MANILA - The Bangsamoro region is allowed under the law to directly engage with foreign investors and other nations with diplomatic ties with the Philippines, its interim chief minister said Tuesday.
Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, who also heads the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, made the remark after the outburst of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on social media following the former's meeting with diplomats in Turkey last month.
Locsin had planned to file a diplomatic protest over the matter but did not push through.
Ebrahim said his trip to Ankara from Dec. 11 to 16 was official and he obtained permission from the Office of the President.
"Under the BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law), there are provisions allowing us to directly engage with foreign investors and countries with diplomatic relations with the Philippines," he told ANC's Early Edition.
"There is no provision in the BOL wherein...after we (secure a) travel permit with the Office of the President, there is no provision we will still need the permission from the foreign ministry."
Ebrahim said he was "surprised" by Locsin's remark because the Turkish ambassador in Manila had said she sent a note verbale to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
"I did not think that will happen because the fact that I met with the consul general in Ankara shows that there’s a coordination with the foreign ministry," he said.
Embrahim said he thanked the Turkish government for its continuing assistance to the region and for being "very helpful in the peace process."
He added that he had informed the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process about the issue, as it also heads the Intergovernmental Relations Body, which handles Bangsamoro's relations with the national government.
The region, meantime, secured some P4.153 billion investment from Malaysia, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, among others in 2019, according to Ebrahim.
It is allotted P65.2 billion in the 2020 national budget, Ebrahim said, and will focus on funding education, medical and health services, social services and "strategic" infrastructure to "catch up" with other regions.
Some 3,000 opportunities are available on the Bangsamoro job portal, he added.
"We are really working very hard because as long as the budget will be downloaded to us immediately then we have no reason to be delayed in our program," he said.