Intense Senate debates on block grant for Bangsamoro seen

An annual block grant for the Bangsamoro government reaching billions of pesos will most likely be the focus of intense debates as the Senate takes up the proposed Basic Law on Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, said Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr.

Speaking in a student forum at the University of Perpetual Help in Las Piñas on Tuesday, Sen. Bongbong said that while he had reservations on the block grant, he included this controversial feature in his substitute bill so that the Senate can discuss the issue thoroughly.

“Under the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the proposed lump sum appropriation is four percent of the national collections. Until now, nobody has given any explanation why it has to be four percent. Why not two percent? Why not 10 percent?” said Sen. Bongbong, chairman of the Committee on Local Government.

The number, according to Sen. Bongbong, seems to have been “snatched out of thin air.”

As an indication of the interest of other senators on the issue, Sen. Bongbong noted that the first interpellation on the BLBAR focused on the wisdom of the automatic appropriations and release of the block grant to the Bangsamoro government, which is in apparent conflict with Congress’ power of the purse.

The senator said that while he understands the concern of fellow lawmakers to put safeguards in the use of the block grant, they must also consider the principle of the grant of autonomy for the Bangsamoro government.

“That is going to be a very in-depth and interesting discussion and I wanted to leave it open. It is not because I think that the lump sum appropriations as it is proposed in the Bangsamoro Basic Law is a good one but I left it in so that we could discuss it thoroughly in public for the people to understand the pros and cons of this issue,” Sen. Bongbong said.

He earlier estimated the annual block grant to be between P32 to P34 billion, which will be automatically appropriated and released for the Bangsamoro government.

Under the bill, the amount of the block grant will undergo review four years after the enactment of the law and every five years thereafter.

After the forum, Sen. Bongbong lauded the university’s officials and students for organizing the event as he noted that the proposed law on Bangsamoro will have an impact not only on the people of Mindanao but on the entire country as well.

The senator also thanked University of Perpetual Help-Las Piñas, led by its president Anthony Tamayo for the warm welcome they gave him.

Sen. Bongbong said that he is willing to speak to any group that wants to know more about his substitute bill to the controversial BBL. He noted that after filing his substitute bill, he has been getting many invitations not only from schools and student groups, but also from business and other sectors who are concerned about the implications of the proposed law on the country.

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