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ARMM willing to set aside fund for Bangsamoro plebiscite

COTABATO CITY – The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM on Sunday said it could set aside a fraction of its 2019 budget to fund the a plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law or BOL set in January next year if in case national fund for the referendum does not come on time.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman made the suggestion so the plebiscite may be held according to its timeline. “We support the BOL all the way and budget should not be a problem; we are recommending to allow part of the ARMM proposed budget to be used for the plebiscite,” he said following reports that there is no allocation in the P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget for the referendum, which requires P857 million.

Lawmakers have said that the P10-billion budget submitted by the Commission on Elections for 2019 does not include expenditures for the plebiscite.

Gov. Hataman, a strong advocate of the BOL, said Congress may realign over P800 million for the plebiscite from the P10.1 billion infrastructure fund for the region proposed by the ARMM next year.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11054, or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on July 26, days after his State of the Nation Address.

The past week, the ARMM received approval for the 2019 regional budget amounting to roughly P32 billion, a third of which will be for infrastructure. It remains uncertain if Congress can still work out a solution to the problem, specifically in allocating the funds needed to hold the plebiscite.

This plebiscite seeks to formally create the BARMM, comprising of areas under ARMM’s existing jurisdiction, as well as affirm or reject the inclusion in the new region of the cities of Cotabato in Maguindanao; and Isabela in Basilan, as well as six towns in Lanao del Norte and 39 villages in North Cotabato.

Lawmakers said that if the funding problem is not settled in Congress, one option would be for the Commission on Elections to use its savings from the this year’s village polls or to seek funding from the Office of the President for the required amount.

“I put my faith in our President that he will not fail the people and he will not fail the Bangsamoro,” media reports quoted Rep. Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, of Lanao del Norte.

“I believe there is enough time for us here in the House of Representatives to be able to put in our General Appropriations Bill the necessary fund to cover the expenses for the conduct of the plebiscite,” AMIN Party-list Rep. Makmod Mending, also said.

“It is vital that the plebiscite take place as scheduled. We are looking at all the options open to us, including realignment of regional government funds because it is that important to the future of our region,” Gov. Hataman said. (Bureau of Public Information)


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