A two-day consultative assembly participated by thirty (30) civil society organizations (CSO) leaders coming from outside core territory of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. The assembly is with a theme: “Building Common Ground among the CSOs Towards Effective and Meaningful Participation in the Transition and Beyond” sponsored by the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) base in Cotabato City but operating Mindanao-wide. The activity was held at EM Manor Hotel and Convention Center, Cotabato City on March 28 – 29, 2022.

The participants are leaders of convergence groups or mechanisms of cooperation established by CBCS in areas outside the core territory now to be known as “Other Bangsamoro communities” as inscribed in the Bangsamoro Administrative Code and manifested by the creation of the “Office of Other Bangsamoro Communities” (OOBC) under the Office of the Interim Chief Minister headed by its newly appointed Executive Director Prof. Noron Andan who was also the keynote speaker of the assembly.

In particular, the participants are leaders of the Bangsamoro Platform for Unity, Solidarity and harmony (BM-PUSH, CBCS – CSO Convener Group, Inter-Cultural Convener Group and the Advocacy Support Group for Moral Governance coming from Rajah Buayan Cluster comprising the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Sarangani provinces and General Santos City. Davao Cluster areas comprising provinces and cities therein. Shariff Alawi Cluster comprising Lanao Norte and Iligan City and Sibugay Cluster comprising the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Sibugay and the cities of Pagadian and Ipil.

In his overview of the assembly, Mike Kulat, CBCS Program Manager of the project, stressed that the assembly is in response to clamor of many residents outside core territory of the Bangsamoro Region now called “Other Bangsamoro Communities”, that they were already left behind on any development programs as well as information on what had been transpiring within.

Relatedly, the assembly is also a response to the appeal of the Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim when he speaks before CSO assembly in 2019 that says among others: “Most of our CSO brethren with us today are the same ones who have been there when the first bricks were piled to build what is now the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or BARMM.” And that: “We need you so that we hear, and be guided by, the voice of our people. We need you to nudge us if our frailties as humans causes us to digress from our sworn path. We need you to engage us in debates and challenge our decisions so that we may see things differently and recalibrate our methods”.

Mr. Kulat emphasized that “in no way we will be able to fulfill the above deficiencies and demands in the Bangsamoro without strengthening our ranks as CSOs. Thus a need for this assemblies, dialogues and consultations.

On the other hand, OOBC Executive Director Noron Andan discussed difficulty of running an office that starts from zero bases and operating in areas and populations larger the core territory of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region referring to Other Bangsamoro Communities coverage. However, he said: “But now I’m relieved of my worries because of the presence of different CBCS platforms outside core territories. I found the way on how to run my office in partnership with these mechanisms. I thanked Allah, happy and relieved that I had been part of CBCS in the past.”

The assembly concluded with crafting and signing of three resolutions in support to the Office of Other Bangsamoro Communities and Peoples Agenda to be submitted to the Office of the Interim Chief Minister and other concerned agencies.