ANKARA

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will personally meet the Senate president and Congress Speaker to decide on extending the limit of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority (BTA) until 2025, sources said.

“President Duterte will now decide about an extension in the BTA beyond 2022,” government sources told Anadolu Agency.

Last week, sources said representatives from the regional Bangsamoro government met virtually with Duterte, Cabinet members, Philippines Senate president and the Congress speaker.

“Everyone supported the move to extend the transition period and hold elections in 2025,” they said. “There was only one objection — the governor of Sulu province [of Bangsamoro].”

Before the BTA was founded in 2019 following a popular referendum, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), led by Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim, asked for a transition period of six years during peace negotiations with the Manila national government.

But negotiations resulted in a three-year transitional government under Ebrahim until 2022.

The two sides agreed to allow the transitional government to take control of regional governance and run affairs until 2022, when elections were expected to be held.

But voices have been raised to extend the BTA time limit until 2025. Almost all BTA parliament members have unanimously supported the motion, while residents across the region have held marches supporting the demand in recent few weeks.

Members of the current Bangsamoro regional government believe they need more time to achieve the set target before elections are conducted.
At least seven bills have been filed in Congress and the Senate – six of which seek an extension while one advocates that elections be held at the agreed time in 2022.

Bangsamoro is a region of nearly 5 million people who are ethnic Moros and mostly Muslims. It has five provinces and three cities, including a capital.

The MILF led the region’s struggle for autonomy since the mid-20th century, ultimately resulting in peace talks and the BTA formation after a referendum on Jan. 21, 2019.

Congress is expected to resume business in May when the bills will be debated and are expected to be passed, sources said.

Last year, the autonomous government passed the Bangsamoro Administrative Code and declared Feb. 21 a non-working holiday.

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