By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The 63 barangays in six North Cotabato towns that joined the Bangsamoro Region in Muslim Mindanao are being eyed to become four clustered municipalities, according to officials of the BARMM’s Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG).
BARMM spokesman and MILG Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said Regional Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim will “create soon” via executive order a task force to form the 63 villages into eight clusters and chart their organizational structures.
The proposed body will oversee the initial operations of the 63 villages, pending passage by the BARMM parliament of a regional law constituting their eight clusters into four regular municipalities, Sinarimbo said.
Consultant Adel Dumagay, a retired chief planner of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), is assisting the MILG in crafting the eight clusters’ structures and the enabling order for signature by Ebrahim.
North Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco and Ebrahim met here last month, during which the former reportedly inquired about plight of the 63 villages that opted out of her province and voted for inclusion in BARMM in the February 2019 plebiscite.
Ebrahim had reportedly assured Gov. Catamco that the 63 villages from her province would be “well taken care of” like other component areas of BARMM.
BARMM also covers all villages in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur (including Marawi City), Basilan (including Lamitan City), Tawi-Tawi and Sulu provinces, and Cotabato City.
Originally, 67 villages were proposed for BARMM inclusion, but the affirmative votes of the four others were resented by the general electorate of their mother towns during the plebiscite. The affirmative votes won in all villages in Pikit (22), Midsayap (13), Pigcawayan (12), Kabacan (7), Carmen (7), and Aleosan (20, all of North Cotabato.
Minister Sinarimbo told the Bulletin that all “glad tidings and benefits for BARMM will be proportionate if not equally shared among all constituent villages.”
BARMM is expected to receive P70.6-billion out of the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for next year, including P63.6-B representing its annual block grant; P5-B as special development fund; and P17.7-B for infra development, according to congress reports.
Apart from the P70.6-B, BARMM will also have its internally-generated funds like retained taxes projected at P1.4-B annually; some P15-B allocations from national government agencies for their devolved regional offices in BARMM; and Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of P25 billion.
Dumagay said the 63 villages which will comprise four towns will most likely be aligned with Maguindanao, the most populated component of BARMM adjacent to North Cotabato.