ARMM officials huddle with lawmakers after the approval of the region’s proposed 2019 budget last Thursday. Unson
ARMM's 32-million approved 2019 budget for peace projects
John Unson ( - September 22, 2018 - 6:39pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — The transition bloc to oversee the switch from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the Bangsamoro entity will have P32 billion worth of operating funds to start with in 2019.

Lawyer Laisa Masuhud-Alamia, executive secretary of ARMM, said Saturday the House of Representatives approved last Thursday without interpellation the region’s proposed P32 billion 2019 budget.

“That was a clear tap on our shoulders, an acknowledgment of our dedication to build peace and development in the autonomous region,” she said.

The amount is earmarked for the operation and salaries of personnel of line agencies and support offices under the ARMM regional government.

A big chunk of it shall also be spent for infrastructure projects and programs meant to boost the socio-economic growth of ARMM’s local Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities.

Alamia and ARMM’s chief executive, Gov. Mujiv Hataman, led the panel that defended in plenary deliberation the region’s proposed P32 billion 2019 budget.

Hataman said they are expecting the transition from ARMM to the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, or BARMM, to begin in early 2019.

The Commission on Elections shall administer on Jan. 21, 2019 the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

The BOL is the enabling measure for the ARMM’s replacement with a Bangsamoro government, to be managed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The creation of BARMM through the BOL is based on two compacts between Malacañang and the MILF, the 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro, and, subsequently, the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

The two agreements are products of 19 years of tedious peace talks focused on putting a diplomatic closure to the Moro secessionist issue hounding southern Philippines since the early 1970s.

The BOL has a provision obliging the national government to allocate no less than P50 billion worth of yearly block grant for the peace and development initiatives of the MILF-led Bangsamoro government.

“We are thankful to the house of Representatives for approving the 2019 budget of ARMM without interpellation. The MILF leadership will have something to start with once it gets to the helm of BARMM,” Hataman, now in his second term as regional governor, told reporters on Saturday.

State auditors said Saturday besides ARMM’s fiscal and manpower complements, the Hataman administration shall also turn over to the incoming BARMM about P20 billion worth of infrastructure projects it accomplished in the past six years.

The projects include more than a thousand kilometers of farm-to-market roads, seaports, school buildings, agricultural post-harvest facilities and core shelters for impoverished families.

A matrix obtained from government auditors indicated that Hataman and his public works secretary, engineer Don Loong, also provided the eight District Engineering Offices in the region with no less than P1 billion worth of road building equipment in the past six years as capacity-building program empowering DEOs, in the forefront of implementing infrastructure projects in the five provinces of the autonomous region.

The figurehead of MILF, Hadji Murad Ebrahim, will lead as designated chief minister the Bangsamoro entity during its pioneering stage, pending the election of its regular set of officials.

Murad and senior MILF leaders had themselves listed as voters last week by the Comelec in preparation for the January 21 BOL referendum, to be held in ARMM’s Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces and in certain towns and barangays in Region 10 and in Region 12.

“We will not only turn over whatever state funds there are in the coffers of ARMM agencies. We shall campaign for a `yes’ vote during the plebiscite as well,” Hataman said.

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