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BBL to fast-track rebuilding of war-torn areas in Mindanao


COTABATO CITY (March 2) – The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will pave the way to fast-track the implementation of development projects and intensify the provision of social services and infrastructure in Bangsamoro areas particularly those that were affected deeply by armed conflicts.

This was the pronouncement made by Government of the Philippines (GPH) panel chair Senen Bacani.

Bacani added that repeated conflicts have turned Bangsamoro communities as among the poorest in the country and that strengthening of such communities is among the basic objectives of the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Faced by a poverty incidence rate of 48.7 percent in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as of 2012, the government sought to fast-track development in the region by proposing a P17-billion Special Development Fund (SDF) in the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL),” Bacani emphasized.

The review of the BBL is now suspended in both houses of congress.

He added that the province of Lanao del Sur, as shown in the data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) posted the highest poverty incidence of 68.9 % compared to other areas in the ARMM.

The same date also provided that Maguindanao is the second ARMM province with high poverty incidence of 57.8% while the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi have slightly lower poverty incidence rates, but are among the highest also in the entire country, the data added.

Poverty has been luring more residents in Mindanao to the recruitment strategies of extremist armed groups that continue to pose threats to the peace and security in the area.

The congress, Bacani stressed, has been in the forefront of pushing development in the entire country to lessen the incidence of poverty among many Filipinos, and the provision of these funds to the Bangsamoro is along the same principle.

“Areas in the proposed Bangsamoro, which are mostly composed of provinces under the current ARMM have lagged behind in terms of economic growth for years due to armed hostilities,” he said.

The proposed P17 billion SDF will be divided into an initial tranche of P7-billion for the first year of existence of the BBL, with P2 billion a year to be released for five years.

“To ensure there would be no repeat of past sad experience in the utilization of public funds, the government will implement strict audit and transparency rules in its use, first through the Bangsamoro audit agency proposed to be created also under the BBL, and also through the Commission on Audit,” Bacani said.

He also urged the civil society groups and other institutions to actively participate in monitoring the utilization of funds and the implementation of the projects under the SDF.

Aside from the SDF, the government under the BBL will also provide the Bangsamoro government a 4 percent share out of the 60 percent revenue allotment budget of the national government that would reach P27 billion.

If approved by Congress, Bacani said that the said block grant from the IRA would replace the annual subsidy given by the national government to the ARMM, which amounts to P24.3 billion under the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

“For development to catch up with poverty in the Bangsamoro region, the government sees fresh funds in rebuilding these war-torn areas as a tool for strengthening the peace,” Bacani added.

Such move, he said, will make the Bangsamoro people feel the changes after the peace accord was signed by the government and the MILF.

For her part, Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said that the ultimate objective of providing these funds is to give a boost to the Bangsamoro region.

“The fund will help strengthen the Bangsamoro region become the anchor and sanctuary of our aspirations of shared prosperity and shared security – not only in the Philippines, but in Asia and across the globe,” Secretary Deles said.

Deles also emphasized that Bangsamoro is inclusive that will affirm the government’s commitment that no one – Muslim, Christian or Lumad – will be left behind.
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