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RIVERMAN’S VISTA: Financial and economic sustainability of the Bangsamoro

Last of a four-part series

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 29 Sept) — This is the final article in my series on the Bangsamoro Organic Law. I reserve the most important issue for the last. In the end, the Bangsamoro will rise or fall on whether it is able to make itself sustainable financially and economically.

To get to that point, the support of the national government and the international community is necessary. There must also be the right policy, governance and enabling environment to assure such financial and economic sustainability.

The economic system of the Bangsamoro is based on the principles and state policies declared in the Constitution. The development in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region shallbe carefully planned, taking into consideration the ecological balance and the natural resourcesthat are available for its use and for the use of future generations.The Bangsamoro Government shall promote the effective use of economic resources and endeavor to attain economic development that facilitates growth and full employment, human development, and social justice.

A representative of the Bangsamoro Government will be allowed to sit as member of a national developmentplan steering committee or its equivalent and shall participate in relevant planning activities ofthe National Economic and Development Authorityto ensure that the Bangsamoro development plans are reflected in the national development plans.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law grants the Bangsamoro Government the right to manage their funds, income and resources. Under the law, the National Government will provide an annual block grant automatically appropriated in the General Appropriations Act of the Congress to the Bangsamoro government in order for it to efficiently perform its powers and functions. The block grant, to be released directly to the Bangsamoro Government is equivalent to five percent (5%) of the net collection of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and from the Bureau of Customs. The block grant, though and other national government subsidies given in lump sum, may not be spent without an appropriations law defining the purpose for which they are intended.

The Bangsamoro Government shall have the power, authority, and right to explore, develop, and utilize the natural resources, including surface and subsurface rights, inland waters, coastal waters, and renewable and non-renewable resources in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

The protection, conservation, rehabilitation, and development of forests, coastal, and marine resources, including the adoption of programs and projects, to ensure the maintenance of ecological balance and biodiversity shall be given priority. The Bangsamoro government shall also have the power to declare nature reserves and aquatic parks, forests, watershed reservations, and other protected areas in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

The management and protection of nature reserves and aquatic parks, forests, watershed reservations, and other protected areas in the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro that have already been defined by and

under the authority of the National Government shall be transferredto the Bangsamoro Government.

Subject to the provisions of the Constitution and national laws, the Bangsamoro Government andthe National Government shall jointly exercise the power to grant rights, privileges, andconcessions over the exploration, development, and utilization of uranium and fossil fuels suchas petroleum, natural gas, and coal in the territorial jurisdictionof theBangsamoro.Qualified citizens who arebona fideresidents of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,all other conditions being equal, shall have preferential rights over the exploration, development,and utilization of natural resources.

The Bangsamoro Government may endorse to the President financial and technical agreements covering mineral resources in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, in accordance with the mining policy. Small-scale mining shall be regulated by the Bangsamoro Government.

Zones of Joint Cooperation in the Sulu Seaand the Moro Gulf are also to be created. The Bangsamoro Government shall haveexclusive powers over inland waters, including lakes, marshes, rivers, and tributaries within itsterritory, except those that provide energy to power generating plants.

The Bangsamoro Governmentshall also recognize, protect, and promote the establishment of cooperative enterprises as well as establish economic zones, industrial estates, and free ports in theBangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Also to be established are banks and financial institutions and their branches including an Islamic window in domestic and foreign conventional banks; as well as off-shore banking units of foreign banks within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, and in accordance with the principles of the Islamic banking system.

The construction and maintenance of national roads, bridges, water supply andservices, and flood control and irrigation systems and the maintenance of  existing airports, seaports, and wharves in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region shall be funded and implemented by the National Government.

In Article XIV(Rehabilitation and Development), the Bangsamoro Government, with funding support from the National Government, shall intensify development efforts for the rehabilitation, reconstruction, and development of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as part of the normalization process.

The National Government will provide a specialdevelopment fund to the Bangsamoro Government for the rebuilding, rehabilitation, anddevelopment of its conflict-affected communities.The amount equivalent to Fifty billion pesos (P50,000,000,000.00), at Five billionpesos (P5,000,000,000.00) per year, for a period of ten (10) years from the ratification of the Organic Law, shall be allocated for this purpose.

Overall, especially with the block grant and the special development fund, the Bangsamore should be able to stand up and lay down the foundations of good governance and economic development. I would have wanted more fiscal autonomy but the BOL provisions are still an improvement over the ARMM law.

Moving forward, it is important for the national government to implement its commitments faithfully, This incudes Congress when it exercises its power of the purse.

The leaders of the Bangsamoro must in turn hold themselves accountable to the highest standards of governance and accountability if this is to work. Knowing many of them as a former government negotiator with the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and teaching now a generation of future lawyers of the Bangsamoro, I believe that this will be the case.

The establishmentof the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region and the determination of its territorial jurisdiction will take effect upon ratification of the Organic Law by majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite.

The transition period for the establishment of theBangsamoro Autonomous Region shall commence upon ratification of this Organic Law. A Bangsamoro Transition Authority will serve as the interim government in the Bangsamoro AutonomousRegion during the transition period. The MILF will lead theBangsamoro Transition Authority, without prejudice to the participation of the MNLF in its membership.

I look forward to a well-governed Bangsamoro that will ensure peace, justice, and development. This will be good not only for those part of the Bangsamoro but also for the whole of Mindanao and the country.  (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Tony La Viña of Cagayan de Oro City is former Dean and currently professor at Ateneo School of Government, as well as Constitutional Law professor of Xavier University, University of the Philippines College of Law, Polytechnic University of the Philippines College of Law, De La Salle University College of Law, San Beda Graduate School of Law, Lyceum College of Law and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila Graduate School of Law. He was also a member of the government peace panel negotiating with the MILF from January to June 2010 following the aborted signing of the already initialed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in 2008).


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