THE BANGSAMORO Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government has flagged several challenges they are facing because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic such as the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the region, limited testing capacity, and supply chains disruption for their agricutural products.

In an online press briefing on Friday, BARMM Minister for Interior and Local Government Naguib G. Sinarimbo said that they saw a spike in the number of individuals testing positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in their region as more residents have come home from hotspot cities such as Metro Manila and Cebu City as well as those who had been in North Borneo or Sabah.

On top of this, he said the region is not equipped with enough testing and quarantine facilities so the officials need to quickly adjust to the situation.

“There are two parallel movements of people that enter the region. As a consequence of that, in the first week of June, we had less than 20 cases of COVID-19. Today, we already have 395 to be exact and these are mainly brought about by stranded individuals coming into the region from the NCR and from Cebu,” he said.

On the economic side, he said that due to travel restrictions across the country, the BARMM continues to face challenges in sourcing agricultural inputs for its crops and transporting fresh produce to urban centers.

“We are essentially agricultural and into fisheries and these are not really affected by COVID-19. The only challenge that we need to address is… we cannot market our products from the region going to the centers (and bringing) the essential agricultural inputs from the centers… to the region. If we manage this well, then we resolve the issue of food security for the centers and at the same time we continue to produce in the region,” he said.

Mr. Sinarimbo is part of the Bangsamoro Intergovernmental Agency addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that they continue to meet with their national government counterparts to discuss and help the newly established BARMM government address these challenges.

Metro Manila remains under general community quarantine while Cebu City is still under the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine.

BARMM is under the looser modified general community quarantine. — Beatrice M. Laforga