Sitangkai’s first government center in 16 years; first wet market building in ages

By Nash B. Maulana

Sitangkai market waterway passage. (Nash Maulana)

SITANGKAI, Tawi-Tawi—Bangsamoro regional officials over the weekend marked the ground under low-tide seawater for the construction of a market building on stilts here.

The proposed structure will stand in the heart of Sitangkai’s Barangay Datu Baguinda Putih, a small multi-trading village by night and day, officials and residents have said.

A new municipal hall building will also rise here, according to an official of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) signing a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Mayor Tiblan Ahaja for the construction of a government center building, and a wet market structure on stilts here.

BARMM interior and local government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo noted that in Datu Baguinda Puti, a village under seawater, still exist, Sitangkai’s traditionally distinct enterprises of land-based goods, and on-boats-sell of fresh sea products.

Sinarimbo said he was here on orders of BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Al-Hadj Murad Ebrahim to help bring local governance closer to the people in more substantial terms of development.

Sibutu has made use of the 60-year old town hall building of Sitangkai, leaving the mother municipality without a government center building during the last 14 years. The Municipality of Sitangkai Group of Islands (including Sibutu) was founded in August 1959 in the presidency of Carlos P. Garcia.

The Washington Post reported in spring of 1901 that an “administrative error” had existed out of the Sibutu Group of Islands and the Cagayán de Sulu which had remained “vassals of Spain” “while the rest of Las Islas Filipinas (Philippine Islands) were ceded to the United States under the Treaty of Paris on December 1898.” “However, these groups of islands were formally ceded to the U.S, upon the ratification of the Treaty of Washington on March 23, 1901.”

A waterway passage of transit vessels for passengers and dry goods and for small fishing boats here is colloquially called the “Venice of the South.” It is formed partly by bilateral stone-reclaimed commercial lots in an island market that is otherwise underwater, all-year round.

The proposed structure will be the first wet market building in ages for this fishing enclave of the minority Sama and Badjau communities in the south, which do not go well along with the price-regulated wet markets run by the Taosugs and other tribes.

A former official said the Taosugs simply did not want the unstable pricing of the boat-based sea products sellers (mostly Sama and Badjao), as opposed to those of conventional markets.

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