Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. witnessed the opening session of the Bangsamoro parliament on Thursday, signaling his government’s determination to weather the largely Muslim region’s transition to self-government.
Marcos also appointed a new group of members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, an interim regional government dominated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or the MILF, the largest Muslim rebel group in the southern Philippines.
The interim body, known by the acronym BTA, is to ensure that the region is ready to hold regular elections for self-government in 2025.
“As your president, I assure you, the BTA and all the people of Bangsamoro, of this administration’s full and unwavering commitment to the peace process and to BARMM,” Marcos said, dispelling early doubts about how he would end the armed conflict in Mindanao. will tackle.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. addresses the opening session of the Parliament of Bangsamoro on September 15, 2022 in Cotabato, southern Philippines. (Photo courtesy of Bangsamoro Transition Authority) (TBEN)
BARMM refers to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Islamic Mindanao.
Under the Bangsamoro Organic Law of 2018, which paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, the transition period should have ended this year.
But the Philippine government decided to extend the term by three years to give more time to pass crucial legislation, such as elections and monetization.
The decommissioning of approximately 20,000 remaining MILF fighters is also expected to be completed during the transition.
Speaking at a separate event last Tuesday in Manila, Japan’s ambassador to the Philippines, Kazuhiko Koshikawa, said “it is very encouraging that the Marcos administration is prioritizing the peace process.”
The Japanese government recently gave BARMM a $5 million grant to help dismantle MILF fighters and smaller armed groups.
A former MILF fighter said Marcos’ visit was “historic” as it also marked the first time he set foot in Bangsamoro’s seat of government since running for president.
In the May elections, the MILF supported Marcos’ closest rival and former vice president Leni Robredo.
The Moros had a history of atrocities committed against them by the country’s military during the martial law of Marcos’s father and late dictator of the same name.
But Ahod Ebrahim, who was reappointed by Marcos as interim prime minister of BARMM, expressed his commitment to Marcos’ government.
“The peace process started in your father’s time and it would be a fitting end to this long journey if we could complete the process during your reign,” Ebrahim said.