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Bangsamoro region to get P72B yearly

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By: Xave Gregorio

The proposed autonomous Bangsamoro region can get a lump sum of up to P72 billion every year if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed by Congress.

Senator Migz Zubiri, among three senators who filed in the Senate the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) version of the BBL, said in a consultative hearing on Thursday (February 8) in Jolo, Sulu that the Bangsamoro region will get a P62 billion yearly grant from the national budget.

In addition to this, Zubiri said the Bangsamoro region will also be getting a P10 billion “development fund.”

“Ang kagandahan po nito mga kapatid, hindi niyo na po kailangan pumila sa Malacañang, o sa Kongreso para sa inyong mga project,” Zubiri said.

Under the BBL, the Bangsamoro region will receive an annual “block grant” from the national government equivalent to six percent of the net national internal revenue collection.

Sections 19 and 20 of Article XII of the proposed law provides that the block grant will be automatically appropriated to the Bangsamoro region and will be “released, without need of any further action, directly and comprehensively, to the Bangsamoro Government.”

The block grant will then be allocated by the Bangsamoro Parliament through an annual appropriations law to the regions agencies and programs.

Aside from this, Section 2, Article XIV of the bill provides that the Bangsamoro region will be receiving a P100 billion Special Development Fund released during the first 20 years of the implementation of the law, with the region receiving P10 billion in the first year following the ratification of the BBL, then P8 billion from the second to fifth year, P6 billion from the sixth and 10th year, and P2.2 billion until the 20th year of the existence of the Bangsamoro region.

This setup is a stark contrast to the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which requires Congressional approval before it is released.

During a consultative hearing in Isabela, Basilan on Friday (February 9), ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman lamented how funding for the region is only received on the last month of the year, leading to delays in government projects and an even tinier budget in the following year, as the government’s auditing agency will say they still have savings from the past year.

Zubiri, quoting in Zamboanga on Friday a report submitted to the Senate during budget deliberations, said ARMM only received a P33 billion budget for this year, while nearby Regions IX, X and XI got P77.6 billion, P83.1 billion, and P76.4 billion, respectively.

“Nakukulelat po sila, for whatever reason it is,” he said.

Zubiri allayed fears that the block grant will lead to corruption, saying “corruption is not a monopoly of ARMM.”

He said aside from the usual audit after the implementation of projects, a pre-audit system will also be put in place to ensure proposed projects are good and would push through.

A Bangsamoro Ombudsman, and a Bangsamoro Commission on Audit, which will be under the supervision of the national Commission on Audit, will also be established, said Zubiri.

“Kaya wag po kayong magalala. Ako, we are willing to give them a chance,” he said.

The passage of the BBL, which would be the fulfillment of the final peace agreement between the Philippine government and Moro rebels, has been touted by lawmakers and its drafters as the solution to the decades of armed conflict in Mindanao, and would pave the way for development in the region.

Zubiri, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on the BBL, is eyeing the passage of the bill in the upper house on third and final reading before Congress adjourns on March 22.