battle our common enemy that is COVID-19.
Consistent with our 12-point priority agenda, we shall continue to pass legislations and implement programs for our brothers and sisters in Marawi, who after three years are still dreaming of returning to their homes. This august body approved last year a 500 million budget allocation in support for the Marawi Rehabilitation program. We can still use this existing budget. We are also looking forward to see the results of consultations conducted by the Parliament’s Special Committee On Marawi Rehabilitation to see if we can assist with any programs or projects. If necessary, we can also complement it further by allocating a special amount in this year’s budget.
The different ministries and offices are currently undergoing their respective hiring process for the new staffing pattern in the region. People in position like us will come and go but for these qualified applicants, many of them will serve as permanent ingredients in the bureaucracy that we carefully designed to address the struggles and aspirations of our people.
As such it is extremely important that as mentioned in the Bansgamoro Organic Law, we get the right people through an independent, strictly merit- based, and credible placement and hiring process, with utmost consideration for gender and ethnic balance. As I have said before, people with necessary qualifications, skills, integrity, and passion to serve the Bangsamoro have a rightful place in our bureaucracy.
Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues, we are blessed with this golden opportunity. Now, more than ever, the Bangsamoro is in a better position to put an end to the decades long struggle for identity and self-governance. Let us all challenge ourselves in making this a reality.
As we resume our work in this esteemed hall, may the almighty Allah bless us with wisdom, passion, and a clear heart. For everything that we do is for him alone and this, my colleagues, remains to be one of the reasons why we continue working under the tenets of moral governance.
Thank you so much and Wassalam.