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Religious leaders push for new Muslim region in Mindanao

SOUTH COTABATO (UCAN): Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Mindanao, the southern Philippines, have vowed to work for the ratification of the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law that will create an autonomous Muslim region to be called the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It will be bigger than the current entity and will have fiscal autonomy and its own justice system.
“We will go all out to win the hearts and minds of the electorate,” said Hamid Barra of the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines.
A plebiscite to ratify the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law is scheduled on 21 January 2019, across Mindanao.
Barra called it a “milestone towards the realisation of self-determination for the Bangsamoro (local Muslims), as well as peace and development for all people in Mindanao.”
Father Clifford Baira, social action director of the Archdiocese of Cotabato, said the group, Christians for Peace, would also conduct an information awareness campaign on key points of the law.
He said Christians in Mindanao have already come up with a 17-point Christian Settlers’ Peace and Development Agenda for the proposed Bangsamoro region.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law, which is anchored to a peace agreement signed by the government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014, was signed by Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, in July (Sunday Examiner, August 5).
Ola Almgren, resident coordinator of the United Nations (UN) in the Philippines, stressed the need for synergy among international donor agencies in the implementation of programmes and projects.
“There must be an alignment of our plans with those of the Bangsamoro,” said the UN official in early October.
In a statement, Jesus Dureza, Duterte’s peace adviser, underscored the role of foreign partners in implementing the peace process.
“Expectations from the people are very high. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done,” he said.
Dureza said the high poverty incidence, a dearth of job opportunities and the lack of adequate infrastructure are among the major concerns confronting the southern Philippines.

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