KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 31 October) — Only 2.5 billion pesos out of the 10 billion peso special development fund (SDF) intended for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim (BARMM) in 2019 and 2020 has been released by the national government, the peace advocacy group Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC) disclosed on Friday.
During the “Bangsamoro in Transition” web forum organized by MindaNews, lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, MPC secretary general, urged the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release the remaining amount of 7.5 billion pesos to bring the dividends of the Bangsamoro peace process to the grassroots.
Republic Act 11054, the Organic Law for the BARMM, provides a special development fund (SDF) of 5 billion pesos a year for 10 years from its ratification “for the rebuilding, rehabilitation, and development of its conflict-affected communities.”
RA 11054, anchored on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the final peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation signed in 2014 after 17 years of peace negotiations, was ratified on January 25, 2019, paving the way for BARMM to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Arnado said the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the 80-member body tasked to govern the BARMM during the transition period until June 30, 2020, had approved the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP) and transmitted it to the DBM, but it was only recently when the 2.5 billion pesos was released.
The DBM’s notice of cash allocation for the SDF was approved on August 14,2020 and released on August 24 to the Bureau of Treasury.
The Bangsamoro region did not receive an SDF in 2019.
“This (SDF) is a big gap that needs to be addressed as it relates to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the communities and the normalization process,” she stressed.
The BDP was passed by the BTA Parliament on July 3. But Arnado told MindaNews on Saturday that under the Bangsamoro law, the SDF is “not subject to the submission and approval of the BDP. Utilization thereof shall be in accordance with the BDP.”
She said the submission of the BDP was a requirement of the DBM “which is not actually required by law.”
In August and September, the MPC , a grassroots network of Bangsamoro, Christian and Lumad peace advocates in Mindanao, conducted a mid-term review of the transition from ratification of the Bangsamoro law on January 25, 2019 until September 30, 2020.
The release of the SDF was part of the 12-point recommendation of the midterm review.
The first recommendation, was to extend the transition period for three more years or until June 30, 2025, citing resolutions from the Provincial Board of Maguindanao, the League of Municipalities of Tawi-tawi, and focus group discussions.
The extension is for the transition government to fully accomplish their priority tasks and duties, especially those that need to be jointly implemented with their national government counterparts and due to the difficult demands of the normalization process and the larger context of the CAB implementation.
It also recommended the fast-tracking of the drafting and enactment of the Administrative Code, Local Governance Code, Education Code, Civil Service Code, Electoral Code, Revenue Code and the Indigenous Peoples Code and set actual schedules and timeline on their passage and approval, “without sacrificing the democratic requirements for consultations and consensus-building among the Moro leaders, constituents and stakeholders.”
The Administrative Code was passed last Wednesday, the same day the proposed Education Code was filed.
Another recommendation was to review and improve the manner of release of the annual block grant “to make it consistent with the fiscal autonomy standards for direct and comprehensive release.”
Lawyer Hanan Romanda Kahalan, a member of the review team, said the P63 billion block grant for the Bangsamoro region was released not directly to the BARMM but through a circuitous way, passing through other government channels.
“It was not (released) on comprehensive basis,” she noted.
In a press release on August 20, 2019, the DBM stated that pursuant to the Bangsamoro law, P70.6 billion was to be allocated for the BARMM in the administration’s 2020 budget proposal — P63.6 billion is for the annual block grant, P5 billion for the SDF, and P2 billion is for the BARMM’s share in the national taxes. (Bong Sarmiento / MindaNews)