PhP 65.6-B budget for Bangsamoro 2020 approved; Education gets biggest chunk 

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 30 November) – Exactly eight months to the day the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) was inaugurated, the Bangsamoro Parliament on Friday night approved a budget of 65.6 billion pesos for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) for 2020.

Approved on third and final reading was BTA-Cabinet Bill No. 31 entitled “An Act appropriating funds for the operation of the Bangsamoro Government from January 1 to December 31, 2020, and other purposes.”

Of 54 members present, 48 voted yes, one voted no and five abstained. The BARMM’s Bureau of Public Information (BPI) has yet to release the voting details.

Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod ‘Al Haj Murad’ Ebrahim (L) and Bangsamoro Parliamen Speaker Ali Pangalian Balindong (R) show copies of the Bangsamoro Appropriations Act which provides 65.6 billion pesos budget for the Bangsamoro Government’s operations in 2020. Photo courtesy of BANGSAMORO GOVERNMENT

The BPI said Ebrahim signed into law on the same day the first Bangsamoro Appropriations Act (BAA) which contains the priority plans, projects and programs of the Bangsamoro Government.

It quoted Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod ‘Al Haj Murad’ Ebrahim as saying: “Hindi ito para sa akin, hindi para sa mga ministers. (This is not for me. This is not for the ministers) This is for the Bangsamoro people.”

He said it was “a fruit of the more than five decades of struggle of the Bangsamoro.”

“Behind these numbers are the blood, sweat, and tears of our people. We must, by all means, give justice to the sacrifices of our people. We can do so by using our respective ministries’ and offices’ budget without an iota of greed and corruption,” said Ebrahim, who, along with other BTA members, swore on the Koran at the inauguration of the BARMM on March 29, 2019.

The BTA members were sworn into office by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 22, 2019 after the ratification of RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM. Three days later, on February 26, at the turnover rites from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the BARMM, Ebrahim vowed a government that will “really be free of all the ills of governance.”

Highest to lowest  

At present, the BARMM has 19 ministries and offices with approved budgets: the Office of the Chief Minister; Office of the Wali; Bangsamoro Transition Authority; Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission; and the ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform; Basic, Higher and Technical Education; Environment, Natural Resources and Energy; Finance, Budget and Management; Health; Indigenous People’s Affairs; Interior and Local Government; Labor and Employment; Human Settlements and Development; Public Order and Safety; Public Works; Science and Technology; Social Services and Development; Trade, Investment and Tourism; and Transportation and Communication.

The BPI did not provide a breakdown on the budget but MindaNews was able to obtain a document on the amounts approved for the different agencies.

Seven of these ministries and offices are getting budgets of over a billion pesos each: the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education got the biggest chunk of the budget pie with 19.056 billion pesos; followed by the Office of the Chief Minister with PhP 7.922-B; the Ministry of Public Works with PhP 4.089-B; Health with PhP 3.069-B; the Bangsamoro Transition Authority with PhP 2.591-B; Social Services and Development with PhP 2.033-B; and Interior and Local Government with PhP 1.354-B. 

Seven other offices are getting budgets of over 100 million but under one billion pesos: these are the ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform with PhP 986.810-M; Finance, Budget and Management with PhP 454.049-M; Environment, Natural Resources and Energy with PhP 440.483-M; Trade, Investment and Tourism with PhP 279.828-M; Transportation and Communication with PhP 214.911-M; Labor and Employment with PhP 193.213-M; Science and Technology with PhP 164.560-M.

Five agencies have budgets under 100 million pesos: the ministries of Indigenous People’s Affairs with PhP 99.635-M; Human Settlements and Development with PhP 94.935-M; Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission with PhP 92.262-M; Public Order and Safety with PhP 86.806-M; and the Office of the Wali with the lowest budget at PhP 27.809 million.

The Wali serves as the ceremonial head of the Bangsamoro Government. According to the Bangsamoro law, the Wali only performs ceremonial duties such as opening the session of the Parliament, administering the oath of office, dissolving the Parliament upon the advice of the Chief Minister after a vote of no confidence against the government of the day, calling for election of a new Parliament, and attending to public ceremonies.

5 provinces, 3 cities plus

The BARMM is composed of the provinces of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sura and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan, as well as Cotabato City which voted for inclusion in the BARMM in the January 2019 plebiscite but has yet to be turned over to the BARMM, and 63 villages in six North Cotabato towns that voted yes for inclusion and had been turned over to the BARMM as of November 20.

The BPI said each ministry and office in the BARMM submitted to the Ministry of Finance and Budget and Management their respective budget proposals.

After review and deliberations, the Chief Minister with his Cabinet approved the proposals that were then crafted as the 2020 Bangsamoro Expenditure Program (BEP) consistent, according to Ebrahim, “with our 12-point priority agenda and our goal for moral governance.”

He then presented the 2020 BEP to the Bangsamoro Parliament.

The Bangsamoro Parliament’s Committee of Finance, Budget and Management deliberated the budget proposals of each ministry and office, submitted committee reports to the plenary which the members deliberated on and later approved. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)