On Monday, the first round of voting in the Philippines began a referendum to give the southern region of the Muslim-majority Philippines broad autonomy and lead to the establishment of a new province called “Bangsamo” meaning the people of Moro.
More than 2.83 million voters in southern provinces and cities in the Mindanao region will vote in two-round referenda, the second round will be held on Feb. 6, the Philippine High Electoral Commission said in a statement.
For his part, a spokesman for Philippine President Salvador Panillo said that President Rodrigo Dutertti will respect any decision that voters will take in the referendum, saying that “the Bongsamoro law is historic legislation in our quest for lasting peace because this will correct the historical grievances committed against the Moro people.”
On the other hand, the head of the Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Yousuf Jekiri, in a similar statement, their commitment to a peaceful referendum on the law and ensure peace, solidarity and security in the southern Philippines.
The Philippine government signed a comprehensive peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2013, most notably the Basic Law of Pangsamoro, which gives the southern region of the Philippines expanded autonomy.
Sharing of wealth
The new government is to share natural resources with the central government 70 percent for the local government and 30 percent for the central government, while local authorities will give full administration to the south, with the exception of defense, foreign affairs and currency.
The prime minister of the new Bansamoro entity will be appointed for a four-year term, chosen by an elected council of 80 people, mostly from the Moro Liberation Front (MILF), while the MILF will become a political party subject to party law.
Under the agreement, the MILF will join the new entity’s police and the army and absorb those who did not accept them in economic institutions and investment projects, while the LTTE vowed to lay down its arms and dismantle its 40,000-strong armed arm once the agreement is ratified.
Moro is named for Muslims living in Mindanao, Palawan, Basilan and the Sulu archipelago as well as other southern islands in the Philippines, where the Moro people account for 11 percent of the country’s more than 100 million people and speak 13 different languages or dialects.