Philippine leader says ‘vote yes’ for new Muslim autonomous region

Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, on Friday called on nearly three million voters in the country’s southern region to ratify a law creating a new autonomous entity that would “truly represent and understand” the needs of the Muslims, who live there.

Three days before a plebscite for the creation of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Duterte said the vote was a “peaceful means” to correct injustice committed to the Muslim minority in the country.

“Let us forget the bitterness of the past and look forward to the future, which means ladies and gentlement, my dear Moro brothers and sisters, you have to vote yes,” he told a peace assembly in the city of Cotabato.

Duterte added that a yes vote would be “a testament to [their] determination to bring genuine peace and development in Muslim Mindanao to an autonomous government that truly represents and understand the needs of the Muslim people.”

More than 2.8 million voters will start to cast their votes for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Monday.

A second round will happen on Feb. 6 to cover different areas in Mindanao.

The new autonomous entity will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which currently covers five predominantly Muslim provinces in the southern Philippines.

The current entity has remained highly dependent on the national government because it does not have fiscal autonomy.

The new autonomous region would have a wider coverage and greater fiscal autonomy, with the national government automatically appropriating its share from state income derived from the area. (dpa/NAN)