The House committee on Muslim affairs has approved a substitute bill seeking to establish a Muslim Trade and Cultural Center in the City of Manila to generate better awareness and appreciation of the Muslim character and showcase the diverse Muslim culture through their traditional songs and dances.
The committee chaired by Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman (Party-list, AMIN) approved the unnumbered bill titled “Muslim Trade and Cultural Center of the Philippines Act of 2017,” to substitute House Bill 2623 authored by Rep. Jose Atienza (Party-list, BUHAY).
The measure is in consonance with the State policy to promote and advance the culture of every part of the country. Likewise, the bill declares the State recognizes the people’s need for cultural understanding and tolerance, and for knowledge of local customs and products.
Atienza said the measure is very timely since the Duterte administration has made known its intention to sit down with the different armed groups and pursue a lasting peace in Mindanao.
“Differences in cultural, religious beliefs and practices should not be a hindrance in the pursuit of peace in a region that has long been plagued by armed conflict,” said Atienza.
In 2013, Atienza said he filed a similar measure, House Bill 2949, which aimed to help address the continuing rift between Muslims and Christians brought about by differences in culture and religion, among other things.
The substitute bill to HB 2949 was subsequently approved in February 2016 by the House committees on Muslim affairs and on appropriations, he said.
“We believe that with this proposal, we will be able to generate better awareness and appreciation of the Muslim character as well as to showcase the diverse Muslim culture through their traditional songs and dances,” said Atienza.
The unnumbered substitute bill to HB 2623 mandates the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), in coordination with the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), to be the lead agencies in the implementation of the Act.
The said agencies shall also formulate a guideline of requirements and structure a timetable for the establishment of the Muslim Trade and Cultural Center of the Philippines.
The NCCA and the NCMF shall also closely coordinate with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
The DPWH is tasked to closely coordinate with the Local Government of Manila with regards to the location of the land where the Muslim Trade and Cultural Center of the Philippines will be established. The land must be owned by the government, the bill states.
As to the amount needed to cover for the construction of the center, the bill provides it shall be included in the DPWH budget. The amount of P500 million shall be appropriated to support its construction, subject to availability of funds.
Aside from Atienza and Turabin-Hataman, other authors of the bill are Reps. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo (1st District, Lanaodel Norte), Mauyag “Jun” Papandayan, Jr. (2nd District, Lanao del Sur), Raymond Democrito Mendoza (Party-list, TUCP), and Aniceto “John” Bertiz III (Party-list, ACTS-OFW).