Breakthrough in wealth-sharing accord with Bangsamoro ‘a close call’

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The signing on Saturday of the wealth-sharing accord between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was a “close call,” but in the end the persistence and goodwill of the two parties “bore fruit.”

This was how the government’s chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer described the breakthrough in the signing of the annex on wealth sharing, one of the most contentious among the remaining annexes to be tackled in the framework agreement.
Presidential deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said on Sunday President Benigno Aquino 3rd lauded the signing of the annex, but did not provide other details.

In a statement on Sunday, Ferrer said described the agreement on the annex was a “close call”, but both parties’ “persistence and goodwill bore fruit.”
“We have a good package, one that we believe would make fiscal autonomy in the Bangsamoro a reality,” Ferrer said.

She said she is confident the annex will withstand scrutiny and the tests of
implementation.
“It will correct the flaws in the current fiscal system in the ARMM,” she added.
The annex, she said “seeks to fulfill the aspirations for meaningful autonomy for Muslim Mindanao that was envisioned in the Constitution.”
The panels did their best “to resolve the language issues. We succeeded because we exercised flexibility and worked hard to find the appropriate solutions,” Ferrer said.
“For the benefit of the Bangsamoro and the whole country, Government and the MILF once more demonstrated that they are invested in the process and will persevere in order to forge lasting peace in Mindanao,” she said.
The eight-page wealth-sharing annex contains sections on taxation, other sources of revenue, fees and charges, grants and donations, fund transfers from the central government, contracting of loans and overseas development assistance, natural resources, and additional fiscal powers.
One of its key points is the sharing formula on taxing powers.
The panels agreed that 25 percent of the “Central Government taxes,
fees and charges collected in the Bangsamoro, other than tariff and
custom duties” will go to the central government, while 75 percent, including the shares of the local government units, will go to the Bangsamoro government.
Bangsamoro will also keep income derived from the operations of government-owned and -controlled corporations, financial institutions, economic zones, and freeports operating in its territory.
To facilitate fund transfers, the central government will provide a Special Development Fund to the Bangsamoro “for rehabilitation and development purposes upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”
Seventy-five percent of the income from the exploration, development and utilization of metallic minerals within the region will go to the Bangsamoro government.

Revenues from non-metallic minerals (sand, gravel, and quarry resources), will go to the Bangsamoro government and its local government units.
The central and Bangsamoro governments will equally share the income from fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and coal) and uranium.

CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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