Minister Mohagher M. Iqbal Credits IGRB on BARMM’s 7.5% Hike in Economic Performance, among other achievements
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By EDD K. USMAN | @edd1819 | @bluestar0910 | SDN — Science and Digital News
(SDN) — As the current administration winds up to its swan song on June 30, 2022, the Bangsamoro government hailed President Rodrigo R. Duterte for keeping his promise on the creation of a new political entity (NPE).
The NPE materialized in early 2019 in the form of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM, abolishing and replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Unlamented, the ARMM it was.
No other President could have done it, steering the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) amid a nation buffeted by turbulent and highly-charged environment. At the Senate and the House of Representatives, thanks to Duterte’s allies the BOL sailed through, overcoming stormy days, of entrenched gauntlet, mind you, the strongest obstacle not of the physical kind, but of bigotry, bias, and prejudice.
The BOL is the implementation of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), putting the “finis” to nearly five decades of internecine warfare, in Southern Philippines, pitting Filipinos against Filipinos.
Then President Benigno “Noynoy” S. Aquino III did all he could to steer the original Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the 16th Congress, but his administration ran into a brick wall of discontent arising from the Mamasapano deaths in 2015 of 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force ((PNP-SAF) officers and men.
But “Pinoy” as he was popularly know to many, had the singular distinction of a daredevil clandestine meeting in Tokyo, Japan, with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Ahod Balawag “Al-Hajj Murad” Ebrahim in 2011. The meeting turned out to be the big spark of adrenaline that revived the peace talks with the MILF, then gasping for breath.
It was a daring and brave act from Aquino, for some Filipino leaders even said his meeting with the MILF chieftain could be a reason for his impeachment.
Aquino’s and Duterte’s determining roles on the Mindanao peace process were not lost on the MILF.
The Bangsamoro government expressing gratitude in 2021 to the late President, recalled that Aquino braved the risk when he met with Ebrahim to give life to the peace process with the MILF.
Mindanao peace process stalwart Mohagher M. Iqbal, now head of the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE), another BARMM’s line agencies, spoke at the 11th Inter-Governmental Relations Body (IGRB) Meeting on June 1, 2022 at the Department of Finance (DOF) Building.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. “Sonny” Dominguez III and Iqbal co-chair the IGRB, which has the task of building “on points of cooperation between the national and Bangsamoro governments. The IGRB has been conducting a series of meetings “to find ways of further fast-tracking the processes leading to a functional autonomy in the new Muslim Mindanao region.”
“On behalf of the Bangsamoro Government Inter-Governmental Relations Body, I would like to say thank you to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, for becoming a noteworthy ally of the Bangsamoro during his administration and surely, for the years to come. Your legacy will remain with us, your brothers, in the name of genuine peace, development, and justice,” said Iqbal in his speech he shared with SDN — Science and Digital News.
Iqbal cites Dominguez’s soft heart for Bangsamoro people
Iqbal did not forget to cite his counterpart in the IGRB, which was formed in 2019.
“I will not tire of commending my honorable counterpart, Secretary Sonny Dominguez, who obviously has a soft spot in his heart for the Bangsamoro people. Having Secretary Dominguez at the end of the table admittedly keeps me (on my feet), because his sincerity and compassion in discussing IGR issues demand no less than the same, or more, from us,” Iqbal emphasized.
Iqbal did not forget either the pioneer members of the IGRB from the national government and the Bangsamoro government, crediting their contributions in achieving the “milestones” of the inter-governmental body.
“Through your collective hard work in the IGRB, you have started to pave the way for a balanced and equitable enforcement of the provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, and policies as envisioned in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” the education minister of the BARMM said.
“The economic outcomes of this whole IGR exercise are best demonstrated by the 7.5 percent increase in BARMM’s economic performance in 2021 and the largest poverty reduction of 17.4 percentage points, all reflecting the progress made on the peace process.”
Through the 7.5 percent hike, Iqbal said detractors of the BARMM were proven wrong that the Bangsamoro government was not making a difference in the lives of the region’s “marginalized people.”
“We should be proud of how far we have come together. So, to all of you members of the IGRB, congratulations on the job well done at maraming salamat sa pakikipagtulungan (and many thanks for the collaboration),” the education minister told the IGRB members.
Duterte’s unfailing acknowledgement of the peace agreements also got notable mention from Iqbal, who noted the President’s use of the government-MILF agreements as guide in formulating his directives when it came to the affairs of the Bangsamoro.
Reasons for BARMM being grateful to Duterte
“President Duterte honored the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Through his steadfast leadership, the Bangsamoro Organic Law saw the light of day, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was born.”
The Mindanaoan President, Iqbal pointed, “stayed true to his promise of placing the peace process among the top of his administration’s agenda to ensure that everyone’s obligations are fulfilled, and this would pave the way for longer-term political and economic reforms for the country.”
He credited the outgoing President’s “strong political will” for the post-agreement implementation phase of the Bangsamoro peace process.”
Iqbal, meanwhile, wished that as the administration of incoming President-elect Ferdinand R. “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. takes office on July 1, 2022, new members of the IGRB would have a “big shoes to fill.” He believed the 11th meeting of the IGRB, former over two years ago, is the last for the outgoing administration.
With the current makeup of the IGRB now on its last days, Iqbal waxed sentimental, saying, with Dominguez’s time as co-chair soon to fade, “there is a pang of regret knowing we won’t be sharing another 3 years as IGRB Co-Chair.”
“We really had a lot of achievements and milestones in the past 2 years and a half. I could only pray that the person who succeeds Secretary Dominguez as IGRB Co-Chair will also have the dedication and spirit of cooperation, so that the IGRB can work as efficiently in the coming years,” said Iqbal, long-time chair of the MILD peace panel.
“Thank you, Secretary Dominguez, for being an enabler of peace and development by offering your services and solutions to the Bangsamoro, and to the nation as a whole.” (✓)
Featured image shows IGRB partners Finance Secretary Carlos G. ‘Sonny’ Dominguez III (left) and Bangsamoro Education Minister Mohagher M. Iqbal are all smiles as they renewed their partnership as co-chairs of the Inter-Governmental Relations Body (IGRB) of the Mindanao peace process. (Photos supplied)