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Finance chief: BBL should be open to changes to allow Bangsamoro autonomy to evolve naturally.

THE Department of Finance said the Bangsamoro basic law (BBL) should be open to changes to allow Bangsamoro autonomy to evolve along with the crafting of a basic law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III called on Congress to tread carefully and learn from the Philippine experience in the devolution of the national government's health and agriculture functions to the local government units in crafting a basic law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

'We recommend that lawmakers look at past experiences in devolving certain basic services to learn from them and take into consideration these lessons when crafting the BBL,' Dominguez said at the joint public hearing on the BBL led by the House committee on local government.

'Devolving power is a process. It requires some hard thinking. It requires time to build capacities, grow institutions and evolve appropriate civic cultures. When it comes to reinventing the institutions of governance, haste may sometimes make waste,' he added. 'The end goal of devolution or autonomy should be to bring economic development to the people of the area covered by this arrangement.'

Based on 2016 data, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) had the lowest gross national income among the country's regions. The per-capita gross regional domestic product (GRDP) in the national capital region (NCR) was the country's highest at P431,783, and that of ARMM was the lowest at only P27,345 in current prices.

The NCR's economy grew by 7.5 percent in the same year, while the ARMM's expanded by only 0.3 percent in real terms. ARMM's per-capita GRDP was a measly 6 percent of NCR's, Dominguez said.

Dominguez added that, when he was secretary of the Department of Agriculture, he and former Health Secretary Alfredo R. A. Bengzon had strongly opposed the devolution of the functions of their respective departments under the Local Government Code and, while they lost the debate, the country's experience showed this move had hardly improved the public health status in the regions and failed to boost agricultural production.

'Let us make sure that the law enacted for the purpose of establishing a Bangsamoro entity is designed precisely to make economic progress more feasible for its defined area,' he said.

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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Mar 1, 2018
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