Mindanao economic bills set for hearing February 10

The Committees on Government Enterprises and Privatization and on Mindanao Affairs, headed by Representatives Felix Alfelor, Jr (4th District, Camarines Sur) and Sultan Kudarat Rep. Datu Pax Mangudadatu, will jointly deliberate on House Bill 5255 authored by  Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Mangudadatu and House Bill 5620 authored by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro) on the proposed MEDA.

The MEDA proposal seeks to “strengthen the existing Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) by converting it into MEDA. MEDA, as proposed, will provide for a permanent mechanism that shall “promote, coordinate and facilitate the active and extensive participation of all sectors to effect the socio-economic development of Mindanao.”

Established in 1992 through Executive Order 512, MEDCo operates as the only existing Mindanao-wide government mechanism that provides a coordinated and rationalized platform for program implementation and monitoring, investment promotion and policy advocacy for Mindanao.

Malacanang in October last year placed MEDCo under the oversight of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), from the  Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) which had been supervising it since January 2006.

President Arroyo issued Executive Order 757 on October 13, 2008  relieving the OPAPP of its oversight functions, stressing that Medco, which was created through EO 512 on March 19, 1992 by President Corazon Aquino, was primarily tasked to "promote and coordinate the active and extensive participation of all sectors to effect the socio-economic development of Mindanao."

Ms Arroyo said this task was aligned with the functions of NEDA, which is "primary responsible for formulating continuing, coordinated and fully integrated social and economic policies, plans and programs through a wholistic and integrated approach.”

MEDCo was created “to address the need to promote and strengthen interregional linkages to ensure the integrated viability of the programs and projects in Mindanao, with the local government units as frontline entities that will realize the development of specific geographical areas.”

EO 512 was amended by EO 10 dated 13 August 1998, and further amended by EO 244 dated 15 May 2000 under the Estrada Administration, mandating  MEDCo to act as the official and permanent Philippine Coordinating Office for Brunei Darussalam Indonesia the Philippines – East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

Arroyo’s EO 757 states that "for administrative expediency and economy, and consistent with the policy that all socio-economic programs and activities of the government shall be programmed within the context of well-formulated and consistent long, medium and short-term development plans and policies to promote both the growth of the equitable distribution of the benefits of such growth to the members of society, there is a need to place Medco under the oversight of NEDA.”

She said NEDA will have general supervision over MEDCo “in the formulation of continuing and integrated socio-economic development plans, policies and programs as well as the exercise and implementation of its regular functions.”

Deputy House Speaker Simeon Datumanong, principal author of the MEDA bill, underscored the “urgent need” for an institutionalized agency that looks beyond regional concerns in Mindanao, its press statement said.

“With its uneven development and peace and order problems, Mindanao needs to catch up with the mainstream national development. To do that, we need to legislate an agency that seeks to address Mindanao’s development imperatives as well as issues of continuity and consistency of development efforts in the island-region, Datumanong was quoted in a press statement issued by MEDCo.

MEDA, when created, shall also “act as implementing agency for Mindanao-specific interregional and Mindanao-wide programs and projects” and shall cover all 26 provinces and 33 cities, including the five-province, two-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“While it has been a national government’s pronouncement to put special attention to Mindanao, there is a need for an agency that can actively articulate the Mindanao agenda and push it to become part of the national government priorities,” the press statement quoted Mangudadatu, co-author of the bill, as saying.

Compared to Luzon and Visayas, MEDCo said Mindanao has the highest percentage of unpaved national roads at 37.81%; the lowest in irrigation development at 31.5% and the least in terms of farm-to-market roads paved at 19.68%.

The island continues to lag behind in terms of economic growth, poverty and human development.  Six out of the ten poorest provinces of the country are in Mindanao while four (4) of the bottom five (5) provinces which ranked lowest in human development all over the country are in Mindanao.

“If given a permanent mechanism that will see through the implementation of programs and projects in a sustainable manner, Mindanao can very well catch up with the rest of the developed regions and even with its neighboring counterparts in the BIMP-EAGA, “ Mangudadatu added.

HB 5255 also proposes that MEDA shall act as the Philippine Coordinating Office for the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), the lead government agency in coordinating the formulation and implementation of all Philippine-EAGA activities, programs and projects.

It shall also be the prime agency that will advocate adoption and approval of policies as well as promotion of initiatives for the growth of BIMP-EAGA.

In the post-Marcos era, under the Aquino administration, a bill precisely to set up a MEDA was proposed and approved by Congress, but President Aquino vetoed it due to objections by NEDA. In its stead, she issued EO 512, creating the MEDCo which was operationalized by Fidel Ramos, her successor-president.

Within the week he assumed the Presidency in 1992, Ramos created the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Mindanao (Opamin) and named Paul Dominguez as the first PA for Mindanao. He also named Dominguez as chair of MEDCo.

Opamin and MEDCo were both under the Office of the President.

“If there was measurable and palpable success in Mindanao programs for peace and development during the Ramos Administration,” Ramos said, “it was mainly because just one official — and only one — Paul Dominguez was clothed with sufficient authority to make on-the-spot decisions over Mindanao matters already covered by national or Presidential policy. This efficient set-up quickly disintegrated during the succeeding Estrada administration with the appointment of 3 PAREs (Presidential Assistants for Regions) in Mindanao — which resulted in inevitable rivalry for Presidential attention and ‘goodies’ by his 3 ‘com-pares,’” Ramos said in his Manila Bulletin column on November 30, in support of the creation of a MEDA.

Also to be deliberated on by the joint committee is House Bill 186 filed by Representative Juan Edgardo Angara (Lone district, Aurora) and House Bill 2303 filed by Representative Pedro Romualdo (Lone District, Camiguin).  HB 186 pushes the creation of the Mindanao Incentives Development Authority while HB 2303 proposes the creation of the Mindanao Development Authority. (MindaNews)