Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd called on lawmakers to tread carefully and learn from the country’s experience in the devolution of the national government’s health and agriculture functions to the local government units (LGUs) in crafting a basic law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
Dominguez said the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should “be open to changes” to allow Bangsamoro autonomy “to evolve by abandoning its mistakes and strengthening its positive aspects.”
“We recommend that lawmakers should look at past experiences in devolving certain basic services to learn from them and take into consideration these lessons when crafting the BBL,” Dominguez said at the joint public hearing on the BBL led by the House committee on local government led by Rep. Pedro Acharon.
“Devolving power is a process. It requires some hard thinking. It requires time to build capacities, grow institutions and evolve appropriate civic cultures. When it comes to reinventing the institutions of governance, haste may sometimes make waste,” the Finance chief said.
Dominguez, who was invited to the hearing as a resource person on the crafting of the BBL, said treading carefully on implementing the BBL and being open to changes as the system evolves “is much better than having a rigid system with a lot of gray areas.”
He said the goal of devolution or autonomy should be “to bring economic development to the people of the area covered by this arrangement.”
“Let us make sure that the law enacted for the purpose of establishing a Bangsamoro entity is designed precisely to make economic progress more feasible for its defined area,” Dominguez said.
Based on 2016 data, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) had the lowest Gross National Income among the regions. The per capita Gross Regional Domestic Product in the National Capital Region (NCR) was the country’s highest at P431,783 and that of ARMM was the lowest at only P27,345 in current prices.
In 2016, the NCR’s economy grew by 7.5 percent, while the ARMM’s expanded by only 0.3 percent in real terms.
ARMM’s per-capita GRDP was a measly six percent of NCR’s, according to Dominguez.
“Reinvigorating the economy in the autonomous region is necessary to ensure the success of the BBL,” he said.
“We need time to build capacity for the autonomous region. Time is necessary to build the credibility at governance, win a suitable credit rating and demonstrate a capacity for exercising fiscal discipline.”