MANILA - The national government turned over the supervision of Cotabato City to the Bangsamoro government on Tuesday, nearly two years since more than half of its residents voted for the city's inclusion in the Bangsamoro region.
Bangsamoro chief minister Ahod “Al-Haj Murad” Ebrahim "welcomed home" the city which had previously opted not to be part of the autonomous region.
"We are committed to upscaling services that can further boost the potential of Cotabato City, unique with its own context and in support to its existing resources," he said in a statement last Dec. 12.
"We will make sure that BARMM’s development will echo in the city, being its administrative capital, and celebrate the diversity it has with no constituency left behind regardless of faith, ethnicity, or affiliation."
The city’s supervision, along with those of the 63 barangays in North Cotabato, was formally turned over to the Bangsamoro Government’s Ministry of the Interior and Local Government, in a ceremony attended by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Debold Sinas.
"Through the BARMM leadership under the chief minister Ahod Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, ably counseled by MILG minister Naguib Sinarimbo, we will continue to improve the standard of governance and steer public service to cater to the needs of our Moro brethren. This will allow the localities in BARMM to find success and see investments, tourism and trade boom in the region," Año said at the turnover ceremony.
Cotabato City mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi had said residents have complained of delayed salaries for teachers and healthcare workers as the Bangsamoro Transition Authority sought to extend the interim period for another 3 years from 2022.
She earlier opposed the integration of Cotabato City, an independent city geographically located in Maguindanao province but used to belong to the Soccsksargen, in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
She had filed a petition before the Supreme Court questioning the results of the plebiscite.
Cotabato City, home to some 310,000 people as projected for this year by the Philippine Statistics Authority, is the third city of the BARMM, which replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) following the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in January 2019.
The law sought to implement the 2014 peace agreement between government and the formerly secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front to end a protracted war in the southern Philippines that has left around 120,000 dead.
The city was the regional administrative seat of the ARMM but was not part of it due to its non-inclusion vote in the 1989 and 2001 plebiscites.
BARMM is composed of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi; and Cotabato City and 63 barangays of North Cotabato.