• Aquino to meet ARMM leaders in summit

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    COTABATO CITY: President Benigno Aquino 3rd is set to meet provincial and municipal chief executives of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in a summit to tackle issues surrounding the establishment of the Bangsamoro autonomous political entity and disaster risk management on Tuesday, officials said on Sunday.

    ARMM’s information bureau said “all is set” for Tuesday’s summit which will be held at the Insular Water Front Hotel in Davao City.

    On Friday, Laisa Alamia, ARMM executive secretary, said the five governors of ARMM, 118 mayors, and legislators from the region are expected to attend the event.

    She said the summit will tackle the role of the various local government units in ARMM in disaster risk management, mitigation and response.

    Alamia added that the creation of the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous political entity will be discussed during the summit.

    Rallying support
    Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the President’s main purpose for attending the summit is to encourage ARMM leaders to unite and help the peace process move towards the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity.

    “Aalamin din po ng Pangulo kung mayroong mga iba pang mahalagang usapin na local concerns ang mga local executives sa ARMM para matiyak na tumutugon ang pambansang pamahalaan sa kanilang mga pangangailangan [The President also wants to know if the local executives have concerns that the national government needs to address],” he added.

    Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas over the weekend called on governors, mayors, and other local officials in Mindanao to support the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), which was forged recently by the National Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

    Roxas noted that local officials are in the best position to explain to their constituents the advantages of creating a new Bangsamoro Region as a necessary step in securing peace in Mindanao.

    “Together with the President, I celebrate with the whole of Mindanao and the entire country on the potential that the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement brings,” Roxas said during the opening ceremony of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) office in Cotabato City.

    “The Framework Agreement is a crucial and necessary first step towards lasting peace and development in Mindanao. Thus, I ask for everyone’s support so that we can hurdle the challenges ahead and succeed in transforming this nascent promise into reality,” he added.

    Fast-tracking the law
    Earlier, the President urged the BTC to “fast-track the completion of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law [BBL] to ensure its passage and ratification with ample time to finish the transition tasks in time for the 2016 elections.”

    The BTC is tasked to draft the BBL that will be certified urgent by the President and submitted to Congress for passage. It will undergo a plebiscite in the proposed Bangsamoro core territory pursuant to the FAB. Once ratified, the ARMM would be deemed abolished and the new Bangsamoro region will be formally established.

    Meanwhile, Senate President Franklin Drilon said he and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte have agreed to work for the smooth passage of the BBL in due time.

    Initially, Drilon said, the Senate Committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation led by Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd was tasked to review the FAB and its Annexes.

    Seeking allotments
    In Tuesday’s summit, moreover, ARMM officials, especially those from provinces with towns that do not get internal revenue allotments like Maguindanao, are expected to convey to the President their desire for a remedy under the BBL.

    There are 12 towns in ARMM that have not received IRAs since their creation six or seven years ago by the regional legislative assembly. Eight of those towns belong to Maguindanao, according to Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu of the province’s second district, who reportedly met with the BTC and fellow lawmakers in a move to address the deficiency.

    Each of the 12 IRA-less towns has a population that does not reach 25,000. Under the Local Government Code of 2001, a municipality needs to have a population of 25,000 or more to qualify for the regular revenue allotment.

    Officials of three of the IRA-less towns in Maguindanao admitted in a recent press conference their failure to monitor or prevent the roaming or encampment of recalcitrant Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in their communities due to lack of government subsidies.

    WITH JING VILLAMENTE AND CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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