DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/19 January) — Finally, after a long wait of 50 years, the Senate and the House of Representatives approved during a bicameral meeting today the creation of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) that will “focus on the economic development of Mindanao, as well as on the social, political and cultural aspects of development in the island.” A press statement from the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) said both houses of Congress harmonized two versions of the bill – Senate Bill 3496 or MEDA Bill approved on December 15 and House Bill 6958 approved on November 16.
House Bill 6958 seeks to strengthen the existing MEDCo into a more permanent institution “to ensure the continuity and consistency of interregional and Mindanao-wide programs as well as ensure a permanent mechanism that provides a coordinated and rationalized platform for program implementation and monitoring, investment promotion, as well as policy advocacy for Mindanao.”
Mindanao stakeholders have long been lobbying for a permanent mechanism that would ensure a strong voice for Mindanao in the national agenda. Previous advocacies for the creation of the first Mindanao Development Authority (MDA) dates back to 1960, the statement from MEDCo said.
The declaration of policy states that the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) will be established “to address the need for a coordinative and integrative approach for the formulation and implementation of various inter-regional and/or Mindanao-wide development plans, programs and projects.”
The bicameral meeting was chaired by Senator Edgardo Angara and Rep. Felix Alfelor of Bicol, Chairman of the House Committee on Government enterprises. The meeting was also attended by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri and Representatives Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro, Pedro Romualdo of Camiguin, and Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao.
As adopted by both houses, MinDA will focus on the economic development of Mindanao, as well as on the social, political and cultural aspects of development in the island. It shall also act as an “implementing agency for Mindanao-specific interregional and Mindanao-wide programs and projects” and shall cover Mindanao’s six regions, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The MinDA shall also serve to promote the active participation of Mindanao and Palawan in the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
It shall also establish “a stronger BIMP-EAGA Advisory Board with the inclusion of Senate and House representatives.” The advisory board shall recommend policies and programs to ensure the widest participation of Mindanao and Palawan in BIMP-EAGA.
Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana, MEDCo chair, said the enactment of the bill “is seen to enhance the potential role of Mindanao as the bridge to all cultures in this country and in BIMP-EAGA, as well as the lynchpin of our country’s security and national interest.”
The first time a Mindanao Development Authority, then referred to as MDA, was proposed was in 1960, the MEDCo press statement said.
In the post-Marcos era, under the Aquino administration, a bill to set up a MEDA was proposed and approved by Congress, but President Aquino vetoed it due to objections by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). In its stead, she issued EO 512, creating the MEDCo which was operationalized by Ramos, her successor-president.
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 in his Nov. 30, 2008 column in Manila Bulletin, “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 three PAREs (Presidential Assistants for Regions) in Mindanao — which resulted in inevitable rivalry for Presidential attention and “goodies” by his three “com-pares.” (MindaNews)