MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday said it has scheduled two separate days for the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which promises wider autonomy to Muslim Mindanao.
Residents of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Isabela City in Basilan, and Cotabato City will be able to vote on the original date, January 21, 2019.
The plebiscite in Lanao del Norte, the towns of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pikit, and Pigkawayan, and all other areas contiguous to the Bangsamoro core was set on February 6, 2019.
Under the BOL, the same ARMM areas will still be part of the new region, while Cotabato City, Isabela City, 6 Lanao del Norte towns and 39 North Cotabato provinces may opt to be included.
The law also promises a fair sharing of resources, a block grant from the national government, and an overall stronger autonomy in Muslim Mindanao, among others.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law was the product of years of negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Philippines' largest Muslim separatist group.
Former President Benigno Aquino III's administration forged the peace deal with the MILF in 2014, but the proposed enabling law failed to get Congress' approval before he stepped down in 2016.
Lawmakers of the 16th Congress halted the debates on the law because of the public outrage following the botched Mamasapano raid that led to the death of 44 elite police troopers.
President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in mid-2016, breathed new life into the Bangsamoro law, as he expanded a multi-sectoral commission tasked to draft another version of the measure.
Although the Bangsamoro Organic Law has already been signed by Duterte after passing Congress, the people of Muslim Mindanao will still have to decide in the plebiscite whether or not they accept it.