Bangsamoro transition not 'slow' but lacking funds – BTA member

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 7) — The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has been in existence for three months and it still has not received enough funding for the transition from the previous ARMM, a member of its transition body revealed.

Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) member Zafrullah Dipatuan said that the body is still negotiating with the Budget department for a ₱1.5-billion transition fund so it can operate at “full blast” while it waits for its first block grant from the national government equivalent to five percent of the net national internal revenue tax collections.

“Without the transition fund, it is grossly unfair for any national government official including the President to say that the BARMM is too slow. It is stupid to expect that any car can run in full and furious speed if it is running low on gas,” Dipatuan said Saturday in a Facebook post.

President Rodrigo Duterte said Saturday in a speech that he is seeing a “lag” in the devolution of powers from the central government by the BARMM, which is why he is appointing resigned Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol as one of his point persons to the new region.

“I am not saying that they are not moving. But ever so slow that I would need a point man there in the likes of Secretary Piñol,” Duterte said.

But Dipatuan said Duterte might be “barking at the wrong tree.”

He said BTA members were told when the body was inaugurated in February that they would receive salaries from Duterte’s contingency fund. He added that they were also told to recruit five staff members each, including a lawyer “with attractive salaries.”

However, Dipatuan said BTA members only received their salaries in the first week of July and nothing was allocated for BTA staff. He said staff members were reduced from five to three, with salaries “too low to be worth mentioning.”

“Next time national government officials complain that BARMM is slow, they better check first if the problem does not emanate from them,” Dipatuan said.

Malacañang said Tuesday that the Budget department has allotted ₱59 million for the salaries of BTA members for July to December 2019.

However, Senate Local Government committee chair Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said in April that the BARMM should be getting a ₱30-billion budget, culled from the funding originally allocated for the ARMM, which was abolished following the establishment of the new region.

The BTA holds legislative and executive powers over the BARMM and is composed of members from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as well as other government appointees.

They will be taking over the region until the first local election takes place in 2022.

The BARMM, which covers areas in the former ARMM, including Cotabato City and 63 North Cotabato barangays, was established after the Bangsamoro Organic Law was ratified last ‪January 25.‬