P117 B to be allocated for BBL implementation

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The government is eyeing a budget of P117 billion for the implementation of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in its first year.

Documents from the House of Representatives show that half of the intended appropriations will come from the annual budget of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other existing allocations from the national government. The remaining P59.46 billion will come from new sources.

The proposed budget includes P30.77 billion, representing the ARMM budget; P21.8 billion from downloaded funds from national agencies, Internal Revenue Allotment; P20 billion for the Bangsamoro Transition Authority; P21.5 billion as the region’s share from internal revenues of the national government, and a Special Development Fund of P17 billion.

Documents show that the government intends to spend P2.6 billion for the disarmament of fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and private armed groups in preparation for the establishment of the new autonomous region.

The BBL aims to replace the ARMM with a new Bangsamoro autonomous region once it is enacted into law and approved in a plebiscite.

President Aquino initially wanted the BBL signed into law last year on the assumption that Malacañang could submit the draft around April or May. The BBL was submitted last September with a revised timetable of having it enacted by March.

The slaughter of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25 prompted the suspension of deliberations on the BBL in both houses of Congress. Malacañang had called on lawmakers to pass it by June.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the ad hoc committee deliberating on the BBL, said Congress must approve the budget before the executive branch could make any allocations.

Rodriguez said he supports the funding plan for the new autonomous region since the area has long been impoverished and left behind in terms of allocation of government resources.

‘Pass the BBL’

The President reiterated yesterday his instructions to his allies in Congress to pass the stalled BBL bill soonest since the government has to demonstrate its sincerity to the Muslim rebels by adopting the measure in toto.

“If they will get less from the previous agreement, how will they say that the agreement is good? That is the practicality of it,” he told officials and members of the Christian Leaders Coalition in a Prayer Gathering at Malacañang.

Aquino himself acknowledged that, just like what some have been saying, his administration may have been offering the MILF too much in terms of P75-billion funds among other concessions, but he pointed out this is how negotiation works.

The whole concept is that of a “catch up” – where local government units in Mindanao will eventually be at par with Manila or with any other locality in Luzon or the Visayas that are highly urbanized and not those which have backward economy, the President said.

MILF fighters register

MILF fighters made history when they registered for the 2016 elections, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting chairperson Henrietta de Villa said.

De Villa has joined Commission on Elections Commissioner Al Parreño and Comelec Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao director Ray Sumalipao in overseeing the special registration last Saturday.

“Registration is the most important part of the electoral process. It is the entry point to the right of suffrage and the responsibility to participate in creating a government,” De Villa said.

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) registered at the Bangsamoro Islamic Leadership and Management Institute Training Center in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat.

“I am happy. The last time that I voted was during the time of the late President Cory Aquino,” said BIAF spokesman Von Al-Haq.

Sumalipao said the special registration is an expression of the sincerity of both parties to pursue peace and development in Mindanao.

Members of the Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities, International Monitoring Team, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and local poll watchdogs witnessed the special registration. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Aurea Calica, Delon Porcalla

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