Manila Standard Today - Senate’s last BBL hearing to focus on taxes, minerals

News & Interviews
8 June 2015

By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard Today

Featured-image-Manila-Standard-TodayTHE last Senate hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on Tuesday will focus on taxation and the management of natural resources in the Bangsamoro territory, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the committee on local governments, said Sunday.

The hearing will also discuss the proposed law’s implications on business, trade, finance, health and women’s issues.

“I had to call another hearing because many of our resource persons invited on June 2 were not able to speak and provide us their inputs for lack of time,” Marcos said.

“We have to give them an opportunity to be heard too as the issues they would discuss are no less important than the previous ones we have tackled,” he added.

After the hearing, Marcos said he would write the committee report that would address the flaws of the draft BBL submitted by the Palace.

At the previous hearing, Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares objected to the tax privileges granted to the Bangsamoro regional government under the draft BBL. She also confirmed that under the BBL, the Bangsamoro government would retain all taxes collected.

“If you read the law, on sharing, everything we will collect from Bangsamoro will go to them, so what sharing do we have to discuss? Everything will go to them,” Henares told the committee.

Marcos noted no other local government in the country, including the poorest ones, enjoys such a privilege. In addition, he said the Bangsamoro stands to get an estimated P75 billion in subsidy in grants, including a block grant of about P27 billion in 2016.

Because the June 2 discussions focused mostly on police and security concerns, Henares and other resource persons were unable to complete their testimony.

Marcos said Tuesday’s hearing will tackle concerns raised over the jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro over the 350-square kilometer Lake Lanao, which lies between Lanao del Sur and Marawi City.

Data showed that the six hydroelectric dams built on the lake’s outlet, Agus River, produces 680 megawatts, estimated to supply more than 60 percent of the energy requirement of the entire Mindanao.

The provision giving the Bangsamoro jurisdiction over the major energy source of Mindanao has serious security as well as business implications, Marcos said.

He said he also hoped to hear from business leaders on the implications of an autonomous Bangsamoro government on business and trade, finance and the economy, not only for Mindanao, but for the entire country.

Among those invited to the hearing are representatives from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Finance Department, the Trade and Industry Department, the National Economic and Development Authority, the Commission on Audit, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Mindanao Development Authority.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Philippine Industries, Inc. will represent private business.

Representatives from the Health Department, the Women and Gender Institute and the Philippine Commission on Women are also invited to address women’s health concerns.

Marcos has said he cannot support the draft BBL because it is riddled with flaws and would only bring more trouble to the country.

He said he would present a substitute bill that will withstand constitutional challenge, address the concern of major stakeholders, and will work toward s achieving lasting peace in Mindanao.

In the House, Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong, an administration lawmaker, defended the opt-in provision in the Palace-drafted BBL, saying no one will be forced to join the Bangsamoro region.

The provision, one of the most controversial, would allow provinces adjacent to the proposed Bangsamoro region to opt in after its creation by petitioning for a plebiscite.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who earlier vowed to excise eight unconstitutional provisions in the BBL, on Sunday said the draft law being discussed in plenary session was free of constitutional infirmities.

The draft, submitted by Rodriguez, removed only two of the eight provisions he had earlier described as unconstitutional.