Ensuring a business- and investment-friendly environment in Mindanao is one of the goals of the substitute Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. assured European businessmen in the Philippines today.
Sen. Bongbong, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government tasked to tackle BBL, was the guest speaker of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) during their luncheon meeting today at Makati Shangri-la Hotel. He is also pushing a substitute BBL that addresses significant flaws of the draft BBL.
He explained that the BBL essentially aims to recalibrate the terms of the political autonomy granted to the Muslim Mindanao region based on the government’s peace agreements with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
However, Sen. Bongbong said the draft BBL suffers from constitutional infirmities. In addition, it grants exclusive powers to the Bangsamoro government, which could have serious implications on business and the investment climate in Mindanao.
“I am mindful of all these ramifications and the repercussions of the BBL proffered by Malacañang. To address these, I have vowed to consider all the relevant views and the helpful suggestions that the Committee was able to gather during its several hearings, in order to craft an amended bill that is inclusive and beneficial to all,” Sen. Bongbong said.
“I am doing this in recognition and in respect of the various interests that stand to be affected and threatened by this monumental legislation, including those of the business sector, both local and foreign, which depend on the healthy operation of the markets in the Philippines for their survival,” he added.
Sen. Bongbong earlier stressed that granting political autonomy to the Bangsamoro government is not enough to bring peace to Muslim Mindanao. Rather, it should be accompanied by initiatives to spur economic development in the area.
Under the draft BBL, the Bangsamoro government would enjoy exclusive powers governing taxation; the regulation of trade, industry and investment and f business; and labor and employment. These powers cover various industries and sectors including power generation, distribution and transmission; mining policy; agriculture and food security, including the manufacture of food, drinks and drugs; land management and housing; regulation of public utilities, including take-over powers; regulation of the financial and banking system; among others.
Emphasizing that these are exclusive powers to be granted to the Bangsamoro government, Sen. Bongbong said it is possible for the Bangsamoro legislature to enact laws that could amend, render inapplicable, or even supplant laws that otherwise apply to the entire Philippines. For example, Marcos said the Bangsamoro government can enact and implement within its territory its own tax code, labor code, trade and investments laws, banking laws, and other similar regulations.
“The Bangsamoro government could in the future have a policy direction that is substantially different from, or at a great disconnect with, that of the Philippine government,” the Senator said.
He also pointed out that another cause for concern in the draft BBL is the provision that puts Lake Lanao in Bangsamoro territory, giving the Bangsamoro government control over the lake.
Lake Lanao supplies the steady stream of the Agus River, which in turn drives six (6) hydroelectric power plants that generate more than fifty percent (50%) of the energy requirements of Mindanao.
“How can the national government protect the interests and welfare of the rest of the island of Mindanao, which is already beleaguered by a power shortage and which is heavily dependent on the hydroelectric potential of the great lake?” Marcos said.
While all these concerns are speculations for now, Sen. Bongbong said they are plausible scenarios if the draft BBL is enacted into law.
Amid the constant prodding of Malacanang and the MILF for the immediate passage of the draft BBL without changes, Marcos vowed to stand his ground against any attempt at railroading the bill.
“We cannot allow that to happen,” he said, noting that the BBL impacts not only Muslim Mindanao but the entire country, posing a threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“I hope the people will stand by the same conviction that I have. I hope the business sector will also share my firm conviction,” Sen. Bongbong said.