COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/20 May) – OIC Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), recently proclaimed winner in the ARMM gubernatorial race, has vowed to lower the double-digit poverty incidence in the country’s poorest region, to “single-digit during our term.”
Among 17 regions nationwide, the five-province, two-city ARMM is the country’s poorest, posting 46.9% according to the National Statistical Coordination Board’s “First Semester Per Capita Threshold and Poverty incidence Among Families, by region and provinces, 2006, 2009 and 2012” released on April 23 this year.
ARMM comprises Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao in the mainland, the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
Nationwide, the NSCB said, “22 out of 100 families were estimated to be poor in the first semester of 2012 with the average poverty incidence at 22.3%. In the ARMM, the figure is more than twice at 46.9% or 47 out of 100 families.
In Lanao del Sur, the figure is thrice the national average at 68.9% and Maguindanao at 57.8%. Basilan’s poverty incidence is at 32.5%, Sulu’s is 30.4% while Tawi-tawi’s is 20.8%.
“Actually, we are the poorest because of the two provinces but not the entire region,” Hataman told MindaNews shortly after the flag retreat late Friday afternoon at the ARMM’s main office.
Proclaimed earlier that day as winner in the ARMM gubernatorial race along with his running mate Haround Alrashid Lucman, Hataman attended the flag retreat, a weekly activity he enforced in the ARMM. Friday’s retreat ended with a raffle of, among others, cooking pots, rice cookers, rice dispensers, sacks of rice and brown envelopes containing cash.
He said the three island provinces are no longer on the list of poorest provinces and only the two mainland provinces are their problem.
“Challenge ito sa amin” (This is a challenge to us), he said.
He said he tasked his economic staff to study the situation so they would know how best to address the problem. “Target namin ibababa ito to single-digit during our term.”
Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, he said, have huge agricultural potentials but the former is more into trading while economic activity in the latter is “nakasentro sa political leaders.”
In the island provinces like Hataman’s Basilan, food is easily accessible and cheap, he said.
7th elected Gov, 1st minority
Hataman is the first elected ARMM governor coming from a minor ethnic group, the Yakan of Basilan. His mother is from Pata, Sulu.
He is the seventh elected governor of the 23-year old ARMM which has had two Maguindanaon governors: Zacaria Candao (1990-1993) and Zaldy Ampatuan (2005-until his detention on December 5, 2009 for his alleged involvement in the November 23, 2009 massacre of 58 persons in Ampatuan, Maguindanao); one Maranao. Liningding Pangandaman (1993-1996) and two Taosugs: Nur Misuari (1996 -2001) and Dr. Parouk Hussin (2002 -2005).
In the seven elections held in the ARMM, the May 13 election was the first synchronized with national mid-term and local elections.
In his Proclamation statement, Hataman said, “the voice of the great majority in ARMM has been heard through a clean and credible election, which was uncertain if not entirely improbable in the past.”
“The seeds of reforms have started to take roots during our incumbency as caretakers. Help us nurture these seeds so that their vines and fruits reach even the farthest island and remotest village in the region,” he said.
The three-year term of office of the elected ARMM officials will be cut short when the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified. After the ratification, the ARMM is deemed abolished and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) takes over in preparation for the first election of leaders of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that will relace the ARMM.
Hataman said they “remain firm in our pledge and would step aside to make way…for a new political set-up meant to take the Bangsamoro to greater heights.”
ARMM or Bangsamoro
Hataman is optimistic that despite the delays, the target date of 2015 for the BTA to take over from the ARMM would be met.
He also said he does not see a diminution in the area of governance of the Bangsamoro.
In mixed English and Pilipino, Hataman said he believes the core area of the ARMM would be retained and may even be expanded.
“It’s simple. It really depends on the law. Either new Bangsamoro entity or back to ARMM,” he said.
“In the plebiscite, you ratify. If the new law is defeated, you go back to the old law. But I am optimistic that the Bangsamoro (law) will win,” he explained.
President Aquino named Hataman, a former Anak Mindanaw party-list representative, as OIC Governor in late December 2011. Aquino referred to him as the “ghostbuster of the ARMM” but Hataman said he’s done with “ghost-busting” and will now focus on the economy.
He said he hopes the President would see him now as “generally reformist, not just ghostbusting, that ARMM is reformed, developed and poverty is addressed.”
He said good governance should not just be done at the regional level but down at the barangay level.
Hataman said he would also see to the “smooth transition” toward the Bangsamoro by focusing also on capacitation of the present bureaucracy, how to strengthen it to achieve a smooth transition so that even if ARMM is abolished, the human resources could be used by the new political entity, except the heads of offices.
Even if the Transition Commission is independent and separate entity, Hataman said he would coordinate with them to capacitate human resources for the future Bangsamoro.
Hataman says he will “open talks with MILF and other BDA (Bangsamoro Development Agency) agencies, even with OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) for those who have potentials to go on OJT (on the job training).
“Personally, I want the Bangsamoaro entity to be successful, whoever they will put there. At least they know the dynamics of governance because even if you are good, if you do not know the dynamics, the culture in government, it would be difficult.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)