On Thursday, March 24, Minority Floor Leader MP Laisa Masuhud Alamia has filed three bills meant to highlight the importance of the youth sector in building a just and sustainable future for the Bangsamoro.

BTA Parliament Bill No. 183 (PB No. 183) or the Social and Economic Reparation and Benefit Initiatives for Orphans of War Act accounts for the recommendations of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which includes the enactment of a transitional justice mechanism that addresses the historical injustices, human rights violations, and marginalization committed against the people of the Bangsamoro. This includes the effects of armed conflict which has orphaned children across the region. 

Alongside this are two bills filed together as it aims to draw youth participation into the agricultural sector. These are BTA-Parliament Bill No. 184 or the Bangsamoro Education Incentive Act, and the BTA-Parliament Bill No. 185 or the Agriculture Scholarship and Return Service Program Act.

Ensuring transitional justice for the youth

Lives were lost throughout years of armed struggle in the Bangsamoro, leaving behind children who lost their parents to human rights violations and armed conflict, or orphans of war. Part of the Bangsamoro regional government’s mandate is to ensure their social and economic well-being, in line with transitional justice measures in a post-conflict Bangsamoro region.

Orphans of war, after undergoing a process of identification, verification and documentation, shall be entitled to a one-time monetary reparation in the amount of fifty thousand pesos (P50,000), and shall be qualified for either an educational stipend or livelihood benefits under the Sustainable Livelihood Program of the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD).

They shall also have free access to psychological consultation and trauma therapy, and will have preference in employment in Bangsamoro government agencies. – The orphan of war shall be given priority in employment in a government or agency or office in the Bangsamoro Government. Relatives serving as guardians in the absence of parents may also avail of the livelihood benefits; however they may only claim once regardless of the number of orphans under their care.

Priority shall be given to orphans of war who are still minors in the implementation and release of benefits, and the Regional Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission will be in charge of identifying orphans of war.

MPs Lanang T. Ali, Jr., Mohagher M. Iqbal, Mohammad S. Yacob, Suharto M. Ambolodto, Rasol Y. Mitmug, Jr., Baintan A. Ampatuan, Rasul E. Ismael, Don Mustapha A. Loong, and Amilbahar S. Mawallil are co-authors of this bill.

Making agriculture accessible, viable

MP Alamia also filed two bills that strengthens the links between the youth sector and the future of agriculture in the region. Both bills were drafted in consultation with FAO Legislative Advisory Group (FLAG) – Youth in BARMM, a network of youth organizations working to spur more interest in rural communities and agricultural practice, with the guidance of Kalisa Action Network (KalisaAN) and the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The Bangsamoro Education Incentive Act (PB No. 184) establishes partnerships between the regional government and higher learning institutions in order to improve the quality of agricultural education in the region. This law is filed in recognition of the value of education and its links to just and sustainable agricultural development. 

Under this law, performing higher education institutions (HEIs) with agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and natural resources (AFNR) degree programs under the BARMM’s Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE), are recognized and incentivized through financial rewards, infrastructure projects, and faculty and research grants. Partnerships between the government and the academe will also be reinforced to ensure the coordination of agricultural education with the agricultural policies of the regional government, while strengthening the links between HEIs and other sectors related to agriculture.

Meanwhile, BTA-Parliament Bill No. 185 or the Agriculture Scholarship and Return Service Program Act aims to encourage Bangsamoro students to pursue ANFR degree programs through scholarships, who will then render services in agricultural communities in the region. This helps secure the ompetitive high-level and middle-level agricultural professionals committed to serving the rural communities of the Bangsamoro, consistent with regional plans and policies for economic and agricultural growth and food and nutrition security. 

This program shall be administered by the MBHTE, and beneficiaries shall be integrated into the regional public AFNR services through the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) or Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy (MENRE) for at least four years,

Both PBs No. 184 and 185 lists MPs Suharto M. Ambolodto, Rasol Y. Mitmug, Jr., Rasul E. Ismael, Don Mustapha A. Loong, Baintan A. Ampatuan, Amilbahar S. Mawallil, Omar Yasser C. Sema, and Abdullah E. Gayak as co-authors, and MPs Lanang T. Ali, Jr., Mohammad S. Yacob, and Mohagher M. Iqbal as its authors alongside MP Alamia.