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Good neighbors" rally behind ARMM budget as it breezes through house plenary

Congressmen confer with ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman during a one-minute suspension of interpellations in the plenary hearing yesterday, September 28, 2016. The regional budget amounting to P40.573 billion passed by legislators last night is the biggest in the ARMM's history.  BPI-ARMM

Congressmen's support for the 2017 regional budget of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was apparent during the plenary hearing in the House of Representatives yesterday, September 28, 2016.

Zamboanga City District Representative Celso Lobregat noted that some concerns were raised during the pre-plenary hearing, but the ARMM leadership was already able to respond sufficiently to the said concerns.

Lobregat then manifested as a "good neighbor" that he had no more questions for the ARMM.

The minority leader, Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez then moved to end the interpellation for the ARMM budget, which the majority was about to echo.

But it was at that point when Kusug Tausug Representative Shernee Tan moved to defer the approval of the ARMM budget to "a later date," saying that she needed answers to her questions regarding the said budget.

She carried out her interpellation using questions earlier resolved during the pre-plenary hearing, one that was led and later described by Lanao del Norte's 1st District Representative Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, vice chairperson for the committee of appropriations and sponsor for the ARMM budget in the plenary, as a "very productive meeting."

Tan's inquiries included concerns regarding the construction of the Maimbung Municipal Hospital and the arrangements for funding and implementation of the national road construction in Kalinganan Caluang, Sulu.

The funds for the Maimbung Municipal Hospital were part of the funds logged under the Transition Investment Support Plan which was included in the former administration's Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP).

The DAP has since been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court which halted the plan implementation.

Meanwhile, the national road construction in Kalingalan Caluang, Sulu is funded by the national Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) which coursed the funding through region nine's DPWH (DPWH-IX).

DPWH-IX then signed a memorandum of agreement with the DPWH-ARMM who took responsibility for the implementation of the project through its district engineers office in Sulu's 2nd district.

These funds were not part of the ARMM budget for 2016.

These points, along with others raised by Tan, have been resolved during the pre-plenary where representatives from the regional agencies and their national counterparts were present as well.

The regional Department of Health (DOH-ARMM) also initiated the move to include the suspended portion of the budget for the Maimbung hospital in the proposed budget of national health department for 2017.

The budget for the hospital is now logged under the national DOH's budget and will be implemented as soon as possible.

Tan also expressed doubt regarding the ARMM's "absorptive capacity" and questioned if the autonomous region "can be entrusted to fully and faithfully implement the billions" logged under its regional budget.

Dimaporo then offered a quick response, noting that the national Department of Budget and Management ranked ARMM as the second best region in the entire Philippines in terms of absorptive capacity.

That was Tan's last question, after which the House of Representatives was finally able to approve the ARMM budget on the third try, after two previous motions to end the budget interpellation.

The ARMM budget for 2017 is the biggest in the region's history. (Bureau of Public Information)

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