HISTORICAL EVENT — North Cotabato Acting Governor Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza (3rd from right) hands over the symbolic “key of responsibility” to Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim (3rd from left) during turnover Wednesday, November 20 of the 63 villages in North Cotabato that voted yes to inclusion in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) earlier this year. They were joined in this photo by Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Deputy Speaker Hatimil Hassan and Ministry of Basic Higher and Technical Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal with Acting Vice-Governor Shirlyn Macasarte-Villanueva and first district Board Member Mohammad Kelie Antao. (GALao with photo by ZSDiolanan)
COTABATO CITY — The province of North Cotabato officially turned over Wednesday, November 20 the sixty-three barangays from its six towns to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that previously voted yes to inclusion during a plebiscite held in February 2019.
The turn-over ceremony was headed by BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim together with North Cotabato Acting Governor Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza.
Ebrahim received the symbolic “key of responsibility” from Mendoza during simple rites held at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex.
They were joined by Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Deputy Speaker Hatimil Hassan and Ministry of Basic Higher and Technical Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal with Acting Vice-Governor Shirlyn Macasarte-Villanueva and first district Board Member Mohammad Kelie Antao.
The historical event, viewed as another milestone to the BARMM government, was also witnessed by various BARMM officials, employees and partner organizations.
Earlier, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of North Cotabato has adopted a resolution to turn over 63 out of 67 barangays to the BARMM which opted to join the expanded Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. These barangays are located in the municipalities of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pigcawayan and Pikit.
These are: Dunguan and Tapodoc in Aleosan; Kibayao, Kitulaan, Langogan, Manarapan, Nasapian, Pebpoloan and Tupig in Carmen; Buluan, Nanga-an, Pedtad, Sanggadong, Simbuhay, Simone and Tamped in Kabacan; Damatulan, Kadigasan, Kadingilan, Kapinpilan, Kudarangan, Central Labas, Malingao, Mudseng, Nabalawag, Olandang, Sambulawan, Tugal and Tumbras in Midsayap; Lower Baguer, Balacayon, Buricain, Datu Binasing, Datu Mantil, Kadingilan, LibunganTorreta, Matilac, Lower Pangangkalan, Upper Pangangkalan, Patot and Simsiman in Pigcawayan; and Bagoinged, S. Balong, S. Balongis, Batulawan, Buliok, Gokotan, Kabasalan, Lagunde, Macabual, Macasendeg, Barungis, Bualan, Bulol, Fort Pikit, Gli-gli, Manaulanan, Nabundas, Nalapaan, Nunguan, Pamalian, Panicupan and Rajah Muda in Pikit.
Not about separation, but rather joining together
Minister Naguib G. Sinarimbo of the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILG) expressed in his opening remarks that he is honored to receive the 63 barangays from North Cotabato.
“In behalf of the regional government and the people of the Bangsamoro, we welcome you here. We are extremely happy to work with the acting provincial governor of North Cotabato. Thank you for the very good partnership before, during and after the plebiscite. We shall forever treasure the assistance you have extended to us and we are truly grateful,” he emphasized.
Sinarimbo said more than forty years ago, the empire Cotabato province was subdivided into several provinces.The Cotabato Empire, established in 1914 was dissolved in 1973 through Presidential Decree 341 issued by then President Ferdinand Marcos, who, using his martial law powers, divided it into the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. Earlier in 1966, several towns of the Cotabato province were carved out to constitute South Cotabato. In 1992, several towns were carved out of South Cotabato to form Sarangani province.
“These provinces originally constituted the province of Cotabato. Today, we are honored to be reunited once again with our colleagues from the 63 barangays of Cotabato.Their return to us was held in a process and we are happy that they said yes to joining the Bangsamoro,” Sinarimbo said.
Sinarimbo stressed, this event is “not about separation, but rather joining together”.
“This is more of a connection between the Bangsamoro region and our neighbors in North Cotabato. For that, let us continue with our mission, building a better Mindanao and hopefully a better Bangsamoro homeland,” he said.
In her message, Mendoza expressed her profound gratitude to all Bangsamoro people whom for years have supported her administration as governor of North Cotabato.
“We are all witnesses in the years of struggle of the Bangsamoro people. I saw the hardships of our people. They fight for peace, unity and progress. Hence, I made a commitment to support the achievement of peace in this part of Mindanao. At last, this came into realization last February 2019,” Mendoza said.
The lady governor also shared her gladness on the success of this endeavour that was realized “during her term” as leader of the province.
“This is a continued reminder of a unified cooperation and love for Mindanao. Dear Chief Minister, please take care of our 63 barangays,” her emotional message.
Not an easy task
Meanwhile, Ebrahim who welcomed the entry of the barangays in the BARMM, said the affair was not just about the official “turn-over”.
“This is about opening another chapter to the long history of our people in this historic province. We see a bridge that reconnects the 63 barangays to its Bangsamoro homeland. Today is all about the people. Before we reached this symbolic turn-over, we had to go through almost two decades of peace negotiations. A tiring yet fulfilling campaign during the plebiscite and on a more recent note, experiencing the challenges of transitioning from the battlefield to the government,” he emphasized.
But with the guidance of Almighty Allah, he added, they are hopeful for what is yet to come for the Bangsamoro and its proud people in the Cotabato province.
“Hindi po natin mararating ang tagumpay na ito kung wala ang suporta ng taga-North Cotabato sa pangunguna ni Acting Governor Lala Taliño-Mendoza sampu ng kanyang mga kasamahan sa provincial government at ng mga lokal na pamahalaan,” he said.
Further, Ebrahim also assured to continue with its smooth coordination with the local government units in the province to further fast track the easy transition and transfer of the responsibility.
Accordingly, the 63 barangays will be constituted into a special geographic area under an administrator and will continue to receive Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA).
Based on the plebiscite results, BARMM comprises the five provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato and the 63 barangays in six North Cotabato towns. (GALao, Communications & Media Unit, BTA Parliament)
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