MANILA - Six towns in Lanao del Norte excluded from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will still get to enjoy the benefits from the new region, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC) said Friday.
The municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangcal voted for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in the February 6 plebiscite but the province prevented its inclusion.
"Under the BOL, there is a provision that we can provide assistance to communities. There will be an office that would be set within the office of the chief minister that will cater to that particular issue," said BTC member Jose Lorena.
In an interview on ANC's Early Edition Friday, Lorena said many from the said municipalities feel marginalized as they are deprived of some benefits from local government units.
"But Republic Act 11054 (the BOL) anticipated this, that is why there is a provision which will allow the Bangsamoro government to help and assist municipalities and local government units outside of the area in order to show that we have not abandoned our brothers who have been with us in the struggle for development and peace," Lorena said
Lorena explained that Lanao del Norte's vote not to be included in the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region may have been more of a political decision.
"The plebiscite is nearing election, there are political complications resulting from that. Many of those in favor are also running against the current officials of Lanao del Norte. Because of that, people are divided on political lines not really on the issue whether the joining of the 6 to the Bangsamoro is beneficial to the area or not," he said.
Following the second round of the plebiscite on the BOL on Feb. 6, the 6 towns voted for the law but Lanao del Norte prevented its inclusion in the BARMM, while 63 of 67 villages in North Cotabato will be part of the new self-governed region.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Abdullah Macapaar, also known as Commander Bravo, (MILF) had campaigned hard for the inclusion of the said towns.
The BOL, the enabling law of the 2014 peace pact between government and the MILF, was earlier ratified after majority in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Cotabato City voted in favor of the law that would establish the BARMM.
During the first round of the plebiscite on Jan. 21, a total of 1,540,017 residents voted for the law's ratification while 198,750 rejected the BOL, including 22,441 votes that made up the majority in Isabela City.
Asked whether there may be complications from the exclusion of the 6 Lanao del Norte towns, Lorena said the MILF gave the assurance it would recognize the result of the plebiscite.
"I think the MILF leadership will also see to it that the areas covered by particularly the camps of Commander Bravo can reap the benefits of the Bangsamoro government so that they will not feel isolated, abandoned," he said.
The MILF earlier nominated Macapaar to be part of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), an 80-member interim government that will run the new region until the first regular elections in 2022.
"Bringing in him to me is a good wise decision because he will now be articulating in the parliament rather than in the countryside," he said.
The interim government will also include the 25-elected members of the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
"I think the BTA would have to be appointed very soon so that we will not also be remiss in our performance," he said.