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Marcos pledges ‘unwavering support’ as Philippines’ only Muslim region holds first legislative assembly 

MANILA: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pledged on Tuesday his unwavering support for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as it held its first legislative assembly as part of an ongoing peace process in one of Southeast Asia’s most conflict-torn regions. 

Bangsamoro, the only Muslim-majority territory in the Philippines covering central Mindanao, was until 2014 at the heart of a four-decades-long separatist struggle. BARMM was formed in 2019 as part of the region’s transition to autonomy, which will culminate in 2025, when it will elect its legislature and executive.  

The region’s leadership, currently under a transition authority also acting as its interim parliament appointed by the Philippine president, held its first local legislative general assembly in Davao City on Tuesday. Marcos witnessed the session in person.  

“To all our BARMM leaders, I assure you (of) this administration’s unwavering support for the development agenda to achieve sustainable and peaceful self-governance,” he told the legislators.  

“It is a historic day. It is historic and it is a landmark day because it is a measure of the progress that we have made over so many decades as we have strived for peace.”  

The president said it was an “important day” for “the entire Republic of the Philippines” that will also bring in greater cooperation between the regional government and the national leadership.  

Marcos added that since taking office last year, he has been gathering international support for BARMM during his foreign trips, including in talks with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and other non-Muslim countries, such as Japan, from which he secured a $6.8-million aid for the region’s infrastructure and disaster resilience.  

“With these initiatives, we will usher in a new era where BARMM becomes a shining beacon of sustainable development in Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines,” he said. 

It has been nearly a decade since the government struck a permanent ceasefire agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, ending decades-long conflict and paving the way for peace and autonomy in the region home to the biggest Muslim population concentration in the predominantly Catholic country.  

The assembly is set to become a platform for collaboration and idea exchange, while also empowering “local legislators to craft policies that resonate with the aspiration of our people,” BARMM Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim said.  

“As we embark on this journey together, let us remember that our roles as legislators carry the weight of responsibility and the power to write and see the destiny of the Bangsamoro homeland and our people,” he added.  

“Together, let us chart our course to an empowered, cohesive and progressive Bangsamoro — a course that reflects the true being of the Bangsamoro people.”  

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