The passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) has finally put in motion the process of the national government in pushing forward the Bangsamoro peace process. It is fervently hoped that this would positively impact on the lives of the people in the region and bring long lasting peace and development not only in these parts but in the entire country. I welcome and fully support this peace initiative. I strongly favor the holding of a dialogue with the stakeholders affecting the thirty nine (39) barangays in six (6) municipalities in the Province of North Cotabato included in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR).

Such dialogue is important to fully address the concerns of all stakeholders to avoid any issue which could very well hinder the full implementation and success of the BOL in these affected barangays. One matter that needs to be discussed is the effect of the inclusion of these barangays into the BAR as a political unit. If they ratify their inclusion, would they constitute a separate municipality of their own or would they be appended to the nearest municipality already included in the BAR?

Another matter is the fact that there are affected barangays which are not contiguous to the rest of the areas in the BAR. These barangays are within and surrounded by excluded barangays within their respective municipalities. If these affected barangays opt for inclusion, what would be the effects considering that their geographical locations are not contiguous to the BAR? And one final matter is the need to inform the constituents of these affected barangays what are concretely in store for them under the BOL.

The residents in these affected barangays must be fully aware of the advantages and disadvantages of inclusion, especially in terms of the public services, benefits and other rights. They must have a clear idea and picture on what the future holds for them if they opt to ratify considering their present state as political units within the Province of North Cotabato. Only an informed citizenry could make an informed choice.

As a Cotabateño and Mindanaoan, I also have a stake in the successful implementation of the BOL. Having this dialogue to address these and other concerns could very well pave the way in achieving this and thereby ensuring that our collective aspirations of having peace in our province and in Mindanao become a reality. This is part of our continuing work for peace in our nation as well.

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