By EDD K. USMAN, SDN, Twitter @edd1819, Instagram @bluestar0910, Facebook: SDN — Science, Digital & Current News
TO say that Php70 billion and Php50 billion are a lot of money is an understatement.
Understatement or not, those are the biggest amount of allocations the newly-minted Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) stands to receive in the years ahead.
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Ernesto Pernia re-affirmed the two amounts as he spoke at the 1st Bangsamoro Global Economic Summit 2019 at the Manila Hotel, Metro Manila.
BARMM Interim Minister Ahod Balawag “Al-Hajj Murad” Ebrahim was also at the summit, but his schedule to deliver his keynote speech came after Pernia had already left.
Suffice to say that Ebrahim, the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) updated, laid down the BARMM’s plans on how to achieve its goal of peace and economic progress for the region’s population.
Pernia cited the ratification of the Organic Law for the BARMM and the BARMM’s inauguration in March this year, describing the twin events as “among our most momentous and proudest moments in our history as a nation.”
He said: “After decades of grueling peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), we can now begin to pave the road for progress and prosperity and work towards achieving our long-term aspirations. Conflicts have kept the people of Mindanao away from their dreams and goals.”
Pernia assured the new Moro-led autonomous entity is not alone, saying the development and prosperity, including the challenges the BARMM is facing, “is ours, too.”
The NEDA chief expressed confidence the new Bangsamoro government headed by Ebrahim “is moving in the direction that we have envisioned.”
But as the Bangsamoro government strives in its transition, it has no time to rest on that euphoria that followed its creation. Challenges remain.
NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia at the venue. (Photo: SDN — Science and Digital News)
Pernia said these challenges should always be in the mind because “it will likely impact the development of the region in the coming years.”
What are these challenges, then
There are at least a trio of them. He mentioned in his speech on August 19, such as low economic performance, high poverty incidence, and poor access (to) and delivery of quality services.
BARMM is only a few months young, so the challenges are a carryover, or an “inheritance” from the failed experiment that was Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“Regional poverty incidence among its population is estimated at 53.7 percent in 2015. The provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Sulu have the highest poverty incidence among families in the country.
“Limited investment in education, health, and social services, as well as the exposure and vulnerability of communities to various economic, environmental, and conflict risks contribute to the worsening poverty in the region,” said Pernia.
(Basilan and Tawi-Tawi are the two other provinces of the region.)
On the other hand, he cited the continued presence of challenges on public order, peace, and security, chief among them posed by many armed groups, pockets of family feud or “rido,” and the incidents of violent extremism, criminality, and proliferation of illegal drugs, not to forget the region’s vulnerability to the impacts of disasters and climate change.
The NEDA chief may just be referencing the combined terror menace of the Maute Group (MG) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), both affiliated with the Islamic State or ISIS in the Middle East, as well as another ISIS-allied group in Maguindanao, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF).
Recall that the siege the MG and the ASG on May 23, 2017 laid in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, resulted in the massive devastation of the city in the five-months war the government fought.
Aside from the destruction of many government and private structures, the battle of Marawi also killed hundreds of state forces and terrorists and civilians, and the displacement of over 200,000 residents.
Pernia took advantage as well of the event to cite the BARMM’s participation in the recovery of areas affected by the Marawi conflict, saying this is on top of the regional government’s agenda.
“The Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program laid out the government’s strategic interventions for the rehabilitation of Marawi City and municipalities directly affected by the conflict.
“It includes programs, projects, and activities to be implemented from 2018 to 2022, with a total investment requirement amounting to Php60.51 billion. While most programs will be financed through national government funds, non-government sources have also been identified.”
He mentioned San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and United Nations Habitat’s with 3,500 permanent housing units constructed to the tune of Php1.93 billion.
“We assure you that the government is committed to meeting the overall goal of the Bangon Marawi. Our aim is for Marawi City and surrounding communities to co-exist in peace, and become vibrant, productive and resilient to risks of conflict and other disasters, with culture integrated into the country’s socioeconomic development,” Pernia said.
NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia. (Photo: SDN — Science and Digital News)
As for the BARMM, he felt confident the region’s “increased budgetary support will likely result in more economic activities and socioeconomic interventions.”
The NEDA chief said the Php70 billion block grant for BARMM is its “automatic share…equivalent to 5 percent of the national internal revenue tax collections, for 2019 fiscal year alone.
On the other hand, he said the Php50 billion allocation is a special development fund for 10 years (Php5 billion yearly) intended for the rebuilding, rehabilitation, and development of communities affected by the Mindanao strife.
In establishing BARMM, Pernia said, it is another of the many steps the government has to implement in addressing “the current social, political, economic, and cultural challenges faced by the Bangsamoro people, both within the current ARMM areas and other nearby localities.”
He sees the establishment of BARMM’s Bangsamoro Economic Development Council (BEDC) as anchor of the region’s economic stability as a BEDC representative will sit as a member of the national development plan steering committee.
Meanwhile, Pernia said that because of the BARMM transition process, the Php70 billion block grant “will be made available from 2020 to 2022.” (SDN)