Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., Chairman of the Committee on Local Government today said his panel is considering proposals to peg the amount of block grant and other subsidies for the proposed Bangsamoro government on the specific functions it is willing to take.
This developed after government chief peace negotiator, Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer, failed to provide clear cut delineations of responsibilities that the Bangsamoro regional government will perform as mandated by the Bangsamoro Basic Law, distinct from the functions of the local governments under its umbrella.
“What are the functions and powers that Bangsamoro is willing to take on? And we will give it the commensurate funding so that it would be able to carry out those functions properly. Then we will determine what kind of funding is necessary and try to put it in the law,” said Sen. Bongbong during the final hearing of his panel on the BBL.
The Senator made the remark after Ferrer failed to give a categorical answer to the question of Sen. Ralph Recto if, for example, the Bangsamoro regional government would be willing to take the responsibility of constructing and maintaining national roads within its area of jurisdiction.
Recto noted that other local government units have a clear cut responsibility in this matter: barangay roads are the responsibility of the barangays, provincial roads are under the provincial government, and national roads are taken care of by the national government.
Ferrer explained that a Bangsamoro development plan has been launched in 2014, which contained data, including development plans and projections under the proposed Bangsamoro government.
“But who is going to fulfil those requirements, who would fulfill those plans?” Sen. Bongbong asked.
Senators Marcos and Recto noted that from their extensive personal experience concerning public administration, pinpointing specific responsibilities or making a clear cut delineation of powers, are key to good governance.
The committee has directed Ferrer to submit to the panel the specific functions and responsibilities of the Bangsamoro regional government as guide in drafting the substitute bill to the draft BBL.
There was also a suggestion that performance targets should be incorporated as part of the provision providing the funding for the Bangsamoro regional government.
Recto noted that one of the criticisms raised against the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is that while the government provided huge chunks of funding for it in over a decade, poverty remains rampant in the area.
He noted that under the national budget, funding for local government units and government agencies are tied to performance targets they are supposed to achieve. But there is nothing of the sort in connection with the block grant for Bangsamoro government under the draft BBL.
“We always talk in government constantly of checks and balances. These are sadly lacking in the structure as being proposed. That’s why we are trying to introduce those,” Sen. Bongbong said.
Under the draft BBL, the Bangsamoro government will receive an estimated total subsidy and grant of around P75 billion for its first year of operation alone.
The amount does not include all the taxes collected in its area of jurisdiction. The Bangsamoro government will retain 100 percent, which is close to the P2.9 billion in taxes collected under the present ARMM.
Sen. Bongbong earlier said one option his committee may take in crafting a substitute bill to the draft BBL is to present it as mere amendment to the ARMM law to address some of the constitutional issues raised against the version Malacanang submitted to Congress.
Apart from the constitutional issues, Marcos said he wants to ensure the substitute bill his committee will recommend to the plenary will be inclusive and practical enough to work towards the goal of achieving lasting peace in Mindanao.