DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 Jan) – Mindanao is getting 24 percent of the country’s total infrastructure budget this year, proof enough that the campaign for increased share for Mindanao in the national budget has been working, Mindanao Secretary Luwalhati Antonino said.
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“From only 11 percent, Mindanao’s share in the infrastructure budget has been increased to 24 percent,” Antonino told reporters before the opening of the first board members’ meeting of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDa) Thursday.
But Sultan Kudarat Rep. Arnulfo Go, the chair of the special committee on Mindanao affairs in the House of Representatives, said that of the P3.6-trillion overall budget approved for this year, barely 10 percent goes to Mindanao.
“We’ve talked it over with other congressmen and we saw that of the total P3.6 trillion budget, Mindanao only gets less than 10 percent, maybe, a little over 9 percent,” said Go, who used to sit in the appropriations committee.
He noted that a significant chunk of Mindanao’s budget for health, education and social services was affected because of the “conditional cash transfer” (CCT) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. CCT is the DSWD’s poverty-reduction program that involves providing cash to the poor.
Antonino said the MinDa board is proposing some P29-billion worth of infrastructure projects for Mindanao in the next six years.
Infrastructure projects for this year, however, will focus on the road networks that will connect previously inaccessible communities in Mindanao to the markets. She said that infrastructure and projects that will support peace and development will be the main thrust of MinDa in the coming years.
“Our main focus will be infrastructure that will connect communities to the entire island, and those which will support peace and development,” Antonino said. “We are looking forward to implementing projects that will help the peace process,” she said.
“Most of the infrastructure projects that will be implemented this year are geared towards opening the access of communities previously out of circulation,” she said, noting that there have been complaints about government’s neglect of the hard-to-reach areas. “We have to answer that,” Antonino said.
“The fact that the Mindanao budget has been doubled means that our previous efforts have been working,” she said. Aside from access roads, other infrastructure projects include a circumferential road that will connect the entire Mindanao, highways connecting product sources like copra to the ports, she added.
Go said his committee will be meeting with regional directors when government line agencies finalize their budgets in February to ensure that Mindanao will be getting a bigger share in the country’s budget next year.
He said that Mindanao will continue to lobby for 24 to 30 percent share in the country’s total budget. (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews)