Lanao del Norte bats for province-wide plebiscite for BBL inclusion of 6 towns

LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – The provincial government here is batting for a province-wide plebiscite election for the inclusion or exclusion of 6 of its towns under the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) territories.

At the public hearing and consultation on the house bill that would create the BBL territories on Thursday, March 15, Governor Imelda Dimaporo, as well as congressmen Abdullah Dimaporo and Khalid Dimaporo from its two congressional districts, stressed it was important that the people decide on the fate of its 6 municipalities which voted to be included in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in a 2001 plebiscite.

Under the BBL, ARMM will be demolished and the BBL will establish a new autonomous region.

The BBL is a product of the government’s peace negotiation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which brokered a peace deal in 1996 with the government and created the ARMM region.

Congressman Khalid Dimaporo said the 2001 plebiscite cannot be used under the BBL because ARMM will be demolished under the BBL, hence the need for a new plebiscite. Khalid argued that as the ARMM and BBL are not the same,the province-wide plebiscite will "allow people to decide on the fate of the 6 towns."

The 6 named towns are Tagoloan, Balo-I, Pantar, Munai, Tangcal, and Nunungan.

The towns, along with 39 barangays in Cotabato province, voted “yes” in the 2001 plebiscite election.

SUPPORT. Pantar townspeople supporting BBL. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

SUPPORT. Pantar townspeople supporting BBL.

Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

Differing takes

Dimaporo said that the town of Tagoloan issued a resolution submitted to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission stating that it wants to be excluded in the plebiscite and its effect is that it doesn’t want to join the BBL’s peripheral territories.

Balo-I and Nunungan issued a resolution asking for a province-wide plebiscite while barangays in Pantar also issued the same resolution to resolve the dispute of using the 2001 plebiscite results.

This leaves the towns of Munai and Tangcal who did not issue any resolution, and did not join the public hearing of towns seeking to join the BBL peripheral territories.

“They are also historically under the influence of the MILF,” Khalid said.

Alan Lim, the mayor of Lala town and also the president of the province’s League of Municipalities, said they are supporting the province-wide plebiscite to resolve the dispute.

Lim added they have submitted resolutions to both Senate and Congress to conduct a province-wide plebiscite “to determine whether or not the municipalities of Tagoloan, Balo-I, Tangcal, Munai, Nunungan and Pantar should be included in the core territory of the expanded Bangsamoro territory under the BBL,” Lim said.

Lim also said they have issued a resolution for the province-wide plebiscite and not the just concentration on the 6 towns.

Iligan's concerns

Iligan City Mayor Celso Regencia also submitted his concerns on the issues on contiguous peripheral territories. Under the BBL, it will only take 10%  of the voting population to petition a plebiscite if they want to join the BBL expanded territory.

Regencia said Iligan City shared borders with both Lanao del Norte and Sur provinces and questions Article 3 – or the territories clause – of the proposed BBL law.

“We are not against the proposed BBL, we support it but we have concerns on Article 3, section 3, which says that contiguous territories which said that the areas outside the core territories may opt at anytime to be part of the territory upon petition of at least 10% of the registered voters and approved by the majority of the qualified voters casts in the plebiscite,” Regencia said.

Regencia added that for them in Iligan, the territory of the Bangsamoro should be definite and should not change in size by annexing adjacent areas. 

For now, the people and government of Lanao del Norte is fighting to keep its territory intact, united in its stand.

Governor Imelda Dimaporo said that they have registered their stand and that they have been going around the province on an information drive informing people of the pros and cons of the BBL and why keeping their province together is vital for their economy and as a united people.

The governor said they support the BBL, but have questions on its legality, especially if some of their towns opt to join the BBL territory.

Khalid Dimaporo said the congress and senate versions of the new BBL will be passed before May 30 "so that President Rodrigo Duterte will report it during his State of the Nation Address by June 2018." – Rappler.com