Majority Christian town seeks exclusion from Bangsamoro

Mayor said a vast majority of the Wao townfolk, who support the peace prospect in the region, preferred a local governance of the municipality under the national government.

Philippines
Jul 25 2014, 2:50 PM
Majority Christian town seeks exclusion from Bangsamoro
Christian settlers in Lanao del Sur's Wao town call for the exclusion of their town from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Elvino Balicao Jr., the only Christian mayor in a Muslim province in northern Mindanao, said that his townspeople seek exclusion from the Bangsamoro government. He hoped the national leaders will “take their concern seriously.”

Mayor said a vast majority of the Wao townfolk, who support the peace prospect in the region, preferred a local governance of the municipality under the national government.

Wao, a municipality in Lanao del Sur, covering 187.35 square miles of land with 26 barangays, is 83% Christian, he said.

On March 27, 2014 – the day of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) – thousands of Wao people peacefully demonstrated in the streets in a call to exclude their town from the CAB.

The CAB signed between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front paves the way for mostly Muslim areas of Mindanao to have more autonomy.

Balicao made clear his people do not oppose the rights of Muslim brethren to self-determination and an autonomous political entity.

His people fully respect the Islamic culture and have peacefully lived side by side with Muslim brothers from “time immemorial,” Balicao said.

But they choose to live and practise their culture outside an Islamic autonomous government, he stressed.

The citizens of Wao seek to be spared from Islamic restrictions, which is inherent in Moro self-governance.

Of 26 barangays, 18 are populated by Christians and only six by Muslims, Balicao said. Eight in the municipal council are Christians and only two are Muslims.

According to Balicao, the Roman Catholic Church, as well as other Christian churches, and non-government organizations in Wao support the popular call for exclusion from the Bangsamoro.

“People’s organizations in Wao will continue demonstrating their opposition to inclusion in Bangsamoro,” he said.

Wao, a landlocked town, is bordered by Kalilangan, Bukidnon to the north; Kalilangan and Pangantucan, Bukidnon to the east; Banisilan, Cotabato to the south; and Bumbaran, Lanao del Sur to the west.

According to 2010 census, Wao has a population of 40, 479, most of whom are Illonggo in roots.

The town is a recipient of the Galing Pook Awards in 2010 and Seal of Good Housekeeping in 2012, and achieved a number of projects in recent years.

Source: CBCP News

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