By: Xave Gregorio
The city of Zamboanga does not want anything to do with the proposed autonomous Bangsamoro region, with its top leaders saying the city wants to remain outside of the region.
Zamboanga Reps. Celso Lobregat and Manix Dalipe, along with Zamboanga Mayor Beng Climaco all opposed the city’s inclusion into the territory of the proposed Bangsamoro region, repeating the city’s stance in two previous plebiscites on the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1989 and the Bangsamoro Judicial Entity (BJE) in 2008.
“The city should never form part nor be included in the Bangsamoro – now or ever,” Climaco said in a statement she read Friday (February 9) during a Senate consultative hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Zamboanga City.
“Neither of its 98 component barangays nor any part, zone, sitio thereof should ever be included in the Bangsamoro – now or ever,” Climaco continued.
“The position of the city of Zamboanga has been firm, consistent and unequivocal,” she said further.
Zamboanga City rejected to be included in both the ARMM and the BJE.
Lobregat asked lawmakers why the predominantly city would need to vote again in a plebiscite on the inclusion in Bangsamoro if they have twice rejected to be included in any autonomous region designed for Moros.
However, Senator Sonny Angara said Zamboanga is no longer included in the Bangsamoro territory, citing Article XV of the BBL, which does not mention Zamboanga.
“I think all of you will agree, when the mere intent of the law that you already removed Zamboanga City, you already acknowledge the stand of the city of Zamboanga,” Dalipe said of the law’s provision.
But Zamboanga City may still be included in the plebiscite on the inclusion of the proposed autonomous region, with it being a contiguous area of Bangsamoro.
Section 2(d), Article III of the BBL states that “all other contiguous areas” will be included in the Bangsamoro region if the local government passes a resolution to be included or at least 10 percent of the areas’ population petitions to be included.
Zamboanga shares a border with Isabela City, which is identified in the BBL as part of the core territory of Bangsamoro.
A resolution by the local government or a petition will pave the way for a plebiscite on inclusion into the Bangsamoro in the area.
Despite this, Senate President Koko Pimentel shrugged off the concerns of Zamboanga City.
“This is not a big issue anymore, kasi recognized na ‘yun by the BTC (Bangsamoro Transition Council) which drafted the bill, na hindi naman nila pinipilit sa plebesito ang Zamboanga City. So, more or less, that is settled issue already,” Pimentel said.