COTABATO CITY ― In an effort to empower Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and protect historically significant sites, Bangsamoro lawmakers have refiled three bills aimed at promoting cultural heritage and sustainable ecotourism in the region.
The proposed measures seek to protect the region’s rich cultural legacy by creating centers for Indigenous Peoples, designating historical heritage sites, and creating ecotourism destinations.
Parliament Bills Nos. 215, 216, and 217 were principally sponsored by Member of the Parliament Engr. Don Mustapha Loong.
The first bill, Parliament Bill No. 215, seeks to create Indigenous People’s Community Centers (IPCC) in selected communities throughout the region. As determined by the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs (MIPA), at least one IPCC will be established in each province.
Engr. Loong emphasizes that these centers will serve as a vital link between the Indigenous People and the Bangsamoro Government, providing unimpeded access to government services while empowering the IP communities to manage the centers themselves.
Since community centers will be operated by IP communities themselves, they will provide IP constituents with unrestricted access to government amenities without fear of discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, race, custom, sex, or any other basis, as explained by Engr. Loong.
“These centers will also be the gateway for our indigenous communities to voice their concerns and needs so that the Bangsamoro Government will be able to appropriately address said concerns and tailor-fit each action to the specific needs of our indigenous communities,” Engr. Loong emphasized.
Two more bills introduced by Engr. Loong focus on the declaration of significant sites as historical heritage sites and ecotourism destinations within the region. The first site proposed for such recognition is the “Tomb of Sultan Sharieful Hashim,” situated in Barangay Buansa, Indanan, Sulu.
Parliament Bill No. 216 advocates for the preservation and development of this historical and culturally significant site by the Ministry of Trade, Investments, and Tourism (MTIT) in collaboration with the Bangsamoro Commission for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (BCPCH).
Once PB No. 216 is approved, concerned government agencies will work together to prepare conservation, development, and promotion plans for the historical heritage site.
In addition to protecting the site’s natural beauty and historical significance, an ecotourism development plan will be crafted to boost tourism in the area and promote the Tausug culture.
The second site up for consideration is the “Kutawato Cave” in Barangay Rosary Heights 1, Cotabato City. Engr. Loong stresses that this cave holds exceptional significance as the only cave in the entire country situated at the heart of a city and boasting numerous underground passageways.
Parliament Bill No. 217 advocates for the Kutawato Cave to be declared a historical heritage site and ecotourism destination, with preservation and development efforts jointly undertaken by the MTIT and BCPCH.
Although the local government has made some efforts to protect the site, Engr. Loong is concerned that no major attention has been given to it by national agencies. He asserts that the preservation of the Kutawato Cave is crucial to honoring the region’s history and struggle.
“It, therefore, behooves us that we take steps to protect and preserve this monument as a source of our pride and part of our history of struggle,” said Engr. Loong.
Joining Engr. Loong in championing the passage of PB Nos. 215, 216, and 217 are MPs Atty. Laisa Alamia, Engr. Baintan Ampatuan, Atty. Rasol Mitmug Jr., Amilbahar Mawallil, Atty. Suharto Ambolodto, Rasul Ismael, Benjamin Loong, Jaafar Apollo Mikhail Matalam, Abdulkarim Misuari, Atty. Jose Lorena, Abdulaziz Amenoden, Diamila Ramos, Adzfar Usman, Mohammad Kelie Antao, Eddie Alih, Tawakal Midtimbang, Mudjib Abu, Suwaib Oranon, Bassir Utto, Bai Maleiha Candao, Michael Midtimbang, Basit Abbas, Muslimin Jakilan, Albakil Jikiri, and Dr. Susana Anayatin. (LTAIS-Public Information, Publication, and Media Relations Division)