Group formed to assess Mindanao budget share
Photo: MINDANAO’S TURN. MinDA Deputy Executive Director Asec. Romeo Montenegro calls on the Department of Budget and Management to take on a “pro-Mindanao” perspective in evaluating the budget for Mindanao during a Mindanao Affairs Committee session at the House of Representatives, Quezon City. As the primary agency for providing strategic leadership in Mindanao, MinDA advocates for an increase in the budget allocation of up to PhP 1.35 trillion in order to facilitate the socio-economic growth in Mindanao. A technical working group that will review Mindanao’s allocation of the national budget for 2019 and onwards will be convening in Congress next week to come up realistic context of what Mindanao truly needs, budget-wise, a Mindanao solon says.

During a session with the Mindanao Affairs Committee and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) at the House of Representatives Tuesday, committee chairperson Representative Maximo Rodriguez Jr., second district, Cagayan de Oro City, noted that this group will meet at the sidelines of Congress hearings starting next week.

“In order to address the pressing issue of poverty incidence, as well as map out the bigger picture of spurring inclusive socio-economic growth, it is high time that we conduct an in-depth analysis to identify which sectors of our budgeting needs immediate revisions so that we can meet this administration’s economic goals for Mindanao as indicated in the Dutertenomics framework,” Rep. Rodriguez said.

The Dutertenomics target looks at a 7-8% growth rate in Mindanao’s economy by 2022 but with the current budget allocation rate of Mindanao, which currently stands at around 12% out of the national total, reaching this goal may pose a great challenge.

The committee will be composed of representatives from the Mindanao Affairs Committee, the DBM, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and its Investment Coordination Committee (ICC), the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), and other relevant government agencies.

Rodriguez also highlighted MinDA’s ongoing budget study as a jumpstart for identifying the extent of the necessary amendments.   

MinDA Deputy Executive Director Assistant Secretary Romeo Montenegro noted that despite the increase of the budget for Mindanao as reported by the Department of Budget and Management, its ratio in relation to the overall national expenditure remains far from desired levels.

“Take the national budget for electrification as an example. Mindanao gets the equal amount of budget with the other regions despite having the lowest electrification rate across the country. We need to look at the bigger gaps in Mindanao that can be addressed through strategic and equitable budgetary allocation to ensure that development is inclusive,” he added. 

He added that Mindanao is only getting roughly 12% of the national budget compared to DBM’s earlier report of 16%, which discounts the National Capital Region in the picture.

“This is why we are urging for DBM to assume a pro-Mindanao lens in terms of understanding how our national funding should be allocated and in pushing for a more inclusive growth in Mindanao,” Montenegro said.

With this, MinDA’s budget study looks at a projected PhP 1.35 trillion increase in budget that will be spread on a four-year period. Some of the targeted industries in this amendment will cover big-ticket infrastructure projects identified under the agency’s Mindanao Development Corridors (MinDC) strategy, which includes Mindanao-wide transport connectivity and logistics networks, industry development initiatives, SMEs, and ecotourism among others.

The agency’s economic corridor strategy also sees the inclusion of the Bangsamoro Development Corridor which aims at deploying viable infrastructure, logistics, and connectivity modes in order to re-integrate the areas of Lupa Sug, Maguindanao, and Ranaw to the growth centers of the island-region.

This move is likewise seen to correspond with the administration’s thrust towards the shift to a federal form of government by ensuring that the proposed Federal states in the Mindanao are maximized to their full potential.

The systemic shift to federal form of government had been pushed by MinDA Chair Secretary Datu Abul Khayr Alonto in recent public fora as a viable transition to the kind of governance where Mindanao would be able to have greater opportunity to chart its own destiny