Line-item budgeting for Bangsamoro gov’t urged

Just like the appropriation of every local government unit in the country, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero also wants a line-item budgeting for the Bangsamoro government, which, he said, stands to receive at least P70 billion during its first fiscal year alone.

Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, noted that the spending package being proposed for the Bangsamoro government could still go up.

“This is just a ballpark figure. They can impose taxes and fees and charges on their own. They can explore and exploit natural resources and these have not yet been factored in,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Based on the computation of the committee, P25.2 billion of the P70 billion will come from the Annual Block Grant; P7 billion from the Special Development Fund; P1 billion from the Transition Fund; P12.6 billion from the National Government Subsidy; P19.9 billion from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA); P1.7 billion from the ARMM/Bangsamoro collections; and a one-time P2.6 billion Normalization Fund. ARMM is Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

These allocations, Escudero said, do not include revenue-generating measures that the Bangsamoro government is empowered to impose such as taxes and fees.

He said he will push for the line-item budgeting of this amount during the deliberation of the proposal in the Senate.

“I don’t question the amount per se. I have always said that Mindanao should get its fair share from the government. But we want to know how, where, when and who will spend this. Will it be beneficial to all Bangsamoro people? Will it go to where it should go?” Escudero asked.

“Let’s face it. The government is providing P70 billion in one swoop, and every Filipino contributed his or her hard earned money there. We want to know if this will be spent fairly and judiciously to all Bangsamoro people, whether they belong with the MILF or not,” he added.

The senator said itemizing the budget will also show redundancy of funding as already shown in the lump sum proposal.

“The current ARMM-IRA share for 2015 is at P18 billion. In the additional LGU (local government unit) under the BBL proposal, there is an additional P1.80 billion share, which makes the IRA share at P19.8 billion. BBL still wants a continuous IRA share coming from different parts of the Philippines even after the law is passed, but the national government will not have a single centavo share from their IRA,” he pointed out.

Escudero also debunked the position of the government peace negotiators that the BBL does not have a high price tag in terms of budget.

The Annual Block Grant alone, which is by far the biggest amount among the breakdown, he said, seems to have been left out in terms of numbers in the proposal.

“The proposal did not specify the exact amount of this fund. But take note that under Article XII, Section 15 of the BBL proposal, the block grant cannot be lower than the last budget received by the ARMM. For 2015, ARMM received P25.22 billion,” said the senator.

“We are pouring in so much money in the region. What are we, our people, getting out of it? That’s why we have to study it carefully, specify all items carefully, fairly and judiciously,” Escudero added.

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