P72B yearly for Bangsamoro region if BBL passed

Camille Elemia

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P72B yearly for Bangsamoro region if BBL passed
Senators also assure local government units that their Internal Revenue Allotment would be retained

ISABELA, Basilan – The new Bangsamoro region would get an estimated P72 billion annual budget once the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed. 

This is according to Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, chair of the subcommittee on BBL, during the consultation hearing in this province on Friday, February 9. 

“From P30 billion to P72 billion, sobra pa sa doble. Ang kagandahan dito, di kailangan mamalimos [sa Kongreso (this is more than double. What’s good here is that you don’t need to beg [from Congress]),” Zubiri said in front of Basilan residents.

Under the draft bill of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the region would enjoy the “maximum form of fiscal autonomy” and would be authorized to prepare and pass its own budget. 

The bill seeks to grant unconditional funding from government revenues. This is in stark contrast to the current scheme where the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is required to get congressional nod for funds and projects. 

Article 12, Section 17 of the proposed BBL mandates the national government to give the Bangsamoro region an “annual block grant” or share in internal revenue, which would be done automatically each year. 

The bill states that the annual block grant should be equivalent to 6% of the net national revenue collection of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs. 

It also clearly states that the block grant shall be independent from the central government.

“The block grant shall be released without need of any further action…and which shall not be subject to any lien or holdback that may be imposed by the Central Government for whatever purpose,” the BTC-backed bill read.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said he favored the BBL despite the fact that he would be the “first casualty” of the law,  which seeks to replace the ARMM.

Hataman lamented how he had to “beg” lawmakers for allocation. He recalled that he only got a budget of P12 billion when he assumed the post in 2012. This, he said, increased to P30 billion in 2015.

“Kailangan mamalimos, idepensa mo maayos na kaya mo gawin ng maayos ang P10 billion na infrastructure (You have to beg, and defend well that you can carry out P10 billion worth of infrastructure),” Hataman said.

More funds for Bangsamoro: IRA, dev’t funds 

Zubiri said that on top of the annual block grant, the Bangsamoro would be given an additional P10 billion for “development funds” for the first year of implementation.

The amount would be reduced to P8 billion within the law’s secnd to fifth year of implementation. The region would receive P6 billion within the 6th to 10th year, and P2.8 billion from the 10th year onwards.

Zubiri also assured local officials that the internal revenue allotment for local government units would not be taken away from them.

“Mananatili sa mayors, di po gagalawin. The P10 billion, this is over and above the IRA. This is development funds. Itong development funds binibigay sa lahat ng region,  the block grant, automatic appropriation, di na kailangan pumila sa Senado….Ang kagandahan nito ay dati namamalimos, ngayon hindi na,” Zubiri said.

(This will remain with the mayors, it won’t be touched. The P10 billion, this is over and above the IRA. This is development funds. The development funds would be given to all regions, the block grant, automatic appropriation, no need to live up in the Senate….The beauty of it is that if there was begging involved before, now no more.)

In Thursday’s hearing in Jolo, Sulu, Zubiri said there would be safeguards against corruption considering the amount of money expected to come in. 

“That being said na malaking halaga, gusto rin namin may safeguards na di mananakaw ang pera… We will also have an ombudsman, maglalagay po kami ng resident ombudsman for the Bangsamoro,” Zubiri said.

(That being said, that a huge amount is involved, we also want safeguards against stealing funds….We also have an ombudsman, we will put in a resident ombudsman for the Bangsamoro.)

Zubiri said there would be a pre-audit and post-audit of programs and projects. He said there would also be a regional office of the Commission on Audit as well as an Ombudsman. It remains unclear to date, however, who the appointing authority would be. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.