Isolated Turtle Islands to have new P25-M town hall

Construction of the Turtle Islands municipal hall is on going. Photo from Facebook account of Naguib Sinarimbo

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 03 April) – The isolated Turtle Islands, the remotest municipality in the southwestern tip of the Philippines, will soon have a brand-new P25 million town hall.

Bangsamoro Interior and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said the construction of the municipal hall was part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (BARMM) infrastructure development program in last mile communities.

“Despite the distance, (we are building a) municipal hall (in the) remote municipality to ensure that governance is felt there,” he said.

Construction of the town hall was funded in 2021 under the Support to Local Moral Governance Fund. The project is in line with the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government’s Local Government Facilities Development program to improve the services of constituent local government units (LGUs) in the BARMM.

Sinarimbo said the new and modern Turtle Islands municipal hall would serve as a “one-stop” venue for conducting local government transactions and services for the public.

“The new town hall will not only serve as a help desk for government bureaucracy, but it will also serve important symbolic functions in the community, as multiple departments, offices and agencies will assist the mayor in implementing policies for the betterment of the town and its people’s livelihood (under one roof),” he said.

Sinarimbo lauded Turtle Islands Mayor Mohammad Faizal Jamalul for their cooperation in the construction of the project, which is expected to be completed within the year.

For his part, Jamalul thanked the Bangsamoro government for funding the construction of the new town hall, which is located in overlooking Taganak Hill.

According to the mayor, once completed, the bigger town hall would boost the various services of the local government unit, with the facility accommodating more people conveniently.

Turtle Islands, with a population of almost 6,000 in 2020, is a known breeding ground of green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), which is considered an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

A fifth class municipality in Tawi-Tawi province, it is closer to Sandakan in Malaysia’s Sabah state, the former capital of British North Borneo, which is 30 minutes away by speed boat, than the capital Bongao.

Turtle Islands, consisting of the islands of Taganak, Baguan, Langaan, Boan, Lihiman and Great Bakungan, is 12 to 15 hours away by boat from Bongao.

The municipality is a declared protected area through Presidential Proclamation No. 171 Series of 1999. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)