Dominguez: Bangsamoro should have fiscal discipline under BBL
The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should ensure fiscal discipline for the Bangsamoro region by making sure that its programs are in line with the programs of the national government, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said on Tuesday.
At the 11th and last joint committee hearing of the Senate on the BBL draft, Dominguez said the success of the BBL, which seeks to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao, “is built on the public’s acceptance of the law.” He also stressed that “fiscal autonomy should be earned” by the region.
For this to happen, Dominguez said the public should “see fiscal discipline being practiced in all areas.”
Dominguez said programs of the BBL should be symmetric with the programs of the national government and also transparent for auditing by the national government, and “performance-based.”
“A lot of these you have to understand, needs the acceptance of the public outside of the area. Because taxes from Luzon, Visayas will be provided here and if the people do not agree that this money is being spent correctly, then we will have a problem,” he said in a separate interview.
If there would be misuse of funds, he said the national government would have to “correct it.”
“It’s not that we will withhold it, we would have to tell them, this has to be corrected,” he added.
Dominguez also raised concern that there should be no gray areas between national and local taxes under the BBL to avoid any potential conflict.
“Differentiation between national and local taxes should also be very clear. I guess the law has gray areas on that, and that will cause potential conflict,” Dominguez added.
No fiscal autonomy?
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, stressed that the government “cannot have a national program for every economic activity of the Bangsamoro.”
“That could run counter to the basic principle of autonomy,” Drilon said, asking Dominguez if he has any suggestion on which Bangasamoro economic activities should be accompanied by national programs.
According to Dominguez, national programs on infrastructure development, as well as taxation policies, tourism, health, agriculture and investments, should be tied to the local and regional programs of the Bangsamoro.
Dominguez later clarified that he was not suggesting that no fiscal autonomy should be given to the Bangsamoro.
“No, I’m not suggesting that. It has to be very clear as to who is in charge of what and it is important also that the national government provides technical assistance to the Bangsamoro autonomous region because fiscal management is not easy and people have to practice and experience it and we have the experienced people and we are willing to help them in every step of the way,” he said.
“We want to help them make it successful. And the way to make it successful is to be with them monitoring this project. Designing a project, implementing it and monitoring it is very difficult. I’m not saying they cannot do it but we’d be willing to help them,” he added.
Fiscal discipline was assured by Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Commissioner Jose Lorena.
“We are with him (Dominguez) in looking at fiscal discipline. We have provided very clearly (in the draft) to put symmetry between national and regional government programs,” said Lorena.
Lorena said they have also included provisions that would institute the “full disclosure policy on the Bangsamoro funds to assure transparency.”
Under the BBL draft sent to Congress, “the Central Government shall provide an annual block grant which shall be the share of the Bangsamoro in the national internal revenue of the government.” For 2019, the block grant was pegged at P72 billion.
Aside from the annual block grant, BTC Commissioner Raissa Jajurie said the Bangsamoro government could also draw revenues from taxes, fees, revenues from the exploration development and utilization of natural resources, its share from national taxes and fees, and also from Bangsamoro government-owned corporations, various grants, donations, loans and funds. /muf
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