By Mario Casayuran
With the 2019 P3.7-trillion General Appropriations Act (national budget) now in effect, reelectionist Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara said Saturday the newly established Bangsamoro government will be assured of crucial seed funding to finance development projects and rehabilitation of areas affected by conflict in the new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao.
The 2019 GAA recently signed by President Duterte includes a P30-billion allocation for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The amount was initially allocated for the ARMM, but this would be transferred to the BARMM to serve as its operational funds for this year.
Angara explained that this was in fulfilment of the promise to give the Bangsamoro government full fiscal autonomy to achieve economic self-sufficiency and genuine development.
He is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government. He co-sponsored Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) creating the BARMM.
“With this spending package, we pin our hopes on the leaders of the new autonomous political entity to change the lives of our Mindanaoan brothers and sisters who equally deserve opportunities to be employed, educated and cared for by the government,” he said.
Angara is running for the second six-term in the 24-man Senate under the platform of “Alagang Angara.”
The BOL—a realization of the long peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)—was overwhelmingly ratified by the Bangsamoro people during a two-part plebiscite held early this year.
In February, President Duterte formed the 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority to serve as the interim government in the BARMM during the transition period that would last until the first election takes place in 2022.
The BOL, according to the legislator from Aurora province, is “a lasting and valuable legal solution to the long-festering problem in Mindanao—so that ultimately peace and prosperity can flourish.”
In 2015, population in the region stood at 3.78 million, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). One in two persons in the region was poor, or about 53.7 percent of its population, the government statistics office said.
“The solution should ultimately rest on giving the Bangsamoro people to make their own choices—the political and fiscal autonomy to no longer consult with imperial Manila or the central government on matters that are essentially Bangsamoro matter,” Angara said.
Under the BOL, revenue sources for the Bangsamoro include taxes, fees, charges, and annual block grant, and revenue shares from exploration of natural resources, among others.
The law provides that 75 percent of national taxes and fees collected in the region will go the Bangsamoro government, while 25 percent will go to the national government. The 75 percent share shall “accrue” to the Bangsamoro government for the first 10 years.
The BARMM government will be given a five-percent annual block grant from the national government, which will be automatically appropriated in the national budget.
In the first year following the effectivity of the Bangsamoro law, the block grant should be five percent of the net national internal revenue tax collection and the net collection of the Bureau of Customs in the last three fiscal years.