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By Mikhail Franz E. Flores, Reporter

P226 billion eyed till 2016 for Moro region

Posted on November 07, 2014

THE ENVISIONED new autonomous Moro region will need about P226 billion to lay development foundations until 2016, with nearly half that amount requiring international assistance and private sector funding, state economic officials said at the Philippines Development Forum for Bangsamoro yesterday in Davao City.

“It’s a work in progress... what was discussed and presented this morning to the President and (Finance) Secretary (Cesar V.) Purisima is an amount equivalent to about P220 billion from 2014 to 2016, and the available fund that’s already... in the budget is about P111 billion,” Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad told reporters at the sidelines of the forum.

The Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP), Mr. Abad said, still faces a funding shortfall of about P109 billion.

A presentation of the Bangsamoro Development Authority showed the plan will need P225.7 billion until 2016.

Mr. Abad said figures are preliminary and would need the approval of President Benigno S.C. Aquino III which could come “pretty soon.”

National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon said in an interview at the sidelines of the forum that the gap could be filled with additional government funding or tapping the help of the private sector and multilateral lenders.

“It can be national government (NG), it can be private sector, it can be a GOCC (government-owned and -controlled corporation),” Ms. de Leon said.

“Most likely it would be NG. That would be our support to the Bangsamoro.”

Other options being considered include official development assistance, internal revenue allotment of local governments concerned, as well as private sector financing of livelihood programs.

Sought for more details on funding requirements, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said “[f]or the long term, it’s more than P500 billion”.

The BDP, described as “a blueprint for the development of the Bangsamoro into a just, peaceful, and prosperous society”, focuses on seven key areas: livelihood, infrastructure, education, social services, environment, culture & identity, as well as security and normalization.

The entire plan has three phases: the first phase (2015 to mid-2016 when Mr. Aquino steps down) will consist of “stabilization and pump-priming programs”, while the second phase (mid-2016 to 2022) will consist of “medium-term strategic interventions and investments to build a strong foundation for the Bangsamoro”. A “third phase” after 2022 will consist of “long-term development towards a sustained just economy”.

Speaking at the forum, Mr. Aquino cited government plans to “uplift” the situation of Muslim Mindanao which, he said, has been deprived of “legitimate opportunities” amid the four-decade-old conflict.

The national government’s role, Mr. Aquino said, ranges from enacting the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will replace the failed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a new political entity that will govern a bigger area to be determined in a plebiscite next year, as well as investments in infrastructure and livelihood programs aimed at supporting “lasting” peace.

The government’s 1996 peace deal with the Moro National Liberation Front, from which the MILF seceded, is widely perceived to have failed in its objective of bringing peace and development to conflict-ridden provinces in Mindanao.

Latest official data cited by the BDP show ARMM’s:

• gross domestic product (GDP) growing 3.6% last year -- the slowest among Mindanao’s six regions -- compared to the entire economy’s 7.2%;

• GDP per capita at P29,608 last year, compared to the entire Mindanao’s P79,902 and the country’s P117,603; and

• poverty incidence at 55.8% in 2012, compared to Mindanao’s 39.1% and 25.2% for the entire country.

In her welcome statement yesterday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles cited the need for a massive reconstruction program similar to the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild war-torn Europe.

“Forty years of protracted armed struggle in Mindanao may be a far cry from the aftermath of World War 2 in Europe, but we are here to humbly take counsel from the lessons of the past,” Ms. Quintos-Deles said in her speech, a copy of which was e-mailed to media.

“Where the Marshall Plan was a strategic move to forestall the march of communism over the impoverished millions of Europe, our Bangsamoro Development Plan is our very own shield against the raging forces of extremism that are advancing to the shores of other lands,” she added.

“This is the best way forward.”

In his opening remarks at the forum, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan cited the need for a strong start.

“We cannot overemphasize the importance of this transition period, which has already begun in mid-2014 and will continue until mid-2016,” Mr. Balisacan said in his speech.

“In just two short years, we need to demonstrate the dividends of peace in the Bangsamoro region by progressively bridging the development gaps caused by decades of conflict; we need to attain the stability and normality necessary to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth in the succeeding years and ensure lasting peace in all its communities,” he added.

“The social, economic and political foundations that will be laid during this time are crucial to the success of the new Bangsamoro government that will be established pursuant to the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

Representatives of foreign funding agencies expressed support but did not offer specific commitments.

“We are fully committed to help all the parties in successful peace efforts and long-term development,” Axel van Trotsenburg World Bank vice-president for the East Asia and Pacific Region, said in an interview at the sidelines of the forum.

“We also don’t define it by making a big declaration today and then checking out tomorrow,” he added.

“What you need to have is a long-term commitment. We would like to have a very active part.”

Steven A. Rood, The Asia Foundation’s country representative to the Philippines, said: “The fact of the matter is donors take a while because they have to have plans and those plans are approved by headquarters.”

“In the short term, the initial quick winds will be under the national government,” Mr. Rood stressed.

“There are many possibilities. I’m not sure everything will be funded by 2016 [but] the World Bank -- many donors in fact -- have expressed interest.” -- with Imee Charlee C. Delavin