Assalamu alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
“How does it feel to be the first Muslim budget secretary and the only Muslim in this administration’s Cabinet?”
That's a question I get a lot. Consistently, I always answer that I feel very honored for being able to represent and give Mindanao and the Muslim community a voice in my capacity as Budget Secretary.
My Maranao blood and spirit runs passionately and it touches me deeply to see the wonderful progress taking place in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao today.
These developments are opportunities for us, Muslims, to showcase beauty in all forms, as beauty is ingrained in our Islamic culture. These developments that have been painstakingly pushed are a testament to how we are more than just part of our collective national identity as Filipinos — we play an important role in nation-building.
Almost four years after the ratification of BARMM, a lot of headway is happening in the ongoing peace process. There’s still a lot to be done. Traces of fracture caused by decades of internal conflict remain, but the determination of its transition government and civil society to accelerate the peace process is inspiring. By embracing a whole-of-nation approach, surely, achieving lasting peace and sustainable development will never wane.
Last week, we celebrated the Marawi Week of Peace. I was overwhelmed with joy and pride at witnessing how my fellow Maranaos have not forgotten that challenging part of history, but still chose to overcome it with strength and resiliency. The rehabilitation of Marawi has always been close to my heart. The process of recovery and establishing inclusive peace is admittedly a long journey, but I take heart in the solid inter-agency actions taking place.
The administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has allocated a total of ₱1 billion under the 2023 General Appropriations Act to compensate those who were displaced during the five-month conflict. Further, in November 2022, we approved the release of BARMM’s share in taxes collected within BARMM amounting to ₱335,815,961 – a big push towards their self-governance. Recently, I also approved the Special Allotment Release Order amounting to ₱5 billion for the Special Development Fund of BARMM for the rebuilding, rehabilitation, and development of its conflict-affected communities. These are on top of the ₱64.8 billion block grant to the Bangsamoro government in the 2023 Budget.
Today, Mindanao continues to transform into a booming economy. The Philippine Statistics Authority cited that Mindanao's Gross Regional Domestic Product posted a 7.2 percent growth rate in 2022.
Dynamic and culturally rich, it still remains to be the land of paradise, blessed with abundant beauty complemented by rich and diverse culture, people and religion.
Islamic presence in Mindanao
The presence of Islam in Mindanao and in the country has truly added a profound dimension to our national identity.
Scholars of Philippine Islamic history agree that the beginning of the Islamic faith in the Philippines happened between 1350 to 1380 – based on the arrival of seven traders/scholars led by Sheik Karimol Makhdum from Arabia in Tubig-Indangan (now Municipality of Simunul, Tawi-Tawi). It was during this time that the first mosque was erected in the archipelago. In 1993, the National Historical Institute declared the burial site of Sheik Karimol Makhdum in Tandu Banak, Sibutu, Tawi-Tawi as a National Historical Shrine.
650th Anniversary of Islamic Presence in the Philippines
During the 100 days countdown of the 125th Anniversary of Philippine Independence and Nationhood on March 4, 2023, I had an opportunity to discuss with then National Commission on Culture and the Arts Commissioner and now National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chairman Dr. Emmanuel F. Calairo about the Muslim role in Philippine history.
Our meaningful conversation led to the conceptualization of a project that will highlight the Islamic presence in the Philippines, which is the commemoration of the 650th Anniversary of Islamic Presence in the Philippines (PH650) in 2030. The NHCP approved the project, and targets to drumbeat its commemoration in 2024.
This project intends to highlight the Philippines as a multicultural country that acknowledges pluralism, and where religious tolerance and inclusivity thrive — all of these leading to the idea of unity amid diversity, which, I think, will help fulfill President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.'s campaign for national unity.
Further, it aspires to: Identify historical events and enrich studies relative to the Philippine Muslim History and Heritage; develop museums and libraries showcasing the Muslim contribution in the country; spearhead preservation and restoration of vital historical sites/landmarks, among others.
The NHCP targets the creation of a National Centennial Committee within the year through an Executive Order.
Indeed, “650PH in 2030” shows that there is true beauty of unity in diversity. It's a reflection of how faith can bring people together, add value to human life, and peace-building, which is a basic principle of Islam.
Beyond budget, my commitment to represent Mindanao lies in implementing a dynamic fiscal policy toward uplifting the lives of the Bangsamoro. Following PBBM’s Agenda for Prosperity, we will do all that we can to muster all mechanisms to support and ensure the success of BARMM, and to harness the full potential of the “land of promise” as an economic powerhouse.