Bangsamoro Youth Commission and Multiply-Ed convene BARMM Ministries in a Policy Forum

A policy forum was recently held The Bangsamoro Youth Commission (BYC) and Multiply-Ed (X-Ed) on April 18, 2023. It was attended by the Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education (MBHTE), Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD), Ministry of Health (MOH), and Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG).

The forum was organized as a platform for the said ministries to present their key programs and services that can be monitored by the youth, and to seek responses to the monitoring findings and recommendations of the X-Ed project in Marawi City. BYC Commissioner Pratima Samsaraji welcomed the participants and introduced the mandate of the Commission. 

CYAN Deputy Director Anthony Jacob expressed his excitement to see how X-Ed and the BARMM Ministries can work together to address the monitoring findings. During her opening remarks, Joy Aceron, Director-Convenor of G-Watch, highlighted the significance of the event as this is the first joint initiative of X-Ed with a government office.

The first presenter, Alanisa M. Bantuas of MBHTE, highlighted the Ministry’s work on youth formation such as the Youth Environment Organization, Barkada Kontra Droga Organization, and Student Leadership Development Program, which can also help students cope with mental health issues. During the open forum, it was proposed that student leaders be capacitated to engage their School Governance Councils, to which Bantuas expressed their support and openness for collaboration. BYC also shared that they would like student organizations to be accredited by the Commission. 

This was followed by a presentation from Arbaine S. Guiabar, which highlighted the MSSD’s various initiatives, such as the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD), Kupkop Program for orphans, Angat Bangsamoro: Kabataan Tungo sa Karunungan (ABaKa), and child protection programs. Among the proposed programs for 2024 is the Youth Development Sessions for Out of School Youths (OSYs) and social work internship program.

After the presentation, Guiabar was asked if it is possible for social workers to be assigned in schools, to address the lack of guidance counselors—a problem that also surfaced in the X-Ed monitoring. For now, she said, MSSD is prioritizing their centers. She suggested that students be referred to the municipal social worker to provide them assistance on mental health issues. Regarding the proposed Youth Development Sessions, the body agreed that it can be one of the areas for further collaboration between MSSD, BYC, CYAN, and G-Watch.

After MSSD’s presentation, Minaira M. Sungan of MILG presented their strategic doctrine, structure, and programs. Among the programs presented were on local government supervision and development, support to moral governance infrastructure projects, interior affairs services, and Bangsamoro READi, among others. Sungan further shared MILG’s initiatives to enhance transparency, participation, and accountability such as the establishment and strengthening of monitoring and evaluation, and the strengthening of communication services. The youth are also represented and engaged through the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) and through Engaging People’s Participation in Local Governance (EPPLoG) assessment.

Ivy Ampatuan of BYC noted that until now, there are still LGUs that do not have their Local Youth Office (LYDO) and Local Youth Development Plan (LYDP). She asked if there are already monitoring and evaluation efforts for this at the municipal level. Furthermore, she asked if youth development and empowerment can be included in other initiatives of the MILG. Sungan answered that currently, MILG plans to identify ways to increase the number of LGUs with LYDOs. She also noted that MILG is also open to ensure that the youth are represented in all other MILG programs. BYC expressed their desire to partner also with the BARMM READi program, especially with their plan on climate change youth-led action.

Regarding unresponsive local governments, Sungan noted that for now, they only have incentive programs for LGUs. However, the ministry is already looking into how they can exercise administrative discipline over elected officials, as mandated by the BARMM Administrative Code. A possible partnership between MILG and X-Ed was raised to see how CSOs can participate in providing feedback in the assessment of LGUs through the SGLG.

Ms. Yasmin Kasi of the Ministry of Health shared current and proposed projects such as the Adolescent Health Development Program, including the setting up and implementation of Adolescent Friendly Health Facilities. During the open forum, it was clarified that health in not yet devolved except in Marawi City and Basilan Province. The MOH noted that mental health is one of the most common issues faced by students, and that RHUs are trained to provide assistance.

After the presentations, Claire Lopez, Isnihayah Binumbaran, and Victoria Maglanque presented the highlights of the X-Ed monitoring findings and reform agenda under the banner “Malayang Edukasyon.” BYC committed to elevate and present the X-Ed monitoring findings to the Bangsamoro Youth Coordinating Council (BYCC), a platform wherein all BARMM ministries are represented to coordinate and their youth-related programs, projects, and activities.

MBHTE expressed their openness to adopt the recommendations presented by X-Ed. Meanwhile, MILG was open to support the addition of the publication of SEF utilization report as an indicator in the SGLG.

The policy-forum ended on a positive note, promising new and continued engagement of X-Ed with the BARMM government. A number of possible joint initiatives surfaced, not just among the ministries, but especially between CYAN, G-Watch, and the BARMM government. This exemplifies ‘state-society synergy’ or how the civil society and government can work together to advance shared goals.