'No over financing' for Bangsamoro government -- Officials

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Monday, March 30, 2015

THE Aquino administration is not "over financing" the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) and the proposed Bangsamoro government, a member of the government peace panel clarified Monday.

Senen Bacani, one of the government peace negotiators with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said there is a need to differentiate the existing budget for Armm from the incremental funding that will be introduced once the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed.

"Tungkol sa financing, kailangan i-klaro dito kung ano ang existing at saka ano ang incremental. Pag-usapan muna natin ang incremental funding because of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Nakasaad diyan merong special development fund. First year, P7 billion and then for the next five years P2 billion each, that is a total of P17 billion. Tapos ang incremental fund na Bangsamoro Transition Authority, P1 billion. Iyan lang talaga ang karagdagang gastos [sa] pagpasa ng Bangsamoro Basic Law because the other expenses, nandiyan na 'yan," he said.

The Armm meanwhile has an existing budget of P24.3 billion, which will get an additional P900 million for pensions, for a total of P25.2 billion, he said, noting that in 2016, a "block grant" of P26.8 billion will replace the annual subsidy to Armm.

"When you say 'block grant', it gives you the impression na bago but it is just a new term. It is to replace the annual subsidy to the Armm, which exists in the General Appropriations Act. Makikita sa General Appropriations Act for 2015, P24.3 billion, magdagdag ka ng P900 million because of the pension fund, that's P25.2 billion. Papalitan 'yan ng block grant in 2016 ng P26.8 billion," he said.

Under the BBL, he said, the block grant is four percent of 60 percent of the net internal revenue collections.

"Ang base year niyan 2013. (In) 2013, the estimated net BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) internal revenue collection is about P1.1 trillion—2.4 percent of that is P26.8 billion. Kapalit lang 'yan 'nung 24.3 plus 900, so 25.2," said Bacani. "This is not additional. Projected na ito."

"The current Armm budget today will be translated into a block grant. It does not mean an increase. Ito talagang karagdagan: Special Development Fund, P7 billion and then P2 billion a year for five years starting in 2017. A one-time transition fund of P1 billion in 2016," Bacani said, denying what critics refer to as a P75 billion additional funding for the Bangsamoro.

He noted that the incremental funding will be "subject to proper accountability and normal checks and balances and safeguards".

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, for his part, said the three components of the Armm budget: the salary of government employees (42 percent), maintenance and operating expenses (12 percent), and capital outlay (46 percent).

"Tatlong pinupuntahan at hindi kalakihan 'yan. With or without the BBL ay ibibigay 'yan. Now, it is called the Armm government but in the future, if the bill passes, then it becomes the Bangsamoro government. Just to stress those two points," said Abad. (SDR/Sunnex)

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