ASIA/PHILIPPINES - The new autonomous region for Muslims is born in the south of the country

Wednesday, 25 July 2018


Davao (Agenzia Fides) - The House of Representatives of the Philippines yesterday ratified the final version of the law establishing the new "Bangsamoro Autonomous Region", a specific territorial entity for the Islamic communities living on the island of Mindanao, in the South of the Philippines. The Senate had already ratified the law on Monday morning and now it is awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte - who has already announced his full support for the law - for the provision to enter formally into force.
The law creates the new autonomous political entity that replaces the old Autonomous Region and includes six provinces (Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi), while other municipalities outside those provinces will be able to join the region through a referendum that will be proposed to the population.
The ratification comes a decade after the Filipino government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on ancestral domination in 2008, which fell through following a Supreme Court ruling that had declared it unconstitutional. The new law includes an agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but also with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), both guerrilla groups involved in the new pact and in the new institution. The region will be led by a Prime Minister and a parliament in office for three years.
In politics, in civil society, in Islamic religious communities and also in the Catholic Church there is great consensus and strong appreciation for this political move by Duterte’s government.
Among the religious leaders, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato, hailed the approval of the law as an "important step to prevent and stop the proliferation of extremism and Islamic radicalism in the south of the country".
According to Agenzia Fides, Fr. Sebastiano D'Ambra, missionary of PIME in Mindanao, engaged in Islamic-Christian dialogue, "the new autonomous region meets the legitimate demands of social justice and freedom of Muslim communities, it will be important now to continue with conviction on the paths of dialogue, collaboration, paths of spiritual closeness between Christians and Muslims, to build a culture of peace and harmonious coexistence between all the religious communities in Mindanao". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 25/7/2018)