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By EDD K. USMAN | Twitter: @edd1819 | Instagram: @bluestar0910 | Facebook: SDN — SciTech and Digital News
TONGKIL ISLANDS, Sulu, May 10, 2023 (SDN) – Bangsamoro Education Minister Mohagher M. Iqbal and his party on Wednesday brought good tidings to the island Municipality of Banguingui, Sulu.
It was rare, as pointed out by Municipal Administrator Abdulwahid Omar Sahidulla that his municipality and residents receive attention from the regional government before the advent of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Thus, it was not surprising that a visiting group from the Bangsamoro government based in Cotabato City, the BARMM capital, was hugely welcomed and appreciated by residents of Banguingui municipality led by Mayor Whidzfar I. Sahidulla, including the town’s high school and elementary school teachers, and students, as well as many residents.
And it was not a mere token visit; it was purposeful. Iqbal came with a top level party that included, among others, MBHTE Directors General Abdullah P. Salik, Jr. (Basic Education), Tahir G. Nalg (Madaris Education), Marjuni Maddi (Higher Education), & Bai Ruby Andong (Technical Education), Chief of Legal Division Atty. Mojahid S. Guro, Assistant Secretary for Operations Sitti Mariam Balahim, and BARMM Manila Liaison Office Director Ghafur Kanain, etc.
Perhaps, pre-BARMM leaders may not be thoroughly blamed for their seeming neglect of the island municipality, some 100 kms from Zamboanga City, because of the distance.
Be that as it may, that is not the case with the Bangsamoro government under the leadership of Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Al-Hajj Murad” Ebrahim, whose leadership is anchored on Moral Governance from Day 1. BARMM was born in January 2019 after the ratification of the hotly contested and controversial Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
Iqbal is in Sulu to deliver on a promise of raising the quality of education in the Bangsamoro region through, among other actions, constructing new school buildings to increase classrooms, hiring of hundreds of teaching and non-teaching personnel, providing new armchairs, IT equipment and tools to bring technology to schools, teachers and students, as well as other school supplies.
Iqbal’s Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE) will be island hopping in Sulu as well as in Tawi-Tawi to deliver and distribute the IT equipment and supplies, such as the ones allocated to Banguingi.
Iqbal told SDN – SciTech and Digital News that if he can, he will do more and maximize the MBHTE response for the needs of the region’s schools, teachers and students.
In the meantime, the delivery and distribution of the educational equipment and tools and supplies will be repeated in the coming few days in pre-selected locations as the MBHTE had already allocated for recipient schools.
Tongkil Island was the first stop. Banguingi schools will receive the following IT equipment and supplies:
- 18 units All-in-One Desktop Computers
- 18 units Epson Printers (3-in-1)
- 120 units Android Tablets
- 36 units Wall Fan
- 18 units Wall Clock
- 18 units Water Bottle Tumbler
- 118 sets Teacher’s Kit
- 671 sets Learner’s Kit with Scientific Calculator
For the schools division office (SDO) in Sulu, the MBHTE has allocated around Php69 million for the IT equipment and supplies. They are now being unloaded in the Port of Sulu transported by a Philippine Navy (PN) ship.
Minister Iqbal, who wears many hats in the 17 years old peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH), in his remarks at the ceremonial turnover from the MBHTE to the Banguingi schools, he recalled the difficult negotiations with GPH that started with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1994 followed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that informally took off in January 1997.
“There is no substitute for peace in Mindanao. There are problems. Let us not mention it anymore,” the education minister pointed out. He was apparently referring to critics of the Bangsamoro transition government under the leaders of Chief Minister Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim.
“It seems that history is repeating itself. But I hope that while history is repeating itself, it would not be as bad before.” He did not elaborate but he recalled a statement by a foreigner that “When the Moros are not in war, they will fight among themselves.”
The education minister cited problems in education in the region, adding that, “We inherited these problems.” He assured that the current BARMM government will not tolerate these problems.
Iqbal added that the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) emphasized the education of Bangsamoro children. Recall that as Member of Parliament (MP), he filed the Bangsamoro Election Code (BEC) which had already been approved.
Banguingui Mayor Sahidulla and his father, the municipal administrator and former mayor, expressed propitious thanks to Iqbal for his coming to the far away island. Travel from Zambonga City by a 20-passenger speedboat powered by four 300 horse-power engines took two hours and 15 minutes. The sea was calm passing by the province of Basilan, although the ever-present waves made the trip a bit turbulent in some stages. But nothing serious.
The elder Sahidulla recalled the Banguingui local government units’ (LGUs) all-over support to the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the establishment of BARMM.
“This is the first time our place is visited. We are far. It is rare we receive visitors,” the municipal administrator pointed out, speaking in Pilipino.
“They visited us here and showed they care,” he noted. The municipal administrator expressed his wish that if assistance goes to Sulu, Banguingi will be included.
East Tattalan Elementary School (ETES) Principal Moammar Abdulkahal robustly thanked MBHTE and Iqbal for his visit and for giving importance to the island LGU’s students.
One of the teachers at ETES, Sitti Jaifa Essah welcomed the gift for education from MBHTE. She said was happy the teachers and students will be using and learning the importance of technology to education.
Established in 2018 by the BOL to implement the CAB, the Bangsamoro region is made up of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, the cities of Cotabato, Lamitan, and Marawi, as well as the 63 barangays or villages dubbed Special Geographic Area (SGA) that voted “yes” in a plebiscite in February 2019 to be under the BARMM jurisdiction.
The Philippine Atlas says BARMM has 4,404,288 people in 116 municipalities: Basilan, 11 municipalities; Lanao del Sur, 39; Maguindanao (del Sur and del Norte), 36; Sulu, 19; and Tawi-Tawi, 11. Its component cities are Cotabato (the regional center and capital) in Maguindanao; Lamitan in Basilan; and Marawi in Lanao del Sur. (✓)