MANILA: A new Muslim-led region in the Philippines’ troubled south is to be created, following the ratification of a landmark law on Friday.
More than 1.5 million people voted to back the Bangsmoro Organic Law (BOL), which will create the Bangsmoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The BOL was seen as the solution to decades of separatist conflict in Mindanao, a region plagued by poverty and violent extremism.
More than 120,000 people have been killed on the island and 2 million have been displaced, as armed groups battled government forces to win independence for the Muslim minority living there.
The new region will have its own domestic legislation, more funding and get to keep a greater share of locally generated taxes.
The Commission on Elections said that 198,750 people voted against the BOL. It added that the majority of votes cast in all provinces and cities supported the law’s ratification.
A total of 36,682 residents in Cotabato voted for the city’s inclusion in the BARMM, compared to 24,994 against.
Basilan residents also voted overwhelmingly for the province's inclusion in the BARMM, with 144,640 votes giving it the thumbs up and just 8,487 votes opposing.
Residents of Isabela however rejected the city’s inclusion in the BARMM, with 22,441 people opposed and votes in favor numbering 19,032.
The BARMM will initially be headed by a transition authority, whose 80 members will be appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
He campaigned in favor of the BOL’s ratification and was mayor of Davao City, in Mindanao, for more than two decades.
Duterte previously said the BOL was "key to peace not only in Mindanao but throughout the country."
Manila will allocate a regional grant that is expected to create more economic opportunities for residents, encourage more local and foreign investment and develop the BARMM’s full economic potential.
Manila will also provide a Special Development Fund (SDF) amounting to a total of PHP50 billion ($962 million) or PHP5 billion a year, for a period of 10 years.
The SDF will be primarily used for the rehabilitation, rebuilding and development of conflict-affected communities in the BARMM.