Manila, Philippines — 11 January 2024


The Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), a pioneering Philippine independent policy think tank specializing in human security and governance issues, is proud to announce the inauguration of its Manila office. This expansion marks a significant milestone for the organization, which has been actively contributing to the discourse on autonomy and governance for the past 18 years, primarily in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in the southern Philippines.


The blessing and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly established office in Pasig City took place on January 10, 2024, and was graced by esteemed guests, including Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Matthew Boyall, Second Secretary of the Australian Embassy in Manila. The blessing rite was officiated by Fr. Ramon Ma. Bernabe of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI).


Founded in 2005, the IAG has played a pivotal role in shaping policy discussions and providing valuable insights into the pursuit of peace and good governance in the autonomous region. The establishment of the Manila office is a strategic move to bring the organization's expertise closer to national policymakers and decision-makers, fostering greater collaboration and understanding of critical issues facing the Bangsamoro region.


With its headquarters in Cotabato City, Mindanao, the IAG has been instrumental in addressing the unique challenges and opportunities in the southern region. The Manila office will serve as a hub for engaging with policymakers at the national level, allowing the IAG to contribute its insights and research to the broader national discourse on autonomy, federalism, and governance.


The Manila expansion also enables the IAG to extend its reach to the Cordillera region in the northern Philippines, where ongoing efforts to establish autonomy are currently underway. The organization is poised to play a crucial role in shaping the discussions and providing evidence-based policy recommendations during this significant moment.


Manila as a critical space


For Atty. Benedicto Bacani, the founding executive of the 18-year-old organization, "IAG in Manila underscores autonomous arrangements as a three-way street, emphasizing the need for intergovernmental relations between the national, regional, and local governments to evolve in policy and practice, fostering comprehensive development and security at the national, regional, and local levels."


He emphasized the significance of Manila as a critical space for IAG's work. "Manila is that pivotal space where our commitment to pioneering initiatives and filling critical gaps aligns with the dynamic challenges and interventions required at this juncture," he said.


“2024 will be a challenging year for the peace process. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on contested framework of the autonomy arrangement for the Bangsamoro in the petitions filed against the Bangsamoro Electoral Code and the Local Governance Code. The ruling of the Supreme Court in these two cases will determine whether there is a need to change the Philippine constitution on the autonomous regions to fully implement the peace agreements,” he added.


In his remarks at the inauguration, DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. expressed his honor to be part of the event, emphasizing the significance of IAG’s commitment encapsulated in its catchphrase: "Shaping Public Policy for Peace and Good Governance."


Secretary Abalos noted that the establishment of the new office symbolizes strength, resilience, and a reaffirmation of IAG's dedication to creating more space and influence in the realm of public policy and good governance throughout the country. He acknowledged IAG's decade-long commitment to championing genuine autonomy, peace, and good governance in Mindanao, especially with local government units, and celebrated its expansion to the nation's capital, Manila. He concluded with a hope that the new office will catalyze even greater achievements and positive contributions toward peace and good governance in the country.


IAG’s work in Manila is bolstered by the support of the Australian Government.