MANILA - The proposed 3-year extension of the Bangsamoro transition period is necessary in hopes of completing "essential work" in the fledgling self-governing region in the country's troubled south, one of its officials said Friday.
Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) interior minister Naguib Sinarimbo said the "complex" transition process, which began in 2019 and was set to lapse in 2022, was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and had also faced budget delays in the past.
"There's a consensus between the national government and Bangsamoro government, as well as the peace panel, that the essential work will not be finished in the remaining period," he told ANC's "Matters of Fact."
There are many obligations that the national government has yet to fulfill, he added. Among them is the transfer of powers of national agencies to the Bangsamoro autonomous government.
The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), which serves as the interim government, has yet to craft various codes such as the Election Code before parliamentary elections can be held in BARMM, said Sinarimbo, who is also the region's concurrent spokesperson.
To complete the governance structure of BARMM, it has to enact the Administrative Code, Bangsamoro Revenue Code, Bangsamoro Electoral Code, Bangsamoro Local Government Code, Bangsamoro Education Code, Bangsamoro Civil Service Code, and Bangsamoro law for indigenous peoples.
It has so far passed the Administrative Code and the Bangsamoro Development Plan. Under its normalization program, the BTA also needs to decommission 40,000 MILF combatants. Some 30 percent of the rebels have so far been decommissioned.
"Admittedly, the COVID-19 has distracted the national government. But it's not only peculiar to the national government. Our focus in strengthening the institution of the Bangsamoro autonomous government was also disturbed," he said in Filipino.
Sinarimbo also addressed critics who claimed that the MILF, who leads the interim government, was extending the transition to 2025 to delay its first regular elections in 2022.
"The measure for legitimacy has always been the validity of the cause of the Bangsamoro and that's universally accepted," he said.
"Why would we distract ourselves to the petty elections of local officials in the Bangsamoro and sacrifice the overall goal of achieving peace and development in the region?" he added.
Sinarimbo said they were confident they had public support and only few local executive chiefs such as in Cotabato City were against them.
"We can win but if we go by elections in 2022, the MILF will focus its attention into winning the election rather than institutional building, instituting program and making changes necessary in the region," he said.