Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. urged the military to support the peace process in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
He also urged unity in the ranks of BARMM leadership, expressing support for the transitional government.
The president made his inaugural trip Thursday in the autonomous southern region where he addressed the re-appointed 80-member parliament.
“I think the role of the military is to support the peace, that is the peace process, that is what the peace process is now, and that is what we need to continue to support,” Marcos told soldiers of the 6th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army’s that is deployed in Central Mindanao.
“I bring this up to you to explain that perhaps the mission of — not only the political leadership but also the mission of the military here is going to change. And that will be because I am hoping that we can look forward to a period of lasting peace and progress,” said Marcos, who won the presidential election in May by a landslide.
A transcript of the address was released Friday by Philippine News Agency.
Addressing the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) parliament earlier in Cotabato, Marcos urged BARMM leadership to “work together for the attainment of peace and progress in the region.”
“We know that with unity and solidarity, the BTA will be successful in facilitating the institution of the Bangsamoro government, one that is centered in promoting good governance and lasting peace for its people,” he said.
Marcos re-appointed Murad Ebrahim as interim chief minister of the BTA and the parliament in July and the new term will conclude in May 2025 when elections are expected in June that year.
In 2018, a decades-long insurgency by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led to peace talks with the Philippine government, and the BARMM was formed.
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder, Nur Misuari, shared the stage with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Bangsamoro interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag “Murad” Ebrahim in a rare display of unity during the ceremonial opening of the special region’s parliament in Cotabato City on Thursday afternoon, September 15.
Misuari, who led the MNLF, and Ebrahim, the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), had separately fought the government for decades since the first Marcos administration.
But on Thursday afternoon, Misuari and Ebrahim warmly greeted each other in public before the country’s highest-ranking officials such as Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Speaker Martin Romualdez, and Marcos who renewed the government’s commitment to the still-to-be-concluded peace process.
The regional government is run by the BTA, led by Ebrahim, who was elected first chief minister in February 2019.
The mandate of the transitional authority was due to end this year but the Philippine government, under former President Rodrigo Duterte, extended it to 2025 to allow Ebrahim and his team to achieve targets, including the decommissioning of former MILF fighters.
Last Tuesday, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhiko Koshikawa said in Manila, “It is highly encouraging that the Marcos administration is prioritizing the peace process.”
The Japanese government recently gave a $5 million grant to BARMM to help decommission MILF combatants and smaller armed groups.
Urging the BTA parliament to pass crucial legislations on fiscal policy, particularly taxation, and to facilitate the conduct of elections in BARMM in 2025, Marcos told Moro lawmakers: “We walk this path together because even if it is difficult, we know that at the end of the journey is historical justice, progress, peace, stability, and the unity that our peoples and our nation have long aspired for and so rightly deserved.”
‘Beginning of new chapter’
Ebrahim said the day marked the “beginning of a new chapter in the Bangsamoro’s quest for lasting peace and development in our homeland.”
“Just like what we did three years ago during the inauguration of the BTA, we once again take our oath of moral governance as a symbol of our renewed commitment to dutifully finish the transition priorities, fight the ills of governance, and fulfill Amanah — trust of the Bangsamoro people,” he said in his address to parliament,
He said his administration, in the past three years, has enacted 31 laws.
The chief minister credited a “significantly better peace and order situation” that has led Bangsamoro to “a vibrant investment destination.”
The swearing-in ceremony of the chief minister and 80 members of parliament was held last month in Manila.
Of 80 members, 39 are new faces, while the rest were re-appointed from the last parliament.
Under the peace agreement, the government will be led by the MILF and most lawmakers will be from the organization.
Forty-one of the 80-member parliament represent the MILF and 39 others were picked by the Philippine president from nominations made by local in Bangsamoro, members of the Philippine Congress and Senate and other organizations from the semi-autonomous region.
Of the six priority codes of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the last parliament completed four and two are expected to be completed this year.
The Bangsamoro parliament has completed codes on administration, civil services, education and local government while revenue and electoral codes are under process.