Basilan governor seeks help for towns without IRA

ISABELA CITY, Basilan (MindaNews/14 Jan) – Gov. Jum Akbar has asked the assistance of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo to help the four towns in this province that are not receiving Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from the national government.

Akbar said she presented the problem of the four towns when Robredo – along with Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Philippine National Police Director-General Raul Bacalzo and other government officials – visited Basilan last Wednesday.

She said the municipalities without IRA are Akbar, Al-Barka, Hadji Muhtamad and Hadji Mohammad Ajul, which were created through legislation by the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Akbar said the four newly-created municipalities do not have IRA since these still lack the required 25,000 inhabitants certified by the National Statistics Office (NSO) as stipulated under Section 442 of Republic Act 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991.

She said the situation may change should the NSO submit the new population figures as a result of the last population census conducted in May 2010 and issue a certification.

Akbar said the four towns had only been relying on subsidy from the national government but was lately scrapped.

The municipalities of Akbar, Al-Barka and Hadji Mohmammad Ajul were created by Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act Nos. 193, 191, and 192, respectively, and ratified by plebiscite on May 22, 2006. The towns of Akbar and Hadji Mohammad Ajul composed of nine and 11 barangays, respectively, were formerly part of Tuburan municipality.

The municipality of Al-Barka is composed of 16 barangays formerly part of Tipo-Tipo town.

Hadji Muhtamad was created out of the 10 barangays of Lantawan municipality that were not on mainland Basilan, by virtue of Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 200, which was subsequently ratified in a plebiscite on August 25, 2007.

Though Robredo did not promise to provide funds to the four towns, he said he “will study the situation on how to help the four towns,” according to the governor.

“We cannot also blame them if they could not effectively perform their duties and responsibilities as elected officials since they don’t even have funds for mobilization,” Akbar explained.

Meanwhile, Akbar and Capt. Gerald Pensona, commanding officer of the Army’s 12th Scout Ranger Company based in Kapatagan Grande in this city, have discussed peace and order matters in a closed-door meeting at the governor’s office.

Akbar did not disclose what were discussed except in saying the meeting was with a “special purpose,” citing they also tackled the kidnapping of Lario Tam delos Santos, the owner of Farmland Resort and Font Restaurant.

Delos Santos was kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf bandits last December 16 from his resort in Barangay Lanote here.

The Abu Sayyaf bandits are demanding a P20-million ransom in exchange for the release of the hostage. (MindaNews)