Maranaos launch movement to form federal state

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MARAWI CITY, Lanao del Sur: Hundreds of people from various sectors gathered for the launching of “Maranao Nation Federal Statement Movement (MNFSM)” pushing for the realization of President Duterte’s goal to transform the country into a federal form of government.

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The gathering was attended by professionals, Muslim clerics, sultans, youth, women, students and other sectors.

A “Marawi Declaration 2017” was also signed by the Maranao contingents exerting their demand to form a separate federal state for the people of the lake.

“For the last 60 years, the Maranao region has lagged behind its neighbors with the unprecedented poverty and poor infrastructures in the area mainly due to the highly centralized authority in Manila,” the declaration said.

The movement is seeking a separate Maranao State comprised of a contiguous territory to include Iranun and Maranao areas in Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte and nearby areas in Bukidnon and Zamboanga del Sur, as well as the cities of Marawi and Iligan.

“[U]nless this demand for a separate Maranao State is granted, they will continue to live in endless poverty for there will be no permanent peace in Mindanao to be achieved,” it further stated in the declaration conspicuously displayed in Palaza Cabili.

The proposed state has a total land area of 19,475 square kilometers and a total population of 2.2 million. It is bigger than the countries of Singapore, Bahrain, Brunei and other smaller countries.

Lawyer Bayan Balt, former president of the Alliance of Regional Coalitions Against People’s Poverty (Arcapp), which organized the event said the proposed Maranao federal state will not affect the efforts of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in crafting the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that the President will review before his July 24 State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA).

Balt said the President has asked the BTC to finish the BBL as soon as possible as it may be overtaken by the establishment of federalism in the country.

Prior to the Spanish conquest, the Maranaos in the Lanao provinces already had a distinct culture as manifested by the dialect, customs and traditions that were enriched by Islamic tenets and ideology, Balt said.

He downplayed speculations that their movement would spark factionalism in the quest for a Bangsamoro autonomy envisaged by the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the peace accords they signed with the government.

Instead, Balt said, the movement will inspire the Maranaos and other Moro tribes to strive hard for self-determination at a productive and competitive pace.

Under a separate federal state, the Maranao community will have better chances to develop since it has the biggest number of professionals among all Moro tribes, and is replete with vast natural resources complemented by the Agus River dams that generate P40-billion worth of hydroelectricity from Lake Lanao.

MOH SAADUDDIN

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