Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

In many ways, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is perhaps the least known region in the Philippines—maybe because it also the most geographically remote. It is a region distinct from all other regions, with a vibrant culture and an autonomous government of its own. Despite the challenges it faces, the ARMM also has a promising future given its vast potential in both human and natural resources.

* To view the photos, click on the round thumbnails *


Fast Facts and FAQs

Total Area: 33,511.42 km2
Total Population: 3,256,140 (2010)
Population Density: 97/km2Provinces: Basilan (except Isabela City), Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi
Capital: Cotabato City

Cities: 2
Municipalities: 116Barangays: 2,490
Congressional Districts: 8

Major languages: Maranao, Tausug, Yakan, Maguindanao, Tagalog

Q: Is it really unsafe to travel as a tourist to the ARMM?
A: Traveling as a tourist to any destination entails risk. While the political situation in ARMM could be unstable at times, it would be inaccurate to generalize that tourists should steer clear of the ARMM. Still, it is wise to plan travels to the region only after careful consideration of the prevailing situation at a particular time–as any tourist must do for any travel destination.

Q: Are all people in ARMM muslims?
A: No. While the ARMM is predominantly Muslim, there are Christians in the region and for the most part, both Muslims and non-Muslims live peacefully together in heterogeneous, multicultural communities

Q: Are Muslims and Moros the same people?
A: Yes. Moros however also reside in many other regions in the Philippines. Many non-Moros also live in the ARMM, including Christians, and indigenous tribes.

Q: Are the MILF and the MNLF terrorist groups?
A: No. Under international law, these two groups are legitimate combatant parties of the armed conflict and they are legally recognized by the national government. Recently the MILF have accelerated talks with the government in enacting peace agreements and strengthening the autonomy of the ARMM.


  • One of the most impoverished regions in the Philippines
  • Gross regional domestic product (GRDP): P3,433
  • National average GRDP: P14,186
  • Regional per capita income: P89,000
  • Poverty incidence: 45.4% (2003)
  • 98% of its operating revenue is sourced from the nation government
  • Rich in marine resources: fish and seaweed are its main products
  • Rich in mineral resources: gold and copper
  • The brass ware of the ARMM are the best in the country
  • Tourism is slowly gaining ground


Body Flag of the ARMM.png
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
Bangsamoro Autonomous Region
(Central Government only)
Constitutional Document ARMM Organic Act (Republic Act No. 6734) Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Constitution of the Philippines
Head of State / Territory Regional Governor Chief Minister President of the Philippines
Head of Government Regional Governor Chief Minister
Executive ARMM Executive Department Bangsamoro Cabinet Executive Departments of the Philippines
Legislative Regional Legislative Assembly Bangsamoro Parliament Bicameral: Senate and Congress
Judiciary None (under Philippine government) To be determined (Planned) Supreme Court
Legal Supervisory
or Prosecution
None (under Philippine government) Planned (before 2016) Department of Justice
Police Force(s) Philippine National Police;
under the Central Government
Philippine National Police
Military Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP);
under the Central Government
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
Currency Philippine peso Philippine peso
Official Language(s) Filipino and English Filipino and English
Foreign relations None full rights
Shariah law Yes, for Muslims only None, secular law


According to the ARMM government itself, the history of the region can only be understood in the context of how the Bangsamoro people continuously struggle for self-rule and self-determination. The following timeline is a summary of the Bangsamoro people’s struggle and the milestones that mark challenges and achievements.

1902: Letters of the Sulu datu and sultans addressed to the US colonial government
1968: Founding of the Muslim Independence Movement 1973: Founding of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under the leadership of Nur Misuari
1970s: Escalation of hostilities between government troops and the MNLF
1979: Creation of a Regional Autonomous Government in the Western and Central Mindanao Regions, via Batas Pambansa No. 2o
1989: Creation of the ARMM via RA 6734 or the Organic Act. A plebiscite was held to determine which provinces wished to be part of the new region. Four said yes: Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
2001: Marawi City and Basilan opted to join the region
2006: Creation of Shariff Kabunsuan, a new province compsed of 11 towns carved out of Maguindanao
2008: The Supreme Court voided the creation of Shariff Kabungsuan as unconstitutional\
2012: Signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bansamoro (FAB): a preliminary peace agreement between MILF and the Philippine government
2014: The FAB was fleshed out through the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The Bangsamoro Basic Law was submitted by President Benigno Aquino III to Congress leaders on September 10.

The Provinces


  • Largest and northernmost of the major islands of the ARMM
  • Population: 293,322 (2010)
  • Capital: Isabela City
  • Ethnic groups: Yakan, Tausug, Zamboangueno


  • Land of the Maranaos, the “people of the lake”
  • Population: 933,260 (2010)
  • Capital: Marawi
  • Home to 5 national parks
  • Has many lakes, waterfalls, and springs
  • The Darangen Epic Chants of the Maranao of Lanao del Sur is inscribed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2008.


  • Historically ruled by sultans, the most famous of which is Sultan Kudarat
  • Population: 944,718 (2010)
  • Capital: Shariff Aguak
  • Cotabato City has the longest recorded history in Mindanao
  • The native Maguindanaon culture revolves around kulintang music, a specific type of gong music, found among both Muslim and non-Muslim groups of the Southern Philippines
  • It is in Maguindanao where 44 SAF troopers were killed in 2015 in a clash with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
  • In 2010, 58 people, were killed in Maguindanao, while a group was on its way to file a certificate of candidacy for Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu. Among the victims are at least 34 journalists who were invited by Mangudadatu to cover the filing.


  • Settled mostly by self-sufficient sea people and is predominantly Muslim
  • Capital: Jolo
  • Population: 718,290
  • The dominant tribe is the Tausug, who were among the first inhabitants of the Philippines to embrace Islam as a religion and a way of life
  • Tausug roughly translates to “people of the current,” reflecting their close ties to the sea.




  • Shares sea borders with Sabah, Malaysia
  • Population: 366,550
  • Capitals: Bongao and Panglima Sugala
  • Biodiversity hotspot
  • The name of Tawi-Tawi is a projection of the Malay word jauh meaning “far.” Prehistoric travelers from the Asian mainland would repeat the word as jaui-jaui to mean “far away” because of the distance of the islands from the mainland. The word Tawi-Tawi was picked up to later become the official name of the province.
  • The oldest mosque in the Philippines can be found in Tawi-Tawi



The following is a partial and unofficial count of votes in the ARMM. Rodrigo Duterte and Leni Robredo won convincingly, while the Liberal Party remains strong in the region.



The Official Website of the ARMM:
Google Earth and Google Maps:,123.9716463,9z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x325a9256c846d8e3:0xe6415e3fe170b035!8m2!3d6.9568313!4d124.2421597?hl=en
The Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines:
* Most photos are under creative commons licenses and are in use by Wikipedia




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