By Ellson Quismorio
A group of eight Mindanao solons are pushing jointly for the creation of a National Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in the newly-established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
According to the lawmakers led by Deputy Speaker and Basilan lone district Rep. Mujiv Hataman, this “National DPWH” would ensure the smooth implementation of national infrastructure programs in the region.
The eight filed House Resolution (HR) no.333 last Friday, September 13, for this purpose.
“In order to ensure national relevance and assistance to the BARMM, the House of Representatives is expressing its sense, through this resolution, that a National DPWH focused on implementing the National Infrastructure Programs, Activities and Projects (PAPs) be created in BARMM,” it stated.
Joining Hataman in the advocacy are Maguindanao Reps. Datu Roonie Sinsuat, Sr. and Esmael Mangudadatu; Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison; Tawi-Tawi Rep. Rasidin Matba; Lanao del Sur Reps. Yasser Alonto Balindong and Ansaruddin Abdul Malik Adiong; and Anak Mindanao Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan.
Hataman said he and his colleagues felt that there might be a problem in the implementation of the DPWH’s national program in BARMM given the present circumstances.
“So ito ang naisip naming solusyon. Yung mag-create ng isang National DPWH sa BARMM para wala nang sagabal sa full implementation ng national DPWH program sa BARMM (So we came up with this solution. To create a National DPWH in BARMM in order to hurdle the hindrances to the full implementation of the department’s national programs),” the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor said.
“Ito naman ang objective natin sa lahat ng ating ginagawa, ang siguruhing successful ang BARMM sa lahat ng aspeto, Ina-anticipate lang namin ito bago pa maging problema (This is the objective in everything we do, to ensure the success of BARMM in all aspects by anticipating potential problems),” he added.
The Deputy Speaker said the situation is compounded by the fact that the national government has adopted a cash-based budgeting system when it comes to appropriations as contained in Executive Order (EO) 91 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Ang ibig sabihin nito, dapat magamit ang pondo within a fiscal year. ‘Pag hindi nagamit ang appropriations after three months or a certain time, babalik ito sa National Treasury (This means that the funds must be used fully within the fiscal year. If the appropriations aren’t used after three months or a certain time, it will go back to the National Treasury),” he noted.
“So dapat talaga, may National DPWH sa BARMM (So there really is a need for a National DPWH in BARMM) to ensure that infrastructure projects proceed on time and on schedule,” Hataman said in further justifying HR no.333.
The resolution took note of the reported “phase out” of around 6,000 employees of the now-defunct ARMM, which is due in the last week of December 2019.
“Given the information cited above, it will be extremely difficult for the National Government to deliver its mandate of implementing nationally funded infrastructure in BARMM as provided by Article XIII, Sec 3 of the Bangsamaro Organic Law (BOL),” the lawmakers said in the resolution.
“There are other projects related to infrastructure that the National Government is also required to deliver such as that of Task Force Bangon Marawi and other similar national programs from other agencies, [including] Official Development Assistance (ODA) covering the BARMM,” they continued.
The Mindanao solons also reckoned that it would likewise be difficult to expect the BARMM to deliver said infrastructure projects considering that according to Paragraph (i) of Section 8, Article XVI of BOL, the new Bangsamoro government is limited to a Minister of Public Works, and that “Highways is a mandate of the national government” through the DPWH.
They are calling on their fellow members in the 304-strong House to support the resolution.