The agreement on wealth-sharing the government signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Fund (MILF) will provide more fiscal space to the proposed Bangsamoro government that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“We will have a far better sets of institutions and powers for the Bangsamoro government than what is currently enjoyed in the ARMM. That is for sure,” the government’s chief negotiator, Miriam Ferrer, said during a press briefing in Malacañang on Monday.
The government and MILF negotiators signed the annex on wealth sharing in Kuala Lumpur late last week.
Ferrer described the annex as fair, viable, and constitutional, “and something that will serve the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.”
This document is a result of rigorous and earnest discussions that began at the technical working group level in August last year, she said.
The political arrangement, Ferrer said, is not wealth sharing between the MILF and the government, but “between the central government and the Bangsamoro.”
She cited the importance of the Constitution as part of the whole consideration to be able to reach the aspiration with regards to fiscal matters.
”You have to be sure that you’re quoting the Constitution accurately,” Ferrer said as she compared the newly signed pact with the current ARMM where the local governments have jurisdiction over resources on their ground. “That is not at all what it says in the Constitution.”
She said the Charter mandates that “functions shall be devolved to local governments, that there shall be an autonomous region enjoying the following powers, and it talks about development and so many other items.”
”That is why the Constitution itself provided the solution, the general parameters on which this conflict will be resolved. And, if you check other constitutions, you will know that it stands tall as far as the standards, international standards, with reference to democracy are concerned. Our Constitution provides for the rights of indigenous peoples to their culture, to their ancestral domain,” she told reporters.
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles said the pact was completed under the “close guidance of the President.”
”Always mindful of the President’s instructions to the panel from the very start that we should learn our lessons from the past, that everything that is signed will be delivered, and on the other which—the other side of which means we will not sign anything that we cannot deliver,” she said.
Deles said every member of Cabinet “knows what part they will play in making sure that peace will be sustainable.”
“This is not just the work of the panel, not just the work of OPAPP, that this is the work of the entire government because it is a peace that is going to be fully delivered,” she said.
The eight-page annex has 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, additional fiscal powers, among others.
One of the highlights is the agreed sharing formula on taxing powers. Both parties agreed that 75 percent of the national taxes collected will go to the Bangsamoro, and 25 percent to the national government.
In terms of revenues from the natural resources such as metallic minerals (sand, gravel, and quarry resources), the Bangsamoro will also get 75 percent and the national government will have a share of 25 percent.
Both will have an equal share in revenues from energy resources such as fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and coal) and uranium.
With regard to other sources of revenue, “government income derived from the operations of Bangsamoro government-owned and -controlled corporations, financial institutions, economic zones, and freeports operating therein, shall go to the Bangsamoro Government.”
The Bangsamoro will have authority and control over existing government-owned and -controlled corporations and financial institutions operating exclusively in the territory.
The government will set up a Special Development Fund “for rehabilitation and development purposes upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”
A Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) official on Monday welcomed the agreement as a guarantee that peace negotiations will continue.
Bishop Angelito Lampon of the CBCP–Episcopal Commission on Inter-Religious Dialogue (ECID) said that while there may be perceptions that the deal favors the MILF more than the government, the agreement will still benefit both parties in the long run.
“What is important is to keep the peace process moving,” Lampon said in an interview over the Church-run radio.
“If it is reasonable enough, then it would be best to concede first then subject it to further negotiation. The important thing is that the peace talks progress,” he said.
WITH A REPORT FROM JOHANNA M. SAMPAN