A BILL has been filed in the Bangsamoro autonomous region’s Parliament that will provide the underserved and discriminated Badjao indigenous people with sustained socio-economic and humanitarian interventions.
Member of Parliament Adzfar F. Usman filed last week Parliament Bill No. 148 or the Badjao Development Project Act, which seeks to help the ethnic group establish and develop their own village that will be given government support and protection to preserve their way of life against encroachment by commercial fisheries, high sea robbery, and other threats.
Mr. Usman, a Tausug from Sulu and represents the Moro National Liberation Front in the 80-member Parliament, said the measure will also help Badjaos engage in other income-generating projects and gain access to social welfare and health services.
A physician Parliament member, Kadil M. Sinolinding, Jr., said on Tuesday that he fully supports the bill.
“It’s about time. We must not forget that the Badjaos helped our leaders fight the Spaniards that tried but failed to colonize the Muslims in southern Philippine islands. Now we can see Badjaos almost everywhere, in the streets, hungry, treated like second class citizens, begging for money to buy food,” Mr. Sinolinding said.
The Badjao is one of the ethnic groups in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that covers the provinces of Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Lamitan, Marawi and Cotabato.
“I will give that bill my two thumbs up once we deliberate on it,” said Parliament Member Paisalin P. Tago, concurrent head of the BARMM Ministry of Transportation and Communications.
He said the ministry can embark on special projects that will complement the envisioned Badjao village, which will be set up through a Project Management Office.
“There are foreign aid organizations involved in different humanitarian projects in the autonomous region. I’m certain these entities, such as the agencies of the United Nations, will also support our efforts to serve the Badjaos,” Mr. Tago said.
“Badjaos in this city and in areas outside need our help now,” said Datu Jambo L. Matalam, a Maguindanaon member of the BARMM parliament.
Badjaos are known as the Mindanao sea gypsies as they have traditionally dwelled in house boats and depend on marine resources for their livelihood, but have been displaced and marginalized by commercial developments. — John M. Unson