MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Lawmakers increased the share in government tax revenues of the Bangsamoro region by 5% under the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
This was disclosed by bicameral conference committee chairperson and Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri to reporters around two hours after their meeting on the BBL started on Monday, July 9. (READ: Final version of BBL must pass ‘test of constitutionality,’ say bicam members)
Zubiri said the bicam approved the provision on Tuesday night, July 10.
Currently, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) – which the new and more powerful Bangsamoro region will replace under the BBL – gets 70% of the collections of a province or city from national internal revenue, fees, and charges as well as taxes imposed on natural resources. Under Republic Act 9054 or the ARMM Law, the remaining 30% goes to the national government.
Zubiri said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) disagreed with the Senate proposal because this would mean the Bangsamoro would receive less funds compared to the ARMM. (READ: Final version of BBL holds fate of Mindanao peace process)
“We'll accept the House version. The House version is 75-25. The Senate panel will tend to accept the House version,” said Zubiri.
The senator said the bicam has so far agreed the proposed BBL must “retain and enhance” the rights and benefits currently being granted to residents of the ARMM.
“We've reached consensus that whatever was in the ARMM Law, Republic Act 9054, we will retain and hopefully enhance. So, in other words, we do not want an ARMM minus. What we want is an ARMM plus,” said Zubiri.
Apart from the modified wealth-sharing terms, the bicam is also set to retain the territorial waters and in-land bodies of water that are already part of the region under RA 9054.
Zubiri said senators had agreed to remove a provision in the Senate version that would impede the release of the 5% block grant to the Bangsamoro region.
“What we want to happen here is continue the accountability and transparency measures that we've placed but without the stumbling blocks to the automatic release of the block grant,” said Zubiri.
BTC chairperson and Moro Islamic Liberation vice chairperson Front Ghazali Jaafar said they would only accept a version of the BBL that will not reduce any of the benefits the ARMM already enjoys.
“I don’t think people in the ground can accept at this point in time a BBL that is watered down,” he said. – Rappler.com