Pikit, North Cotabato—Old stories of social gap between Christians and Muslims are slowly fading out following perceived mutual reaching out–as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao leadership engages both sectors in development projects.
More than 200 Muslim and Christian local officials and their families peacefully gathered here Thursday, among them political rivals in the coming elections, during a ceremonial groundbreaking of 24 two-story barangay halls.
Barangay Chairman Gulam Guimbalanan of Kabasalan, a riverside village here, said he and other barangay officials were thankful for this “once in-a-lifetime project,” to President Rodrigo Duterte, BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, who heads BARMM’s Ministry of the Interior and Local Government, Pikit Mayor Sumulong Sultan, and Bangsamoro Member of Parliament Akmad Abas.
Sinarimbo led Thursday the groundbreaking here of the two-story barangay halls the regional government will build in 24 villages and in adjoining Aleosan town, both in Cotabato.
He said barangay governance is every citizen’s first encounter with government—and so the BARMM’s development efforts start in that level, “both in terms of infrastructure programs and on improving the administrative and operational functions of local governance.”
Zaiton Abas, MILG senior programs development officer, said the initial beneficiary-barangays were Rajamuda, Bagoinged, Boliok, Barungis, Kabasalan, Gli-Gli, Bulol, Macabual, Balong, Manaulanen,
Pamalian, Lagunde, Bualan, Panicupan, Nalapaan, Batulawan, Nunguan, Gokotan, Nabundas, and Macasendeg in Pikit cluster; and Dunguan and Tapodok in Aleosan.
In the first group of villages benefitting from the P 3.5 million BARMM-MILG barangay halls project, construction works have been ongoing, said Engineer Abibazar Sali, MILG project development officer.
Pikit, one of the earliest colonial districts, is host to old agricultural colonies granted by the Philippine Commission during the American administration of the Moro Province (1900- 1914), under the
Osmeña Colony Act of 1913 – and later, the Quirino-Recto Colonization Act of 1936 during the Commonwealth period.
Former Mayor Efren Piñol of Magpet town said Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco remains open to all development initiatives of BARMM for her constituents in the province.
Meanwhile, MILG-BARMM officials also broke the ground for the construction of 18 more barangay hall buildings in the Midsayap municipality cluster of the region’s Special Geographic Area in Cotabato.
Another village official described the converged crowd as a “sign of healing” from a “bitter past of mutual distrust,” adding that residents of neighboring villages not part of BARMM had wished they had voted to join the region, seeing its prompt response in times of calamity and implementation of projects being fast-tracked.
In February 2019, 63 villages of the province voted to join the expanded autonomous region, and are now referred to in BARMM governance as the Special Geographic Area.