COTABATO CITY—The Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB) during its 13th meeting in Manila on Feb. 24 agreed to hasten the setting up of regional offices of two vital agencies in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

In a press release by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), the office announced that parties in the meeting concurred to the establishment of the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC) and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) offices in the Bangsamoro region.

This pronouncement was also confirmed by IGRB Secretariat co-head Atty Sha Elijah Dumama-Alba in an exclusive interview today, March 1, 2023.

“Yes, we confirmed that during the meeting of IGRB in Manila last week, two issues were resolved. First is the re-establishment of DFA consular office and second is the establishment of PRC in the region,” said Dumama-Alba who is also the attorney general of the Bangsamoro Government.

She clarified that these government institutions are managed by the national government and the region will just host the said offices to serve the Bangsamoro constituents.

“Though they will primarily serve the Bangsamoro constituents, their operation will be directly managed by their respective head offices,” she explained saying that management of such offices is that “powers belong to the national government and will not be devolved to the region”.

Dumama-Alba however emphasized that this initiative is part of the Government of the Day’s effort to bring government services closer to the Bangsamoro people.

DFA previously had its consular office in Cotabato City but ceased its operation in 2021 while PRC has no history of holding an office in the region.

Recognizing the indispensability of the PRC services primarily to Bangsamoro professionals, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Parliament in retrospect had adopted a resolution in 2021 urging the aforementioned government entity to create and operationalize a regional office within BARMM.

Though there is no definite timeline, Atty. Dumama-Alba shared that necessary preparations are underway for the setting up of the two offices.

“We are hoping to have it soonest, katulad nung halimbawa sa DFA, meron nang napupusuan na location,” she shared.

On the said meeting last week, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman and BARMM Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal—both co-chaired the IGRB, with the former representing the national government lauded the robust relationship of both parties.

As she expressed her hope for the ongoing development in the Bangsamoro region, Pangandaman sensed the outpouring of unity between the two parties and encouraged everyone to continue working on the “Agenda of Prosperity in BARMM”.

“There is still much work to be done ahead. But I hope that with these achievements in just a few months’ time, we are all inspired to continue working hard towards our Agenda for Prosperity in BARMM,” she said.

For his part, Minister Iqbal said that the mere presence of top government officials and the BARMM leaders signified “a gesture of mutual commitment to the strong cooperation and coordination between the national government and the Bangsamoro government, in the name of public service”.

Aside from the two major agreements in the recent IGRB meeting, matters pertaining to the conduct of the annual Hajj and Umrah; the nationwide recognition of the Bangsamoro Land Transportation Office (BLTO); and the transfer of properties from the national government to the Bangsamoro government were also discussed by different Technical Working Groups (TWGs).

The creation of the IGRB is one of the salient features of the Republic Act 11054 known by many as Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) mandated to coordinate and resolve issues between the national and regional government through regular consultation and continuing negotiation in a non-adversarial manner. (Abdullah Matucan/BIO)