PEACETALK: ARMM businesses to be negatively affected if BBL less than ARMM is passed

(Speech delivered by Rima Hassan, Chair of the ARMM Business Council, at the “Forum on BBL & Business:  Implications of the Senate and House versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law on the Business Sector,” on June 26, 2018 at the Al Nor Hotel in Cotabato City)  

Assalamu Alakum. Good Afternoon to you all.  This is a privilege to open the program for this very important forum today. The ARMM Business Council, which is the premier umbrella organization for all business chambers and trade associations in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will soon have to change its name once a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed as they will be deemed abolished together with its name.

While we welcome the passage of the BBL, we are also apprehensive what kind of BBL will emerge from the legislative mill. Will the BBL that will finally become law be better than ARMM?  Under Bangsamoro, will we have to change how we currently do business in the ARMM? What are the policy risks and uncertainties of doing business in the Bangsamoro if the BBL is less than ARMM?

Given that the House and Senate versions have already been passed, can the changes and amendments they introduced in the original BTC version of the BBL —  which changes we deem to be less than ARMM — still be rectified by the Bicam?

There are real consequences to business and the regional economy of a watered down BBL.  Most of us in the business sector in the ARMM are still grappling with or are still recovering from decades of conflict that have made doing business in ARMM, frankly challenging and difficult, and it is only now after the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) were signed in 2012 and 2014 that investors are already coming in and tentatively exploring investments in the region.

The registered investments in the Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) have shown that in these past years starting 2013, investments have reached at least P1 billion a year, which is still a paltry sum given the economic needs of the region to catch up with the rest of the country and alleviate severe poverty that are the consequences of being a conflict-affected region.

In this forum, we hope that the Business Sector can come together and express whatever their doubts, concerns and fears regarding the passage of the BBL especially if it changes what we have already enjoyed in the ARMM as part of vested rights and policies that eased doing business in the region.

The ARMM Organic Act must be the baseline for any BBL that will be passed.  Otherwise, the consequences are too horrendous and drastic for the business community and the regional economy in general.

Thank you and Wasssalam.