Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has called on national government agencies to work with their counterparts in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in fast-tracking the organizational work needed to implement at the soonest the key provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) despite the coronavirus-induced global crisis.
Secretary Dominguez said setting in motion the coordination mechanisms between the national government and the BARMM is necessary to speed up the implementation of programs that would finally address the root causes of the decades-old armed conflict in Mindanao.
Although the number one priority of the government at this time is its COVID-19 response, Secretary Dominguez said equally important is President Duterte’s commitment to peace, sustainable development and inclusive economic growth in Mindanao through the pursuit of genuine political and fiscal autonomy for the Bangsamoro people.
Secretary Dominguez assured top officials of the BARMM during the third meeting of the National Government-Bangsamoro Government Inter-Governmental Relations Body (IGRB), which was held online last Aug. 28, that the agencies of the national government serving as counterparts in the coordination mechanisms “are as fully committed to move forward with this bold initiative in autonomy.”
“While we are all busy addressing the contagion, we consider the meetings with the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB) and resolving issues discussed here to be equally important,” said Dominguez during the virtual meeting held via Zoom.
“We will urge them (national government agencies) to act expeditiously to organize and to address pending issues,” he added.
Secretary Dominguez and Minister Mohagher Iqbal of the BARMM Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education co-chair the IGRB, which is mandated to coordinate and resolve issues on intergovernmental relations between the national government and the BARMM through regular consultations and continuous negotiations.
On behalf of the BARMM government, Minister Iqbal thanked President Duterte for his steadfast support for the budding autonomous region and for listening to the plight of the Bangsamoro people.
Minister Iqbal also thanked Secretary Dominguez and the other national government officials in the IGRB for their active engagement during the meetings of the body.
Minister Iqbal agreed with Secretary Dominguez that the IGRB should continue with the progress it has accomplished so far despite the current limitations brought about by the COVID-19 crisis.
Secretary Dominguez described the third meeting of the IGRB as “an exercise in solidarity,” given that it was held even while the entire country and the rest of the world have been battling the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
The inaugural meeting of the IGRB was held last December 16 in Davao City, and its second one was done on May 29 via Zoom amid the strict lockdowns imposed to contain the further spread of COVID-19.
Secretary Dominguez called on the relevant government agencies to quickly organize their respective intergovernmental relations (IGR) mechanisms with the BARMM and implement the provisions of the BOL.
“This measure (the BOL) was certified by the President as urgent and the legislature responded by urgently passing this. This is also urgent for us to implement it. We should follow the urgency that the President has indicated,” Secretary Dominguez said during the meeting.
As of the last week of August, two IGR bodies have already convened their initial meetings.
These are the Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board (IFPB), which met for the first time last May 29, immediately after the second meeting of the IGRB; and the Joint Body for the Zones of Joint Cooperation (JBZJC), which convened its first meeting last June 26, both via video conference.
The JBZJC is tasked under the BOL to formulate policies relating to the Zones of Joint Cooperation in the Sulu Sea and Moro Gulf.
The Secretaries of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and of the BARMM Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform serve as co-chairs of this body.
The other IGR bodies that are set to convene are the Intergovernmental Infrastructure Development Board (IIDB), which shall coordinate and synchronize both the national and Bangsamoro infrastructure development plans; Intergovernmental Energy Board (IEB), which is tasked to resolve all energy issues referred to it by the IGRB; and the Bangsamoro Sustainable Development Board (BSDB), which has yet to be created by a law passed by the Bangsamoro Parliament.
According to the BOL, the BSDB shall be responsible for the integration and harmonization of economic, social, and environmental considerations as vital dimensions of sustainable development policy and practice in the BARMM.
“We hope that the remaining mechanisms would soon become operational,” Secretary Dominguez said.
The provisions of the BOL that are awaiting implementation include those creating an interagency audit committee that will conduct a requisite inventory to ensure that the liabilities of the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Regional Government under law, contracts or obligations shall be assumed by the National Government prior to the transfer to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
Also among the provisions mandated under the BOL are the creation of the regional offices of the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Police Commission (Napolcom), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in the BARMM; and the establishment of a Bangsamoro Electoral Office.
The BOL also mandates the establishment of the Shari’ah Supervisory Board to promote an Islamic banking and finance system in the BARMM without prejudice to the power of supervision of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
The virtual meeting was also attended by Secretary Alfonso Cusi of the Department of Energy (DOE); Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (PAPRU); and senior officials of the Departments of National Defense (DND), of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and of Transportation (DOTr), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Office of the Cabinet Secretary (OCS).
From the BARMM side, the meeting was attended by Assistant Executive Secretary Abdullah Cusain; Cabinet Secretary Mohd Asnin Pendatun; Ministers Naguib Sinarimbo of the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government, Eduard Guerra of the Ministry of Public Works, Raissa Jajurie of the Ministry of Social Services and Development, Mohammad Yacob of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform, Dickson Hermoso of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, and Romeo Kabantulan Sema of the Ministry of Labor and Employment.