DAVAO CITY – The seven mechanisms under the National Government – Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB) have been established and are now working in full swing.

This was highlighted during the 16th IGRB meeting held on Thursday, November 9, this city.

These IGR mechanisms include the Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum (PCBPF); Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board (IFPB); Joint Body for the Zones of Joint Cooperation (JBZJC); Intergovernmental Infrastructure Development Board (IFPB); Intergovernmental Energy Board (IEB); and Bangsamoro Sustainable Development Board (BSDB); and the Council of Leaders.
Major milestones, long-term solutions

In her opening message, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman lauded the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government for the significant milestones it has achieved since the IGRB convened under the Marcos Administration last July.

According to Pangandaman, who also serves as IGRB co-chair for the national government side, the BARMM government has been instrumental in achieving the major objectives of the body, and that is, “to set in place all the IGR mechanisms provided in the Bangsamoro Law before the year ends.”

In particular, she cited the successful creation and launching of the Council of Leaders last August 2023 wherein she was adopted as a regular member of the council.

“On my part, I wish to assure you of my continued support, as well as my strengthened commitment to assist in every way I can in governing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” Pangandaman said.

The budget chief reported that on November 3 this year, the Philippine and Japan governments signed a deal worth Php 376 million in Japanese aid, which aims to support the construction of road projects as well as support emergency response interventions that will mitigate and manage the impact of calamities and other natural disasters in the BARMM.

“More importantly, this endeavor will further boost the implementation of long-term solutions to achieve our major objectives, including local economic development and lasting peace,” she stressed.

Pangandaman said the DBM is also implementing its Public Financial Management Competency Program (PFMCP) in the BARMM.

“This initiative seeks to continuously capacitate our PFM practitioners and executives of different provincial offices. The last one we had was in October 2023, with participants from Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, and Maguindanao,” she explained.

Pangandaman bared that the DBM has also fully released the BARMM’s Annual Block Grant for FY 2023 “to assist the region in achieving meaningful autonomy. On top of this, we have also released Php 5 billion to fund the rehabilitation of conflict-ridden communities.”

The budget chief revealed the House of Representatives has turned over to the Senate its version of the P5.768-trillion proposed budget for 2024, as the lawmakers said they should be able to complete the budget deliberations in the next four or five weeks.

Based on the DBM’s spending plan for the upcoming year, Pangandaman said that a total of Php 80.6 billion has been earmarked for financial assistance to BARMM.

This amount, she pointed out, includes the Annual Block Grant with Php 70.5 billion, reflecting an increase of 9% from 2023, while infrastructure development projects for the BARMM will be sourced from the Php 5.3 billion PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) Program.

“As I would always emphasize, in our journey toward achieving a future-proof and sustainable economy, no Filipino is left behind, including, most importantly, the Bangsamoro,” Pangandaman said.

Fostering a sense of ‘community’

For his part, BARMM Minister of Basic, Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal, who also serves as IGRB co-chair, credited the “dynamics” of the body for fostering a stronger sense of “community” between the national and Bangsamoro governments.

“The foundation we stand on is the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), a by-product of the peace process and the legal translation of the Bangsamoro’s struggle for self-determination,” Iqbal said.

“Slowly, we are strengthening the foundation – one that I hope will transcend the transition period – through our shared values of respect, among others, as well as our mutual commitment and efforts to resolve issues in a non-adversarial manner,” he added.

Iqbal thanked Pangandaman, as well as expressed his gratitude to IGRB co-members “for giving due recognition to our unique situation in the BARMM, and for harnessing the role of the IGRB along the way.”

He also thanked his fellow civil servants in the Bangsamoro government for their utmost dedication and service to the Bangsamoro people to whom they are all accountable to.

“As we are almost at the end of 2023, Alhamdulilah, we have accomplished many things in the IGR Body,” Iqbal said.

IGRB, key to sustaining BARMM’s socioecon dev’t

Meanwhile, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. lauded IGRB co-chairs Pangandaman and Iqbal and representatives of member-agencies and ministries for the body’s many accomplishments this year.

Galvez pointed out that the IGRB has done a remarkable job, considering that it has already convened five times this year under the Marcos Administration.

“At the rate the IGRB is going now, we have no doubt that it will be able to efficiently carry out its mandate, address pressing issues brought to its attention, and achieve all its tasks and deliverables,” he said.

Galvez said that the activation and full operation Ali toon of the seven IGRB mechanisms is a testament of the body’s capacity to perform its key functions, which is to establish institutions that will “uplift the lives of the Bangsamoro people and unleash the full socioeconomic potential of the region.”

He noted that the IGRB’s mechanisms will be critical, as the Bangsamoro continues to develop into a leading commercial, investment and tourism hub.

“The BARMM has become a show window of peace and development not only in Mindanao, but throughout the country. The IGRB mechanisms will, therefore, be essential in sustaining the region’s march towards greater economic empowerment and progress,” Galvez said.

In particular, he highlighted the accomplishments of the Intergovernmental Energy Board (IEB), which include the issuance of a circular on the Joint Award of Petroleum Service Contract (PSCs) and Coal Operating Contracts (COCs) in the BARMM.

“The circular on PSCs and COSs. which was signed by Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla and BARMM Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy Minister Akmad A. Brahim, was witnessed by no less than President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. This is proof that the region is gearing up for big-ticket energy projects,” Galvez said.

He also cited the achievements of the Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board (IFPB) which include the establishment in 2022 of the Shari’ah Supervisory Board; the issuance of a resolution determining the taxable elements of capital gains tax, documentary stamp tax, donor’s tax, and estate tax adopted on December 1, 2022; and the delineation of tax administration functions in the BARMM, which was approved on Jun 7, 2023.

“With the issuance of the IFPB, the BARMM government will be able to develop the capacity to further enhance its tax system, and consequently, boost its tax revenues and provide better services to its people,” Galvez said.

The peace adviser also cited the IGRB’s resolution of key concerns such as the establishment of the Professional Regulatory Commission’s (PRC) satellite office in the BARMM, as well as the recognition of the BARMM Land Transportation Office’s (BLTO) mandate to issue driver’s Licenses, renew motor vehicle registration, and conduct miscellaneous transactions “is solid proof that the body can effectively bridge the gap between the national and Bangsamoro governments.”

“With these IGRB mechanisms in place, we have no doubt that the BARMM government will be able to live up to its promise to its people, and that is to give them a better, brighter and more peaceful future,” Galvez said. ###