BBL low priority for congressmen

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PASSAGE of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has become more uncertain as Malacañang shifted its priority to timely passage of the 2016 budget, according to a Palace spokesman on Thursday.

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In an interview over state-run Radyo ng Bayan, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the House of Representatives and the Senate will give its “highest priority” to approving next year’s General Appropriations Act (GAA).

“In the House calendar, they will begin next week the plenary on the proposed [GAA]… This will get the highest priority of Congress, the passage of the national budget,” stressed the official.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. earlier said passing the BBL in time will be close to impossible, considering the importance of other pending measures such as the GAA.

Coloma said it will only be after the plenary on the budget that lawmakers can resume consideration of the BBL, which seeks to establish a new political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“After the budget, they will resume interpellations on the BBL. That is the reason why discussions will be delayed,” he explained.

BBL proponents remain hopeful that they can pass the measure by December 16, or days before lawmakers take their Christmas break.

According to Coloma, they are in close contact with Congress leaders with regard to the BBL, noting that there are still a number of congressmen who are lined up for interpellation.

“We will give way to these [Interpellations] to complete the discussions because the [BBL] is a very important issue for the country,” the Palace official said.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process also on Thursday reported that representatives of international donor countries expressed optimism that the Bangsamoro peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front would succeed despite tough challenges.

During a recent security summit, international observers noted that the peace and order situation and the economic condition of Mindanao have improved, if slowly, since the two groups agreed on a formal ceasefire in 1997.

To this day, OPAPP said relative peace is holding despite the slow progress in the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity and sporadic violence in Mindanao.

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