BARMM parliament approves creation of 8 towns in Cotabato province

Rommel Rebollido, Ferdinandh Cabrera

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BARMM parliament approves creation of 8 towns in Cotabato province

BANGSAMORO LAWMAKERS. BARMM parliament members during their session.

Bangsamoro Transition Authority

Bangsamoro officials hail the passage of regional laws to create new towns in Cotabato province as a 'significant historical milestone' for the Muslim-majority region

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – The Bangsamoro parliament gave its seal of approval for the creation of eight new towns, emerging from a pool of over 60 villages in the region’s Special Geographic Area (SGA) within Cotabato province.

Eight regional laws passed third and final readings on Thursday, August 17, a move that has been hailed by Bangsamoro officials as a “significant historical milestone” for the Muslim-majority region.

The SGA, comprising 63 barangays in Cotabato province, had cast their votes during the 2019 plebiscite in favor of integration into the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Cotabato province, however, is part of the Soccskargen region.

The cluster of regional laws formed part of the priority legislative agenda of BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Al Haj” Ebrahim, who certified the then BTA bills as urgent.

The new towns in the BARMM-SGA in Cotabato include the following:

  • Pahamuddin
  • Kadayangan
  • Nabalawag
  • Old Kaabakan
  • Kapalawan
  • Malidegao
  • Tugunan
  • Ligawasan

Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Speaker Pangalian Balindong said a plebiscite will be held. The BARMM regional government needs two-thirds of the voters in the barangays to ratify the regional laws. 

As provided in the newly approved laws, BARMM will initially provide funds for the administrative and operational needs of the new municipalities until such time that the new towns get their share of the National Tax Allotment (NTA). For starters, BARMM will give the new town governments P2.5 million each month. 

Members of the BARMM parliament’s committee on finance, budget, and management have met with key officials of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) for needed appropriations and financial assistance. 

Crucial factors such as the national tax allotment and financial assistance earmarked for the eight towns were deliberated upon, said CFBM chair Eduard Guerra. 

DBM’s Local Government and Regional Coordination Bureau chief Rowena Marte said the new towns must meet specific requirements by November to secure their national tax allotments by 2024. The requirements will include certifications from the Land Management Bureau (LMB), Philippine Statistic Authority (PSA), and provincial treasurer. 

Marte said the allotment of shares from the national tax will be based on whether each municipality meets the minimum requirements for its establishment. 

Niño Raymond Alvina, executive director of the Bureau of Local Government Finance, said the average national tax allotment for a sixth class municipality in 2022 was at P87.25 million, while the range for the same class of municipality in the BARMM region is P130.5 million. –

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