By Faruk Tokat and Ecenur Colak
A Turkish aid agency has opened several key facilities in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in Philippines.
Two orphanages, a school, a mosque, a refectory and a water well were opened by the Istanbul-based Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) for the local residents.
While the primary school was built in Talayan municipality, the other facilities were built inside IHH Orphanage Complex in Cotabato.
The opening ceremony of the facilities was attended by Sait Demir, vice president of the IHH; Omer Kesmen, IHH’s regional representative to Moro; Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); and Mohammad S. Yacob, head of Bangsamoro Development Agency among other officials and residents.
Speaking at the ceremony, Demir said the foundation continued to be a hope for the oppressed and the victims with the lasting works it did along with the humanitarian aid works being carried across the world.
‘I feel myself at home in Turkey’
Also speaking at the ceremony, Ebrahim said they were always going to boost the friendship with Turkey.
Stating that he has been visiting Turkey each year to share information on the future of Moro with related authorities, he added that their long struggle had been for the peace of Moro people.
Ebrahim also said a plebiscite is going to be held on Jan. 21, 2019 on the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and as a result of it a transition government is going to be set up.
The Bangsamoro Organic Law, the fulfillment of the 2014 peace deal between the national government and the MILF, was signed in June by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The measure for greater autonomy creates the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, a region with more political and fiscal powers including a bigger annual block grant equivalent to 5 percent of the total national internal revenue collection.
Ebrahim went onto say that Turkey was one of the powerful countries that give them the biggest support, and added: “IHH is giving service to Moro in many fields such as orphanage and social aids. IHH also makes a serious contribution to [peace] process with the observer role in negotiations [with Philippines government].
“When I come to Turkey, I feel myself at home and very happy,” he added.
'Optimistic and hopeful'
Also thanking Turkey for its support Bangsamoro people during the transition to comprehensive autonomy, Ebrahim said the people have reached the last phase of a 50-year fight and resistance.
He said the referendum was going to decide the regions that will come under the Bangsamoro Organic Law, adding the law will provide necessary freedom for practicing religion.
“We are optimistic and hopeful that most of the people in the region will support the referendum,” he said, adding that they witnessed a strong support during the campaign process.
Stating that the ones opposing the referendum are less in numbers and they did it for political interest, Ebrahim said it was not possible for them to negatively affect the voting.
Kesmen, for his part, said: “We are trying to contribute to the just cause of the Moro people by carrying out both orphanage, school and humanitarian aid as much as we can.”
Two orphanages inside the IHH’s complex have capacity of 96 children, while the mosque allows 150 people to perform prayer at the same time.
The refectory will also serve 120 orphans and workers.
The primary school -- which is expected to improve people-to-people relation between Turkey and Moro -- opened in Talayan has a capacity for 150 students.