Gov’t agencies told to realign budget to fund big ticket projects in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 Aug) – National government agencies must realign their budget to fund the 12 identified “catalytic projects” in Mindanao that would prepare the island when the country would shift to the federal government, according to Dr. Adrian Tamayo, public relations head of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

Tamayo said in an interview on Thursday that MinDA chair Datu Abul Khayr Alonto has envisioned Mindanao to have a better economic status with lower poverty incidence with the 12 big ticket projects.

“The projects will ensure that Mindanao exhibits features of federalism-ready institutions, infrastructures and environment,” he said.

The proposed “catalytic projects” are the 2,135-km Trans-Mindanao High Speed Railway System (TMHSRS) worth P753.5 billion; Marawi rehabilitation for livelihood and business development, land resource management, and social services that would need P 16 billion; P42 billion for the establishment of Agro-Economic Zones in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Agusan del Sur, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan; and P15 billion for the Tawi-Tawi Integrated Development Project/Ecozone.

It also includes P25 billion for Picong FreePort and Ecozone in Lanao del Sur; P39.2 billion for the Mindanao River Basin Integrated Flood Control Projects; P300 million for the proposed Mindanao Executive Leadership Academy in Maramag, Bukidnon; P75 billion for the MinDC Interregional Connectivity Projects comprising roads and bridges; P100 million for Tourism Assistance Center in 20 strategic areas in Mindanao; P9.8 billion for New Zamboanga Airport in Mercedes, Zamboanga City; and P100 million for Polloc Freeport and Ecozone in Maguindanao; and P9.8 billion for General Santos Aerotropolis that is still recommended for a feasibility study.

“That budget would prepare Mindanao for federalism because infrastructure and interconnectivity will help us ensure sustainability of revenues when we become federal,” he said.

The MinDA’s proposal for federalism includes merging of some regions such as Davao and Soccsksargen as “South Central Mindanao,” Caraga and Northern Mindanao as “Northern Mindanao, and Zamboanga Peninsula as West Mindanao. MinDA has pushed Palawan to become another federated region.

But Tamayo clarified to the government’s economic cluster that the budget will not have to be given to Mindanao all at once because MinDA proposes that the projects be implemented over a four-year period before President Rodrigo R. Duterte steps down from office by 2022.

He said the President wants a bigger budget for Mindanao to fund all the projects.

Different Mindanawon stakeholders, including local government units, were consulted on the selection of those projects, he said.

Tamayo said Mindanao’s budget share was estimated at 12 percent annually, which would be insufficient to implement the infrastructure projects that would unlock the potentials of the island.

He said they are proposing that its budget be increased to 20 percent annually.

“We have to start now. If we start later we will miss the opportunity. We are just getting our fair share that is denied of us. We have to be mature in terms of our infrastructure and interconnectivity,” Tamayo said.

He added that all regions in Mindanao suffer from interconnectivity problem because of poor roads and seaports, preventing most, especially the farmers, to take full advantage of their produce.

“We hope that the economic cluster would take this as a priority to look into the budget share of the different line agencies and even potential increase of budget of Mindanao in the coming years,” said Tamayo, referring to the Department of Finance and the National Economic Development Agency. He noted that even though the President is a Mindanawon, the budget for Mindanao remains small. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)