MAGUINDANAO FOLK PRESS FOR NEW TOWN

COTABATO CITY, OCTOBER 20, 2003  (STAR) Ethnic Tirurays and Muslims in 15 barangays of Maguindanao’s North Upi town have urged President Arroyo and Maguindanao Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan to accelerate the proposed grouping of their communities into a chartered municipality as "a show window" of Muslim-Tiruray solidarity.

"The municipality should be created before next year’s local elections so that we can also choose our first set of elected municipal officials," said Dondoh Paguilidan, a leader of Barangay Tambak.

The planned creation of the Datu Blah Sinsuat municipality, to be carved out of North Upi’s western barangays, some of them in coastal areas reached in two days of travel from the town proper, is supported by at least 80 percent of qualified voters in the affected communities.

The provincial government proposed the creation of Datu Blah Sinsuat town based on studies and surveys on how to improve governance in the 15 barangays of mixed Muslim, Christian and Tiruray settlers.

"It is by giving the culturally diverse people there the chance to govern themselves and plan by themselves how to develop their communities into a bustling municipality that they can have peace and sustainable development," said provincial administrator Norie Unas.

For decades now, the lack of farm-to-market roads, health centers and schools due to the distance of the 15 barangays and the absence of a highway that would link the villages to the town proper of North Upi have been stunting the socio-economic growth of Maguindanaoan and Tiruray villages in the proposed area of Datu Blah Sinsuat town. — John Unson


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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