Gov’t still owes BARMM P7.5B for rehab of war-torn areas, says peace group | Inquirer News
MIDTERM REVIEW OF BANGSAMORO TRANSITION

Gov’t still owes BARMM P7.5B for rehab of war-torn areas, says peace group

/ 05:02 AM November 06, 2020

KORONADAL CITY—Almost two years into the Bangsamoro transition, the national government still owes the regional government some P7.5 billion in committed funds for the rebuilding, rehabilitation and development of conflict-affected communities.

This was among the findings of a midterm review of the Bangsamoro transition conducted by nongovernment Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC).

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Under the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the national government would provide for a special development fund (SDF) of P5 billion annually for 10 years, starting Jan. 25 when the charter of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) was ratified.

‘Big gap’

The Commission on Elections declared the BOL ratified, and the interim regional government was inaugurated two months later.

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The SDF is to be spent based on the Bangsamoro Development Plan, which was approved by the interim parliament in June.

As of Sept. 30, the MPC’s review found that for 2020, only P2.5 billion was received by the regional government while the remaining half is premised on the submission of a list of initiatives to be bankrolled by the fund.

In an Oct. 26 memorandum, BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim told all ministries to submit their proposed programs, projects and activities with budgets in order to hasten the release of the SDF balance for 2020.

According to Mary Ann Arnado, MPC secretary general, the release of the SDF from the national government to the Bangsamoro government should have been automatic starting 2019.

“This 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 said.

Budget for defunct ARMM

Arnado noted that when the interim government was inaugurated on March 29, 2019, it had to make do with the budget of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which was programmed for other activities, not for the transition.

She hoped that the P5 billion for 2019 and the remaining P2.5 billion for 2020 could be released soon to add to the BARMM’s financial arsenal to combat poverty in the region amid the limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Arnado also hoped that the succeeding transfers would not be fraught with administrative technicalities.

Joselito Libres, who led the review on the normalization initiatives, said the timely release of the SDF could make a difference in delivering socioeconomic packages committed to former Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants.

The MPC was among the civil society groups that pushed for the Bangsamoro peace process amid the succession of all-out war campaigns in Mindanao.

“Now that the Bangsamoro autonomous entity is in place, we tried to look into gaps in the transition process so that both the national and regional governments can do fine-tuning, consistent with the intents of the BOL and the [2014] peace agreement,” Arnado said. —WITH A REPORT FROM RYAN ROSAURO

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TAGS: BARMM, BOL, Mindanao, Rehabilitation
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