Youth from Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato will allow 6 towns and 67 barangays to join BARMM – Alert survey

Quezon City, Philippines: Majority of the youth who will vote in the February 6 Bangsamoro plebiscite will allow six Lanao del Norte towns and 67 North Cotabato barangays to be included in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). This is according to a survey released by peacebuilding NGO International Alert Philippines.

The group had released surveys in December 2018 and January 2019 that predicted a win for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) based on the youth vote. The “yes” votes won the first round of the BOL referendum held last January 21 in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Isabela City, and Cotabato City which led to its ratification. Isabela City opted-out of the measure.

International Alert’s most recent survey shows that 71% of the youth in Lanao del Norte are in favor of the BOL and will vote for inclusion of the municipalities of Tangkal, Tagaloan, Munai, Pantar, Nunungan, and Baloi in the BARMM.

Similarly, 83% of the youth in the municipalities of Pikit, Kabacan, Carmen, Midsayap, Pigkawagan, and Aleosan in North Cotabato, mother units of barangays seeking inclusion in the new political entity, will vote to be included.

However, Nikki de la Rosa, International Alert country manager, cautioned that in contrast to the 57% youth voting population in the ARMM, only 45% of those voting in these areas are from the youth.

De la Rosa clarified that Tulunan town was not included, as this survey was a follow-up to the study that the group conducted in 2018, before the Commission on Elections granted the petition of Barangay Galidan in the said municipality to be included in the plebiscite.

Higher youth familiarity

According to International Alert statistician Angelo Casalan, the percentage of youth voting in favor of the BOL in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato increased both from 53% in 2018 to 71% and 83% in 2019, respectively.

Casalan said that this increase may be due the increase in the youth’s familiarity of the measure. This year, 98% of youth in Lanao del Norte were familiar with the BOL, compared to 64% in 2018. More youth in North Cotabato were also familiar with the BOL by January (98%) compared to October to November last year (86%).

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been campaigning hard for the inclusion of the 6 Lanao del Norte towns in the BARMM. On January 31, MILF commander Abdullah Macapaar, also known as Commander Bravo, released a Facebook video calling for a “yes” vote to pave the way for peace and development in the region. Bravo said that a “no” vote might lead to violence in Lanao del Norte.

Francisco Lara, Jr., International Alert Senior Peace and Conflict Adviser – Asia, however noted that fewer “yes” votes in the province compared to the North Cotabato towns may be attributed to the Dimaporo clan’s opposition to the inclusion of the 6 municipalities in the BARMM.

Lanao del Norte Gov. Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo had announced that she and local officials, including the province’s two district representatives Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo and his father Abdullah, support the passage of the BOL but are opposed to the planned inclusion of the six towns because the Internal Revenue Allotment of the province will be reduced, and this will affect the allocation of funds for towns that will not be included in the BARMM.

Pressing issues

Young people in Lanao del Norte in favour of the BOL and their town’s inclusion in the BARMM believe that terrorism, rebellion, corruption, implementation of Sharia Law, and poverty are the top most pressing issues that BOL needs to address.

“Terrorism, which rose from fourth to first place as the most pressing concern, was very much in the minds of the youth in January 2019. This could still be attributed to the concerns arising from the December 2018 Cotabato City blast,” Casalan said.

International Alert’s survey was conducted from January 11 to 16 with 355 respondents aged 18 to 35 in Lanao del Norte, and from January 24 to 27 with 209 respondents of the same age group in North Cotabato.