COTABATO CITY – Residents from 63 barangays in the BARMM Special Geographic Area (SGA) are set to have their own local governments and access to essential services, four years after they voted for inclusion in the Bangsamoro region.
The BTA Bill Nos. 129 to 136, aimed at establishing eight municipalities, received unanimous support in the Bangsamoro Parliament during the third and final reading of the bills.
The newly created municipalities, namely Pahamuddin, Kadayangan, Nabalawag, Old Kaabakan, Kapalawan, Malidegao, Tugunan, and Ligawasan, are a testament to the commitment of BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim to prioritize the needs and aspirations of the SGA’s residents.
Chief Minister Ebrahim’s certificate of urgency underscored the significance of these measures, making them a top legislative priority of the Bangsamoro government.
In 2019, the 63 barangays voted for inclusion in the Bangsamoro region as part of their pursuit of self-determination and aspirations for peace and development in their communities. It is composed of 63 barangays in the towns of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit, and Pigcawayan.
Member of Parliament Mohammad Kelie Antao, a former SGA administrator, expressed his excitement about the approval, stating, “It is time for the Bangsamoro government to extend its favor to the SGA residents who made the difficult decision to leave their original municipalities and join the Bangsamoro region.”
The bills have outlined the composition of each municipality based on key criteria such as average annual income, population, and territory size.
Pahamuddin will consist of barangays from Balacayon, Buricain, Datu Binasing, Datu Mantil, Kadilingan, Lower Pangangkalan, Libungan Torreta, Matilac, Patot, Upper Pangangkalan, Lower Baquer, and Simsiman, all formerly part of the municipality of Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.
The barangays of Central Labas, Kapinpilan, Malingao, Mudseng, Sambulawan, Tugal, and Tumbras, in Midsayap, North Cotabato, will be part of Kadayangan.
The combined barangays of Damatulan, Kadigasan, Kadingilan, Kudarangan, Nabalawag, and Olandang, all from Midsayap, and Barangay Dungguan in Aleosan, North Cotabato, will be part of Nabalawag.
Kaabakan will be composed of barangays Buluan, Nangaan, Sanggadong, Simbuhay, Simone, Pedtad, and Tamped, in Kaabakan, North Cotabato.
Barangays Kibayao, Kitulaan, Langogan, Manarapan, Nasapian, Pebpoloan, and Tupig, in Carmen, North Cotabato, will be included in Kapalawan.
Malidegao will be composed of barangays Balungis, Batulawan, Fort Pikit, Gokotan, Nabundas, Nalapaan, and Nunguan in Pikit, North Cotabato.
The barangays of Balong, Bualan, Lagunde, Macabual, Macasendeg, Manaulanan, Pamalian, and Panicupan, in Pikit; and Barangay Tapodoc, in Aleosan, will form Tugunan.
Ligawasan will be composed of barangays Bagoinged, Barungis, Bulol, Buliok, Gli-Gli, Kabasalan, and Rajamuda in Pikit, North Cotabato.
The approval of these bills, according to Jimmy Yuro Adil, former Pikit cluster 3 area coordinator, represents not only a solution to the peace, order, and security problems that have plagued the region, but also a symbol of hope for the future.
“Finally, there will be leaders that will look into finding solutions to the challenges in Pikit. We’ll have our own municipality, police officers, and local executive officers to look up to,” said Adil.
He believes that the newly appointed OIC mayors will seek permanent solutions to various group problems and “promote unity in diversity” to demonstrate the true purpose of autonomy in the region.
The first mayor, vice mayors, and eight members of the Sangguniang Bayan for the new municipalities will be appointed by the BARMM Chief Minister and will serve until the next general elections for local officials.
The creation of these municipalities adheres to the criteria outlined in the Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 25, which considers average annual income, population, and territory size.
Introduced in December by the Government of the Day, the bills underwent extensive public consultations and hearings by the Committees on Local Government and Finance, Budget, and Management, garnering support from local government officials, civil society groups, and community leaders.
The creation of the municipalities will be determined by a majority vote of eligible residents in a plebiscite to be conducted simultaneously with the 2023 barangay elections.
The Commission on Election, through the Bangsamoro Electoral Office, will conduct and supervise the plebiscite, with its expenses drawn from the available funds of the current fiscal year appropriations of the Bangsamoro government.
Under the bills, the Bangsamoro government is mandated to provide financial assistance for the administration and operation of the municipalities each month until they receive their share in the national tax allotment, subject to usual accounting and auditing rules and regulations.
MP Antao emphasized that the creation of the eight new municipalities will allow the Bangsamoro government to provide more direct and efficient services to SGA residents.
He said that through their own local administrations, the inhabitants of these municipalities can expect enhanced opportunities for economic growth, infrastructure development, education, healthcare, and others.
The Bangsamoro Parliament also extended its gratitude to the North Cotabato Province for its support of the Bangsamoro people residing within its borders. (LTAIS-Public Information, Publication, and Media Relations Division)