The Senate in the Philippines adopted a bill on Monday postponing elections in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) until 2025.
“The bill regarding postponement of elections was passed with 15 in favor and three against,” Murad Ebrahim, chief minister of the autonomous region, told Anadolu Agency over the phone from Cotabato city.
At least seven bills were submitted in the Congress and Senate – six of which seek an extension while one advocates that elections be held at the agreed time in 2022.
He said the bills are being discussed in the country’s Congress.
“The process is going on in the Congress. There is a little discrepancy in (contents of) Senate and Congress (bills), but it can be resolved easily by the two houses,” Ebrahim added.
Once Congress passes the bill, it will go to President Rodrigo Duterte to sign it into law.
The development came after intense debate over extending the period of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA) until 2025.
Before the BTA was founded in 2019 following a popular referendum, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), led by Ebrahim, asked for a transition period of six years during peace negotiations with the Manila national government.
But negotiations resulted in a three-year transitional government under Ebrahim until 2022.
The two sides agreed to allow the transitional government to take control of regional governance and run affairs until 2022 when elections were agreed to be held.
But voices were raised to extend the period until 2025. Almost all BTA parliament members unanimously supported the motion, while residents across the region held rallies supporting the demand in recent months.
Members of the current Bangsamoro regional government believe they need more time to implement the political and normalization efforts embodied in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
Bangsamoro is a region of nearly 5 million people who are ethnic Moros and mostly Muslims. It has five provinces and three cities, including a capital.
The MILF led the region’s struggle for autonomy since the mid-20th century, ultimately resulting in peace talks and the BTA formation after a referendum on Jan. 21, 2019./agencies