THE Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is seeking a P40.65-billion budget from the national government for 2018, regional officials said Tuesday in a forum with their counterparts in Manila.
ARMM officials justified their proposed budget, up 22.04 percent from its current P33.31-billion allocation, by saying the government has effectively addressed the high poverty level in the region, as shown by its improving poverty index per province in recent years and an 81.2-percent increase in its Gross Regional Domestic Product during the last five years.
ARMM Vice Gov. Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman said the autonomous region was not a “failed experiment” after all, as he said ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman has “rightly put in place competent and efficient professionals under his excellent stewardship of the regional government.
Then-President Benigno C. Aquino III had described ARMM as a failed experiment in one of his State of the Nation Addresses.
Notably, the ARMM’s GRDP has increased to plus-48.2 percent in 2015 from minus-33 percent in 2012, said ARMM Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia, quoting a new set of figures recently released by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Alamia said the proposed 2018 ARMM budget allocates more funds for personal services (salaries and compensation) at 14.6 percent, to also cover the development of the regular plantilla for the Commission on Higher Education and other regional agencies, which still operate on a “skeletal staffing pattern.”
The budget also provides compensation packages for retirement, separation and gratuity pay to employees, who could end up being displaced with an incoming Bangsamoro Government.
The new regional setup is currently being crafted by the national government, now at the level of an Expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission to replace the ARMM within the term of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Alamia noted that poverty incidence has decreased in all ARMM provinces except Sulu, which saw its index rise from 40.2 to 49.6 percent. Elsewhere, poverty in Tawi-Tawi fell from 21.9 percent to 10.6 percent; Maguindanao from 54.8 to 48.8 percent; Lanao del Sur from 67.66 to 66.66 percent, and Basilan from 32.1 to 28.3 percent.
Secretary Don Mustapha Loong of the ARMM’s Department of Public Works and Highways said the region’s P1-billion annual infrastructure program spending has been earmarked for construction of transcentral roads connecting interior municipalities not covered by the Circumferential Roads in Basilan and Sulu.
That excludes projects covered by the working partnership between the DPWH Central Office and DPWH-ARMM, which include roads and bridge programs in areas within the autonomous region, Loong said. Residents have expressed belief that infrastructure development has considerably reduced dissidence in Basilan and Sulu, he added.
Alamia said the ARMM economic growth cluster of regional departments has devised programs “distinctly effective and workable in the region,” noting that collaboration had been wanting on national government programs whose funds were released to ARMM through concerned national agencies’ field offices in Mindanao.
She said ARMM has introduced the Bangsamoro Rehabilitation Initiatives for Development and Growth Equity or “Bridge” to focus on core family-level anti-poverty program designed for long-term development.
“Bridge,” she said, will provide families displaced by armed conflict with a package program of shelter, rural renewable energy facilities like solar panel per house, and potable Level II water system.
Alamia said a pilot project target for Bridge has been set for 296,000 “poorest of the poor (individuals)” in ARMM.
“And we have the ARMM HELPS (Health, Education, Livelihood Programs and Synergy) focused on programs at barangay level,” she said.
Loong said infrastructure projects of both ARMM programs are also implemented by the DPWH-ARMM in partnership with the local government units concerned and the Office of the Regional Governor, which has administrative supervision over both ARMM-Bridge and ARMM-Helps.
She said ARMM IHDAP or Integrated Humanitarian Development Program has been designed to enhance delivery of services and programs at municipal level. “It was born out of the Mamasapano incident in 2015,” Alamia added.