Recto: Clarify Bangsamoro gov't responsibilities
MANILA, Philippines – An issue that took centerstage at the very first Senate hearing continued to draw strong questions from senators at the final hearing on the proposed Bangsamoro basic law: how will powers be shared between the national government and the proposed Bangsamoro government?
At the hearing on Tuesday, June 9, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto asked chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer to provide a "detailed list" of responsibilities and functions to be undertaken by the Bangsamoro government under the proposed measure.
Under the proposed Bangsamoro law, the list of powers are differentiated as reserved powers of the central government, exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro government, and concurrent powers of the two.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman told the committee in an earlier hearing that this is one of the vital aspects of the proposed law because it will further clarify powers devolved to the autonomous region. The ARMM law only defined powers that will remain with the national government.
Unlike the ARMM, the proposed Bangsamoro will be parliamentary in form with greater powers and resources. It will be a unique set-up in a country with a presidential system.
But Recto said the list of powers proposed in the bill still needs further clarification.
"We've spent hundreds of billions and we don't see anything for it in the past decades because the responsibility of ARMM was not clarified," Recto said.
The Bangsamoro bill provides for the creation of an Intergovernmental Relations Body between the Bangsamoro government and the central government – a mechanism designed to establish protocols for coordination.
It is founded on the idea that the proposed Bangsamoro government would have an "asymmetric" relationship with the central government. Meaning, it enjoys greater powers than a regular local government unit but remains to be under the national government.
Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr has been critical of the intergovernmental relations mechanism. He said no government unit should negotiate with the national government and the existence of the mechanism is "problematic."
Many types of "intergovernmental" mechanisms are proposed under the Bangsamoro bill, among them, the creation of the Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board, which shall be in charge of addressing revenue imbalances and fluctuations in the region's finances and revenues.
The body is also tasked to review the formula for the proposed block grant to the Bangsamoro 10 years after the operation of the autonomous region, as well as its taxing powers, among others.
The focus of Tuesday's hearing was on taxation and resources in the Bangsamoro.
Marcos asked the chief government negotiator if the Bangsamoro government would be required to implement the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board.
Ferrer replied that the board provides an avenue for officials from the national government and the Bangsamoro government to work together on policies.
Marcos was not content with the answer and repeated the question. Ferrer said: "Both ways. The national government need not implement. That's precisely the function of the board – to agree."
Marcos reiterated his criticism of the mechanism: "Why is a local government now negotiating political issues with the national government? It is a little bit worrisome."
Give 'clear' list of Bangsamoro responsibilities
With continued confusion in the Senate over how the Bangsamoro government would function alongside the national government, Recto asked Ferrer to submit a list of responsibilities that would be given to the Bangsamoro on matters such as health, education, and infrastructure.
The Bangsamoro bill provides for a block grant for the Bangsamoro, which will be equivalent to 4% of 60% of the national internal revenue allotment that goes to the national government. It is estimated to amount to P37 billion in the first year of operation.
If the formula is based on the greater magnitude of services that the Bangsamoro is expected to deliver, then such services must be spelled out, Recto said.
The senator said the exercise is meant to "pinpoint responsibility." As it stands, the current regional government is an "added bureaucracy," he said.
For instance, Recto asked the peace panel to clarify the following issues:
- If the national budget has performance targets, the block grant should also have corresponding performance targets
- In public works, municipal roads are the responsibility of the municipality while provincial roads are under the provincial government and national roads are under the national government. If public works is devolved, will the maintenance and construction of regional roads in the Bangsamoro now become a function of the Bangsamoro?
- If education is devolved to the Bangsamoro, will the construction of classroom be the responsibility of the national government, local government or the regional government?
Ferrer agreed to submit a list of the envisioned Bangsamoro government responsibilities. – Rappler.com
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