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THE Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is now celebrating its 27th anniversary.
The ARMM was created on August 1, 1989, by Republic Act 6734, pursuant to a constitutional mandate for the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras. The ARMM – composed of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi – was inaugurated over a year later, on November 6, 1990, in the provisional regional capital, Cotabato City.
The month-long celebration opened with Sheikh Karimul Makhdum Day in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, last November 7. Governor Mujiv Hataman said various activities have been scheduled, showcasing the region’s diverse culture, traditions, and way of life. These include a food festival featuring the cuisine of the various major Moro tribes in the region, a sports festival, a cultural presentation, a People’s Day, a Week of Peace, a Local Government Units Summit, and a Gabi ng Parangal. It will culminate with the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival, with a fluvial procession on the Rio Grande de Mindanao, in Cotabato City on December 19.
It is truly a grand celebration highlighting 27 years of achievement and progress, Governor Hataman said, and its people, the Moros of the region, look forward to more years of pride and success.
And yet, not so long ago, the ARMM faced a bleak future after being described as a “failed experiment” by then President Aquino who wanted it replaced by a new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. A series of meetings here and abroad led to agreements with the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the creation of Bangsamoro. The proposed new autonomous region, however, ran into controversy, including the death of 44 police commandos at Mamasapano at the hands of rebel forces, including MILF men. The 16th Congress adjourned last June 30, without approving Bangsamoro.
President Duterte now plans a federal system of government for the Philippines, where the Bangsamoro would be one federal state composed of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Marawi City, and Cotabato City. The ARMM could be a separate federal state with Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Basilan. This would give the Muslims of mainland Mindanao and those of the Sulu archipelago their separate autonomous regions in a federal Philippines.
As the ARMM celebrates its anniversary this month, it can look back with pride on 27 years of achievement and progress. It can now also look forward with hope and great expectations for the future.