GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Bangsamoro legislators have proposed the creation of eight towns and two parliamentary districts out of the 63-barangay Special Geographic Area (SGA) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in Cotabato province.
The proposal was introduced just before the mandatory adjournment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority or the Bangsamoro Parliament’s first regular session on Tuesday, March 21.
During the session, eight bills were deliberated on the first reading, eight bills on the second reading, and nine resolutions were adopted.
Parliament member Mohammad Kelie Antao, the primary author of Parliament Bill No. 122, sought the creation of two districts in the SGA, each with separate representatives.
Cotabato, which used to be called North Cotabato, is a province that is part of the Soccsksargen region but 63 of its barangays have voted to become special BARMM territories or SGAs during the 2019 plebiscite. The province is not to be confused with Cotabato City, the seat of the BARMM regional government.
Antao said the establishment of two parliamentary districts in the SGA was essential to provide proper representation to BARMM’s constituents in Cotabato in the legislative body, in line with the newly approved Bangsamoro Electoral Code of 2023.
The electoral code aims to ensure parliamentary district seats for those elected under a registered regional political party or coalition using a proportional representation system.
Antao also said the Bangsamoro Organic Law allows the parliament to undertake redistricting to ensure more equitable representation in the BARMM’s parliament.
Redistricting, merging, or creating parliamentary districts will be based on the number of inhabitants and additional provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas that will become part of the Bangsamoro territorial jurisdiction.
Antao proposed that the first BARMM-SGA parliamentary district would comprise 33 barangays in Cotabato with a combined population of 103,233 and an annual income of P120.66 million.
The BARMM-SGA’s second parliamentary district, based on the proposal, would comprise Cotabato province’s villages in the towns of Bualan, Lagunde, Panicupan, Manaulanan, Balong, Pamalian, Makabual, Tapodoc, Balongis, Batulawan, Fort Pikit, Gukotan, Nabundas, Nunguan, Nalapaan, Kibayao, Kitulaan, Langogan, Manarapan, Nasapian, Pebpoloan, Tupig, Buluan, Nangaan, Pedtad, Sanggadong, Simone, Simbuhay, and Tamped.
Based on the proposal, the district would have a total land area of 515 square kilometers, a combined population of 112,210, and an annual income of P125.17 million.
Antao said the bill’s passage would accelerate the region’s social and economic development.
The proposal has won the support of BTA members Mohagher Iqbal, Lanang Ali Jr., and Aida Silongan.
Silongan, for her part, proposed the creation of eight BARMM towns in the Cotabato SGA.
These municipalities include Pahamudin, Kadayangan, Kabalukan, Northern Kabacan, Kapalawan, Malmar, Tugunan, and Ligawasan.
Silongan said she hoped that a plebiscite would be held coinciding with the upcoming 2023 barangay elections to settle the jurisdictional issue and include the municipalities in the proposed Bangsamoro Local Governance Code. – Rappler.com
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