DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 Sept) – The first bill filed in Parliament under the new Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA2) seeks to declare Cotabato City as the “permanent seat” of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The bill was introduced by Member of Parliament (MP) Baintan Adil-Ampatuan, and co-authored by MPs Amir S. Mawallil, Rasol Mitmug, Jr., Laisa M. Alamia, Suharto Ambolodto, Don Mustapha A. Loong and Rasul E. Ismael.
The bill’s authors cite Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM which provides that the Parliament shall fix by law the permanent seat of the BARMM “taking into consideration accessibility and efficiency in which its mandate may be carried out” and the Bangsamoro Administrative Code which provides that the seat of the Bangsamoro Government shall be in Cotabato City, unless otherwise provided by the Bangsamoro Parliament in a subsequent law.
Cotabato City has been the regional seat of the three autonomous regions –Regional Autonomous Government (RAG) 12 from 1979, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) from 1990 and the BARMM from 2019 – the compound housing the buildings now referred to as Bangsamoro Government Center (BGC).
The authors describe the buildings in the BGC as “significant, historic and symbolic of the Bangsamoro struggle,” referring to the Office of the Chief Minister, the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex with the Bangsamoro Museum and Regional Library, Bangsamoro Parliament building, among others.
The BCG hosts the governance structure of the Bangsamoro Government with a bureaucracy of 32 ministries, agencies, and offices and its 80-member BTA Parliament;
The authors noted that various Bangsamoro leaders held their offices in the Cotabato City seat of the government and welcomed several Philippine Presidents Corazon Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Benigno S. Aquino III, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, and now President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr.
They also cited the visits by dignitaries of the multilateral organizations and
diplomatic corps, who witnessed peace and development undertakings in the autonomous government.
Ampatuan said “we cannot undo nor ignore” the historical narrative of the city as seat of the autonomous governments, adding this “must be reinforced, promoted and developed in order to preserve and advance the rich historical dimensions of the Bangsamoro in the Southern Philippines.”
The bill proposes under Section 4 that the buildings within the BGC “be preserved and improved in order to sustain their historical value.” It also proposes to authorize the Office of the Chief Minister (OCM) to establish an Annex Bangsamoro Government Center within Cotabato City, “provided that frontline ministries and offices shall be given priority in the Annex BGC.”
The OCM is also authorized to organize an office of the BGC Administrator attached to the OCM.
The bill proposes that no additional major infrastructure shall be constructed within the present BGC that would require additional lot space for the new building. But existing buildings “may be renovated and improved, but in no case, an expansion of building is allowed.”
The bill proposes a perimeter fencing of the BGC and for the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy (MENRE) to conduct a survey of the metes and bounds of the property for perimeter fencing.
A bill filed by the Cabinet on September 19 proposes that the administrative capital of the Bangsamoro Government be established in Parang town in what is now Maguindanao del Norte and appropriating funds for the purpose.
But Ampatuan and her co-authors in Bill No. 1 also introduced a proposed resolution urging the Office of the Chief Minister to engage the services of an independent consultant that will conduct a comparative study on the proposed transfer of government center in Parang, Maguindanao from Cotabato City, “taking into consideration the technical, financial, social, economic, and environmental feasibility.”
Resolution 5 notes that BARMM is a huge government organization with legislative and executive powers and requires adequate space for its smooth operations and functioning and that Parang is being eyed as one of the locations for the new seat of the BARMMM.
But the authors also note that Cotabato City is “very accessible to the general public considering the availability of transportation, stable electricity and water, presence of telecommunication facilities, banks, financing intermediaries, commercial centers, schools, hospitals, among others, which are crucial in government operations.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)