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Peace activists laud Senate approval of P33.4B ARMM budget

In this May 29, 2017 photo, a military helicopter hovers by a mosque as government troops battle with Muslim militants who continue to hold their ground in some areas of Marawi City, a southern Philippine city besieged by ISIS-inspired Maute group since May 23. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez
COTABATO CITY — Senate’s approval on Monday of the P33.4 billion proposed 2018 budget for five Moro provinces will boost Malacañang’s current diplomatic overture with southern Muslim communities, peace activists said Tuesday.
The Bureau of Public Information-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said in a press communiqué Tuesday that among the senators who tacitly gave the proposal imprimatur during deliberations Monday were Panfilo Lacson Sr. and Miguel Zubiri, who hails from Bukidnon province in Mindanao.
The two lawmakers were involved in the review and interpellation of the proposed ARMM 2018 budget that regional officials presented to the finance committee of Senate last Monday.
A Lumad chieftain, Mayor Ramon Piang Sr. of North Upi town in Maguindanao, said Tuesday that he and his constituent-leaders were elated with the committee’s approval of the proposal.
“Besides the Moro and Christian communities, the non-Islamic Teduray people stand to benefit from the proposed budget because fractions of it are for basic services and infrastructure projects in ARMM’s more than 100 municipalities, our hometown among them,” Piang said.
Piang was a former government negotiator who helped craft Malacañang’s peace compact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
His office has domestic peace programs propagating camaraderie among the Muslim, Christian and ethnic Teduray communities in North Upi.
Piang said he is certain that the approval by Senate of the ARMM budget for 2018 was hastened by the markedly efficient handling of the region’s coffer in the past five years by present regional leaders.
“In my town alone, we’ve had many infrastructure projects implemented by the ARMM during the period, designed to boost the local economy and provide our people with livelihood opportunities,” he said
Another supporter of the Mindanao peace process, Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay of Lamitan City, said Tuesday that the ARMM government shall have ample funds next year for humanitarian and socio-economic activities in its five component provinces.
“We in Lamitan City are direct beneficiaries of the services and infrastructure projects of ARMM. We are being served by the regional government very nicely since 2013. We ought to thank the Senate for approving the region’s 2018 budget,” Furigay said.
Lamitan City is the capital of Basilan, a component province of the autonomous region, which also covers Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, both in central Mindanao, and the islands of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Many of the infrastructure projects to be funded out in the ARMM’s 2018 budget are to be implemented in areas affected by armed conflicts in years past.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said he is thankful to both the House of Representatives and the Senate for approving the autonomous region’s proposed 2018 budget.
Only the lone representative of the Kusug Tausug Party-list, Shernee Tan, raised issues against the ARMM government during last week’s budget deliberations at the House, something regional officials expected.
Tan’s father, former Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan, was defeated with an overwhelming vote lead by the reelectionist Hataman during last year’s ARMM gubernatorial elections.
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