COTABATO CITY, August 8, 2018 – More than 700 people flocked to the Shariff Kabunsuan Complex here today to celebrate and express their support for the newly-passed Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARRM or the Bangsamoro Organic Law).

Leading the ceremonial presentation of the historic law to the Bangsamoro community were Nabil Tan, Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser and Chair of the Government Implementing Panel for the GPH-MILF peace accord, and MILF Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal.

The gathering comes in the heels of President Rodrigo Duterte’s presentation of the BOL to the MILF leadership in Malacañang last Monday.

The President said the law “would serve as the final trajectory for the attainment of genuine peace, stability and good governance in Muslim Mindanao.”

A new chapter

In his remarks in today’s event, Tan said the passage of the BOL is the start of a new chapter in the lives of the Bangsamoro people.

“This is just the beginning… Much work still needs to be done. We must now double our efforts,” he told the audience, which includes women, youth, business and civil society organizations, as well as representatives of the diplomatic corps and foreign donor community.

Tan noted that both the Senate and House of Representatives made sure the landmark measure was crafted “within the bounds of the Philippine Constitution.”

He said the BOL is a vast improvement over the ARMM Organic Law (RA 9054) and the final peace agreement signed between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996.

“This is ARMM plus-plus,” Tan said, explaining that with the passage of the BOL, more resources will now be poured into the region to accelerate its economic development.

These resources, he said, include an annual Block Grant that will be automatically appropriated to the BARMM government to fund its operations for the next 20 years.

Tan said a Special Development Fund will also be provided to fast-track the rehabilitation of conflict-affected areas in the region.

He called on the Bangsamoro people to rally behind the BOL and vote for its upcoming ratification.

“We now have this law. The challenge now is how to make the Bangsamoro government work effectively,” he said.

Milestone in the peace process

For his part, Iqbal said the passage of the BOL signifies a milestone that was achieved by the concerted efforts of all stakeholders in the peace process.

He paid tribute to those who made huge sacrifices that led to the approval of the BOL, particularly members of the MILF leadership who have passed away.

He also lauded members of Congress for their firm support to the law, which he said aims to provide the Moro people meaningful autonomy and enable them to chart their political future through the democratic process.

“We urge you to value this agreement. This peace process is for everyone,” Iqbal said in his speech.

Call for unity

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said the passage of the BOL is a truly momentous occasion for the Bangsamoro people.

Inabot natin ang puntong ito dahil sa pagsasakripisyo (We have reached this point through sacrifice),” he said.

Hataman lauded the Philippine government and the MILF for ensuring the approval of the law, which is expected to bring long-lasting peace and sustainable development in the region.

He said the passage of the BOL is not meant to diminish the accomplishments of the ARMM government but seeks to build on its gains over the years.

Hindi ito pagbubura ng ARMM (We are not erasing the ARMM),” Hataman said.

The ARMM governor said that the greater challenge confronting the Bangsamoro people now is how to ensure the successful implementation of the law.

Nandito na ang bagong batas. Magkaisa tayo. Mas mahusay ito (The new law is now here. Let us unite behind it. This is a better law),” he said.

Pledges from legislators

Meanwhile, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Assistant Secretary Ma. Cecilia Papa read on behalf of Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas a prepared message addressed to the Bangsamoro people.

“The passage of this very important legislation is a testament to the sovereign Filipino people’s genuine recognition of the Bangsamoro people’s aspiration for a more meaningful autonomy,” Fariñas said.

“I pray that the BOL will now give hope to the Bangsamoro people because it is the Filipino people’s commitment to honor your history, to hear your narratives, and to heal the wounds caused by years of strife,” he added.

On the other hand, Iqbal, during a separate press conference, shared a message of support from Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri.

“Please let our Bangamoro brothers and sisters know that we in the Senate will exert all efforts to ensure the successful implementation of the BOL,” Zubiri said.

“That includes the budget for the plebiscite and the yearly Block Grant allocation, as well as the national program that will benefit the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” he added.

“I will continue to champion our cause in the Senate for the continued peace and prosperity for your region and for the whole of Mindanao,” Zubiri’s message concluded.

Civil society support BOL

At the same gathering, Hashim Manticayan, president of the League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO), expressed his group’s strong support to the law.

“The BOL is a good law to start with as some vital foundations for the future government will provide great opportunities to the Bangsamoro people to pursue their political, social, economic prosperities parallel to Filipinos in metropolitan and even developed Asian neighbors,” Manticayan said.

“It is imperative for all peace-loving people, especially our leaders, to set aside their self-interests and instead join hand-in-hand to give the BOL a chance to prosper,” he added.

Manticayan called on the Bangsamoro people, particularly the youth sector, to come out and vote for the ratification of the BOL this coming November.

“Now that we have the BOL, more than anything else, this is for the youth, the future generation of the Bangsamoro. They will be ones to reap all of these benefits,” he said.

Other personalities who gave their pledge of support during the event included Froilyn Mendoza representing women and indigenous peoples (IP) sectors, and Alim Bashier Manalao representing the religious sector. ###