House panels okay BBL with opt-in provision

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THE House panels on Muslim Affairs and Peace, Unity and Reconciliation have approved the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) providing for an opt-in provision, wherein all other contiguous areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) could be included in the new Bangsamoro Region.

The affirmative vote on the proposed BBL or House Bill 6475, as authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte, was carried during an executive session late Monday.

The House Committee on Local Government voted against the measure.

House Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema of Maguindanao moved for the approval of the proposed BBL, which will also abolish the ARMM and replace it with the Bangsamoro Region that will enjoy wider autonomy.


The Bangsamoro Region will include provinces under ARMM, six municipalities in Lanao del Norte namely Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal that joined the ARMM in a plebiscite in 2001, and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela.

Under the opt-in provision, contiguous areas of the ARMM may join the Bangsamoro Region provided there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the registered voters in the geographic area asking for their inclusion, at least two months prior to the ratification of the BBL.

Majority of the voters in these areas must also vote in favor of their inclusion in the Bangsamoro Region.

The draft BBL states that the Bangsamoro Parliament may create, divide, merge, abolish or substantially alter boundaries of provinces, cities, municipalities or barangay (villages), subject to the approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.

The Bangsamoro Parliament may also form appropriate local government units in the areas inhabited predominantly by indigenous peoples.

These provisions do not apply to congressional districts.

Power-sharing
House Bill 6475 retains the national government’s power and control over defense and external security, and allows the establishment of the Bangsamoro Military Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

It also allows the establishment of the Bangsamoro Police Force, which will be in charge of law enforcement and maintenance of peace and order in the Bangsamoro. This unit will be under the Philippine National Police.

Government revenues generated from the exploration, development and utilization of all natural resources in the Bangsamoro, inclusive of mines and minerals, will be exclusively managed and accessed by the Bangsamoro government.

Fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas, coal as well as uranium, however, will be co-managed and the revenues shared equally between the national and Bangsamoro governments.

Exclusive
The proposed BBL gives the Bangsamoro government the exclusive authority to regulate and exercise authority over foreign investments within its jurisdiction. The national government, however, may intervene in such matters if national security is involved.

The BBL also allows the Bangsamoro government to declare a state of calamity over its territorial jurisdiction or parts thereof whenever typhoons, flash floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, or other natural calamities cause widespread damage or destruction to life or property in the region.

Moreover, the measure states that the Bangsamoro government can temporarily take over or direct operation of any privately owned public utility or business affected with public interest under the following situations: in times of calamity as declared by the Chief Minister, when the public interest so requires and under reasonable terms and standards as may be prescribed by the Parliament.

The public utility or business concerned may contest the takeover of its operations by the Bangsamoro government by filing a case or petition with the Court of Appeals.

The House panels have yet to draft a committee report on House Bill 6475 but are expected to have it ready by May 15 when the House resumes sessions.

The BBL failed to hurdle congressional approval during the Aquino administration after the massacre by Moro rebels of 44 Special Action Forces in a botch counter-terror operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015.

Before the proposed BBL, the MILF and the government under the Arroyo administration agreed on a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in July 2008 creating a “Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.”

The MOA-AD, however, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in October 2008.

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