Thousands expected to join BBL summit in Buluan

Fields of Buluan town in Maguindanao, Philippines are seen in this satellite image. Buluan has a population of over 38,000. gGoogle Earth

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines Organizers are expecting thousands to participate in the May 25 provincial peace summit in Buluan town to discuss the importance of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu had told reporters all is set for the event, meant to gather sectoral leaders from across the province to confer on the prospects of the Mindanao peace process and the benefits of enacting the draft BBL into a national edict.

“This will be a convergence, a peace assembly of Maguindanao’s Moro, Christian and lumad people,” said Mangudadatu, chairperson of the inter-agency provincial peace and order council.

The planned peace summit is the 33rd big activity of the office of Mangudadatu in support of the draft BBL since it was submitted last year to Congress by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

The bill is premised on two compacts between the government and the MILF, the October 15, 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, both products of 17 years of negotiations.

The provincial administrator of Maguindanao, Engineer Wahab Tunga, and a senior member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Bobby Katambak, had separately confirmed that the peace summit will involve representatives from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Only the governor of Maguindanao, from among five provincial governors in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, has overtly been campaigning for the enactment into law of the draft BBL.

“Even the league of mayors in the province supports the peace process wholeheartedly. That is because our provincial leaders are so supportive of the GPH-MILF peace process,” Katambak said.

Katambak said among the issues to be possibly discussed during the summit are the feats and “best practices” of the provincial government in resolving violent rido, or clan wars, involving big families in the province.

He said he is also expecting speakers and summit participants to discuss local pro-poor projects such as the Maguindanao Program for Educational Assistance and Community Empowerment, which bankrolls the schooling of more than 4,000 beneficiary scholars.

About half of the scholars are dependents of MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members.

“All of these programs complement the efforts of President Aquino and the MILF to restore normalcy in war-devastated areas in Mindanao,” Katambak said.

Katambak said many of the more than 40 clan wars the provincial government had settled in the past five years were done with the help of the MILF.

Katambak said the most pressing concern now of the provincial government is how to intensify its peace programs under an MILF-led Bangsamoro political entity.

Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said senior officials of 6th ID who are involved in various peace-building activities in Maguindanao are also to attend the peace summit in Buluan town on May 25.

Mangudadatu said Pangilinan and the regional director of the ARMM police, Chief Superintendent Ronald Estilles, will provide security for the venue of the summit in coordination with the joint government-MILF ceasefire committee.

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