Manila Bulletin – Marcos panel poised to remove Lake Lanao from Bangsamoro control

By Mario Casayuran | Manila Bulletin

ManilaBulletinOnlineThe Senate Committee on Local Government is poised to delete a provision in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would give the Bangsamoro government control and supervision over Lake Lanao as this could affect energy security in Mindanao and the entire country as well.

Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., committee chairman, said he is now crafting a substitute BBL bill that would help ensure energy security in Mindanao and the entire country.

“Lake Lanao (in Central Mindanao) is a critical water resource for the entire Mindanao that provides over 50 percent of the energy supply of Mindanao generated from six power plants on the lake’s outlet, Agus River. These power plants are connected to the national grid,” said Marcos.

“What would happen if Lake Lanao is allowed to be claimed as part of the ‘Bangsamoro territory’? Of course, control over it would be divested from the National Power Corporation (Napocor) and transferred to the Bangsamoro government,” Marcos pointed out.

He had earlier said that after conducting several public hearings, he would draft his committee report on the BBL during the current six-week sine die adjournment, submit it to his colleagues in the 24-member Senate and have it calendared for floor debate when Congress resumes regular session starting July 27.

In a speech at the celebration of Pagadian City’s 46th anniversary as a chartered city, Marcos said the rotating brownouts occurring in Mindanao not only make life difficult for the people but also hinder progress and development in the area.

“I am doing my part as a legislator to help solve this serious problem,” Marcos said.

In the Senate hearing on BBL, the Mindanao Development Authority urged Congress to exclude Lake Lanao from the Bangsamoro territory and ensure it is maintained and kept under the control of the national government for the communal use and benefit of the entire Mindanao.

“We are doing everything to craft a BBL that will be inclusive and beneficial to the whole of Mindanao and our entire nation,” Marcos said.

 There are criticisms that the BBL was to benefit the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as those who drafted the BBL failed to consult the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, other sultanates, royal houses, indigenous people’s (IPs), local government units (LGUs), and the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The Ramos administration and the MNLF entered into a peace agreement under the aegis of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in 1996 to end decades of strife. The MILF later appeared in the political horizon of Muslim Mindanao and engaged the national government in a firefight.

In addition to his efforts to craft a better BBL, Marcos said he is also working with electric cooperatives to enable them to improve their services with tax breaks and other privileges they enjoy under the law.

Marcos believes that with proper coordination and cooperation between the government and the private sector, it is possible to remedy the power supply problems of Mindanao.

He cited how the National Electrification Administration (NEA) was able to work with all electric cooperatives to ensure there would be no brownouts during the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight.

“This simple example speaks volumes about the effectivity and workability of the mechanisms of coordination and regulation that are in place in our overall system,” Marcos said.

Marcos said the public is tired of hearing excuses such as aging power plants, the need to conduct preventive maintenance, or even sabotage to explain the continuing power supply problem in the country.

To avert an even worse power crisis, Marcos stressed that the concerned government agencies and the private sector should join hands to find a lasting solution to the problem.

MORO DEVELOPMENT GOALS

Meanwhile, the Senate is seeking to put human development targets in the proposed substitute BBL bill to uplift the lives of residents in Muslim Mindanao.

“I think there’s a consensus of putting in ‘MDGs or Moro Development Goals’ in the BBL,” Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto.

Citing a position paper of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Recto said fund transfers to the Bangsamoro region being formed by the MILF would top P528 billion in the first six years of the ratification of the BBL.

At present, the draft law, according to Recto, “focuses on political structures, on institutions at the top, like the number of people who will sit in the regional parliament, but not the poverty or hunger numbers that must be cut.”

“If we are counting the courts which must be created or the kinds of taxes to be collected, we must also benchmark, for example, education or health,” Recto said.

While “organic acts” under which the BBL falls consist mostly of broad strokes, “nothing prevents Congress from dabbling into the particulars, like specifying targets which must be achieved,” Recto pointed out.

“In building up the human capital requirements of the region, we can create a scholarship fund that will specifically mandate the training of Moro doctors, engineers and scientists,” he said.

Recto said “these are the countable social outcomes which must be legislated.”

Institutionalizing MDGs would make the BBL about the people and not as a scheme to appease rebels, accommodate politicos or advance the interest of clans, Recto said.

He, however, admitted that “there is challenge in drafting the language of legislation of the “MDG” but it can be done. What is important is that human development, and not career advancement options, is the centerpiece of the BBL.

Poverty rate in the region was pegged at 54 percent in 2014, per the Philippine Statistical Authority.

In education, the region is plagued by low education outcomes, like a functional literacy rate of 71.6 percent and a cohort survival rate of only 39.42 percent among elementary school students.

The region is also home to about 42,000 unemployedd individuals, according to the preliminary results of the April 2015 Labor Force Survey.

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