MANILA – Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has reaffirmed the national government’s commitment to fully support and implement the “historic and bold” initiative of bringing genuine autonomy to the Bangsamoro people even amid the crisis spawned by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
In a statement Sunday, Dominguez said the second meeting of the National Government-Bangsamoro Government Inter-Governmental Relations Body (IGRB) conducted online last week to thresh out several concerns is the “clearest indication” of the Duterte administration’s resolve to help ensure the success of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
“I assure you that the agencies of the national government serving as counter-parties in these coordination mechanisms are as fully committed to move forward with this bold initiative in autonomy,” Dominguez said during the May 29 meeting with BARMM officials held via the Zoom teleconference tool.
Dominguez said the national government has been impressed with the Bangsamoro government’s commitment “to build a fully capacitated bureaucracy with meritocracy as its guiding principle,” and has seen how BARMM is “fully committed to bringing social services closer to the people and transforming the (region) into an engine of growth in Mindanao.”
Minister Mohagher Iqbal of the BARMM Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education, thanked the national government, spearheaded by the Department of Finance (DOF), for holding the meeting despite the Covid-19 emergency.
Dominguez and Iqbal 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 continuing negotiations.
Such issues include the effective implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the programs and projects of the national government in the BARMM.
During the meeting, both Dominguez and Iqbal agreed to recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte the public launch at the soonest of the IGRB via an online platform even amid the Covid-19 emergency.
This move would signify, they said, the importance that both the national government and the BARMM attach to this intergovernmental body as a forum to forge closer cooperation between the two sides.
“We are confident that our partnership will remain strong as we traverse the road to rapid recovery and bring the country back to the path of inclusive and shared prosperity upon the defeat of the virus,” Dominguez said.
In response to the concerns raised by the BARMM officials on their request to let the Bangsamoro government implement nationally funded programs in the autonomous region, Dominguez said he will urge national government agencies to enter into memoranda of agreement (MOAs) with their counterparts in the BARMM.
Dominguez said he will also inform the concerned national government agencies to include the nationally funded programs of the BARMM in their respective budgets.
These projects are in the areas of health; local government; agriculture and agrarian reform; trade and investment tourism; transportation and communications; public works and highways; science and technology; social welfare; and basic, higher, and technical education.
He likewise assured the Bangsamoro officials that he will remind the representatives on the side of the national government to start convening with their BARMM counterparts to begin the process of activating the following five mechanisms:
— the Joint Body for the Zones of Joint Cooperation (responsible for formulating policies relating to the Zones of Joint Cooperation in the Sulu Sea and Moro Gulf);
— Intergovernmental Infrastructure Development Board (responsible for coordinating and synchronizing both the national and Bangsamoro infrastructure development plans);
— Intergovernmental Energy Board (responsible for energy issues);
— Council of Leaders (provides advice to the Chief Minister on matters of governance in the BARMM); and
— the Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum (for purposes of cooperation and coordination of legislative initiatives).
Dominguez called on the BARMM to also work on the establishment of the Bangsamoro Sustainable Development Board (BSDB), one of the IGRB mechanisms that require legislation by the Bangsamoro Parliament.
The BSDB will help ensure that economic, social, and environmental considerations are harmonized and integrated in the development of sustainable development policies and practices in the BARMM, Dominguez added. (PR)