THE Bangsamoro Parliament has filed its first bill under the new Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
The bill, which seeks to declare Cotabato City as the “permanent seat” of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), was filed by Member of Parliament (MP) Baintan Adil-Ampatuan and co-authored by MPs Amir Mawallil, Rasol Mitmug Jr., Laisa Alamia, Suharto Ambolodto, Don Mustapha Loong and Rasul Ismael.
The bill’s authors cited Republic Act 11054 or the “Organic Law for the BARMM,” which provides that the Parliament shall fix by law the permanent seat of the BARMM “taking into consideration accessibility and efficiency in which its mandate may be carried out.”
The Bangsamoro Administrative Code provides that the seat of the Bangsamoro Government shall be in Cotabato City, unless otherwise provided by the Bangsamoro Parliament in a subsequent law.
Cotabato City has been the regional seat of the three autonomous regions — Regional Autonomous Government 12 since 1979, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao since 1990 and the BARMM since 2019.
The city also hosted the compound housing of government buildings now referred to as Bangsamoro Government Center (BGC).
The authors described the buildings in the BGC as “significant, historic and symbolic of the Bangsamoro struggle.”
Some of the notable buildings in the compound are the Office of the Chief Minister, the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex with the Bangsamoro Museum and Regional Library, Bangsamoro Parliament building, among others.
The BCG hosts the governance structure of the Bangsamoro Government with a bureaucracy of 32 ministries, agencies, and offices and its 80-member BTA Parliament.
Adil-Ampatuan said that various Bangsamoro leaders held their offices in the Cotabato City seat of the government. The place has also welcomed several Philippine presidents since Corazon Aquino until current President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
They also cited the visits by dignitaries of the multilateral organizations and diplomatic corps, who witnessed peace and development undertakings in the autonomous government.
Adil-Ampatuan said they cannot undo or ignore the historical narrative of the city as a seat of the autonomous governments.
He added that this must be reinforced, promoted, and developed in order to preserve and advance the rich historical dimensions of the Bangsamoro in the Southern Philippines.
The bill also proposes that the buildings within the BGC shall be preserved and improved to sustain their historical value.
Furthermore, it also proposes to authorize the Office of the Chief Minister to establish an Annex Bangsamoro Government Center within Cotabato City.
The bill proposes that no additional major infrastructure shall be constructed within the present BGC that would require additional lot space for the new building.
Existing buildings, however, may be renovated and improved, but in no case, is an expansion of building allowed.
The bill also mandates a perimeter fencing of the BGC and for the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy to conduct a survey of the metes and bounds of the property for perimeter fencing.
On September 19, a resolution was filed by the Cabinet proposing that the administrative capital of the Bangsamoro Government be established in Parang town in what is now Maguindanao del Norte and appropriating funds for the purpose.
Cabinet Resolution 5 notes that BARMM is a huge government organization with legislative and executive powers and requires adequate space for its smooth operations and functioning and that Parang is being eyed as one of the locations for the new seat of the BARMM.
However, Ampatuan and her co-authors in Bill 1 also introduced a proposed resolution urging the Office of the Chief Minister to engage the services of an independent consultant who will conduct a comparative study on the proposed transfer of government center in Parang, Maguindanao from Cotabato City.
Ampatuan noted that Cotabato City is “very accessible to the general public considering the availability of transportation, stable electricity and water, presence of telecommunication facilities, banks, financing intermediaries, commercial centers, schools, hospitals, among others, which are crucial in government operations .”