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Creation of BARMM outfit to serve Badjaos mulled

BANGSAMORO NEWS UPDATES • 19:45 PM Tue May 23, 2023
John M. Unson
The helpless and neglected Badjaos, often ridiculed when they go around and beg for money. (John Unson) 
COTABATO CITY  - Members of the 80-seat Bangsamoro parliament are in favor of a regional bill meant to provide the underserved and discriminated Badjaos with sustained socio-economic and humanitarian interventions.
Adzfar Usman, a member of the parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, filed last week the proposed Badjao Development Project Act, confident that colleagues will approve of it sooner than expected.
A physician in the BARMM parliament, the eye specialist Kadil Sinolinding, Jr., said Tuesday he will vote for the approval of the measure.
“It’s about time. We must not forget that the Badjaos helped our leaders fight the Spaniards that tried, but failed to colonize the Muslims in Southern Philippine islands. Now we can see Badjaos almost everywhere, in the streets, hungry, treated like second class citizens, begging for money to buy food,” Sinolinding said.
The Badjao community is one of the ethnic groups in BARMM that covers the provinces of Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Lamitan, Marawi and Cotabato.
“I will give that bill my two thumbs up once we deliberate on it,” said parliament member Paisalin Tago, concurrent transportation and communications minister of BARMM.
He said the Ministry of Transportation and Communications can embark on special projects that can complement the operation of the envisioned Badjao Development Project outfit that would look into the welfare of Badjaos, with the BARMM government as its main benefactor.
“There are foreign aid organizations involved in different humanitarian projects in the autonomous region. I’m certain these entities, such as the agencies of the United Nations, will also support our efforts to serve the Badjaos,” Tago said.
Usman, the proponent of the Badjao Development Project Act, is a Tausug from Sulu, representing the Moro National Liberation Front in the 80-member BARMM parliament.
Usman said what he wants is a special service facet under the regional government that shall assist the Badjaos in developing their own villages where they can engage in income-generating projects and enjoy social welfare and health services.
“Badjaos in this city and in areas outside need our help now,” said Datu Jambo Matalam, a Maguindanaon member of the BARMM parliament.
Suharto Ambolodto, also a member of the regional parliament, said he is glad about Usman’s effort to help the Badjaos via his proposed Badjao Development Project Act.
Badjaos are also known as "Mindanao sea gypsies," who originally relied on fishing as means of livelihood but eventually became mendicants for not having motorized boats and gears they can use and for the abusive treatment by fishermen with enough equipment to rely on. 

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