By Charmaine A. Tadalan
THE BICAMERAL Conference Committee as of Tuesday afternoon said it is set to finalize within the day the provisions in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) regarding transition and territorial jurisdiction on inland waters.
“We don’t want to make a mistake on the transition period and, of course, we will discuss and finalize (the) inland bodies of water,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri told reporters in an interview Tuesday.
If approved, the senator said a plebiscite could be held in November this year, while he sees the creation of the transition body by December or by January 2019.
“We’re looking at the plebiscite hopefully in November of this year, for ratification. If it is ratified, the President can appoint members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) by December or January, at the latest, of 2019,” Mr. Zubiri said.
The BTA will be the governing body of the Bangsamoro as it transitions from the Autonomous Region of the Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The BTA will also sit as the Bangsamoro parliament for three years. Thus, there will be no mid-term elections for the region.
Should the law fail to hurdle the plebiscite, Mr. Zubiri said, the Bangsamoro region will have to revert back to the ARMM.
If passed, however, the BBL will result in the “disposition,” according to that draft charter, of government personnel, except those under social service sectors such as health, education and social welfare.
“There will be some cleansing in terms of some staffing of the ARMM regional government, except for social service… All the rest will be up for replacement, but we have a very lucrative retrenchment, well compensation package, better than… the civil service rules,” the senator from Bukidnon said.
As for the section on inland waters, the Committee has agreed the Bangsamoro government will have sole control on waters within its territory, unless said bodies of water are used for power generation.
Mr. Zubiri said a co-management system with the national government would be the most acceptable due to economic concerns, citing as an example Lake Lanao which provides power to about 30% of Mindanao through the Agus Hydroelectric Complex.
“For the co-management of inland waters,… these inland waters contribute outside Bangsamoro. So everything inside the Bangsamoro, it is under the control of the Bangsamoro,” Mr. Zubiri said.
The Committee also agreed to extend Bangsamoro waters in the Sulu Sea and Moro Gulf up to 19 kilometers from the low-water mark of the coast.
The Senate version provided 15 km for the Bangsamoro waters, while the House version provided 15 km and 19 km for municipal and regional waters, respectively.
This is lower than the proposed 22.224 km in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission version.
BTC Chairman Ghazali B. Jaafar, for his part, said: “We just transmitted our concern to the good Senator, Sen. Migz Zubiri and may be (that’s why) he requested for a caucus.”
“We’re satisfied, 100% as a result of the caucus,” Mr. Jaafar also said.
The committee is still deliberating on the said provisions as of this reporting.
“Importante ’to. ’Di pwede mamadaliin namin ’to, parang Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, di pwedeng mamadaliin namin ’yan (This is important. We can’t rush into this, like the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, we can’t fast track that),” Mr. Zubiri said.
By Charmaine A. Tadalan