TOWNS in Cotabato are seeing an increase in trade activities and business permit applications from barangays that are under the Bangsamoro as infrastructure and social support are rolled out by the provincial and autonomous region’s governments.
Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza said new barangay halls and roads constructed using funds of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have given villagers access to government services and local markets.
“The connectivity, in terms of commerce and trade, among residents of other barangays that are under Cotabato province and those in the SGA (Special Geographic Area) is taking off nicely,” Ms. Mendoza told reporters Saturday.
The SGA consists of 63 predominantly Moro barangays in the western side of Cotabato that voted in 2019 to become part of the neighboring BARMM.
These villages are spread across six Cotabato towns: Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pigcawayan, and Pikit.
“Our municipal government and the office of our provincial governor are together helping them still even if their barangays are no longer under Cotabato province,” Midsayap Mayor Rolly C. Sacdala said.
BARMM’s Ministry of the Interior and Local Government has so far constructed 13 barangays halls in the SGA and 49 more have been lined up.
Mansur Samsudin Kalim, a Maguindanaon rice trader in Kabacan, said he is planning to expand his business in other SGA barangays in Carmen once the barangay hall projects in the town are completed.
“I have relatives residing in those areas who can help me oversee the rice and corn grains trading business I am planning to put up there,” Mr. Kalim said.
The Philippine Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade commander, Donald M. Gumiran, said the barangay halls stand as an important venue and symbol of government presence in the communities.
“Barangay officials are now using these barangay halls as venues for settling family feuds and in planning solutions to community concerns,” Mr. Gumiran said.
A bill has been filed in the Bangsamoro transition parliament for the creation of eight new towns that will cover the SGA.
The BARMM Interior ministry had completed more than 50 other barangay halls, police stations and municipal halls in other areas in the six provinces and three cities in the autonomous region. — John M. Unson