THE ARMM RISES EVEN WITHOUT BBL

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THE ARMM RISES EVEN WITHOUT BBL

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cartoon editorialEVEN WITHOUT THE BBL  (Bangsamoro Basic Law), the ARMM (Autonomous  Region of Muslim Mindanao)  will rise to its glorious destiny as a progressive entity.

In the past, the ARMM had suffered from the surfeit of bad news. Biased views like “only a dead Moro is a good Moro” prevailed and their local leaders lived in plush mansions and had a fleet of cars but surrounded by unspeakable poverty among the common folks.

During elections, it was known as the “Cheating Capital” of the nation -where national poll results can be  treacherously tilted in balance to  favored candidates. Poverty and violence were its nicknames and the educational system suffered from a corrupt system that a teacher’s position can be possessed at a price of P 150,000; never mind the applicant’s qualifications.

Discovered was P 1-Billion worth of unpaid GSIS premiums of the Department of Education-ARMM. and millions of COA-uncovered unliquidated advances. And of course, the Maguindanao Massacre, considered the worst political violence inflicted on the nation, showing the impunity of entrenched war lords.  Poverty incidence climbed up to 54%, higher than the national average of 26% in 2009,

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ARMM Governor Mujiv S. Hataman said that  , through the help of the national government, the Eishenhower Fellowships Foundation and the Ayala Foundation plus donor communities like the World Bank- United Nations  Fastrach Program and Asian Development Bank , the ARMM  has gone north 360 degrees from 2010.

Many despaired then that not even Prophet Muhammad or Jesus Christ could change the ugly reality in the ARMM ; today infrastructure, health and  education targets are being met.

The GAA (national budget allocation) of ARMM rose from just P1-Billion in 2011 to P25-Billion in 2015. The classroom-to -student ratio has vastly improved because  1,502 new classrooms have been built. Rise in teacher quality likewise caused the ARMM student performance in the National Achievement Test to rise  from 56 percent  in 2012 to 62 percent in 2014 for elementary and from 38 percent to 44 percent for high school.

In health services, 101 of the 116 towns and two cities  have Rural Health Units and increased  Philhealth beneficiaries total 1.5 million, representing 80 percent. Across the region,the DPWH, Hataman informed,  poured in additional P2.9_billion for road projects while the P1.5 Billion 2012  infrastructure budget for the region, this rose to P5-Billion.

Because of the improved security and governance conditions in ARMM, the private sector will open a P3.7-Billion Cavendish banana farm project, a P1.3-Billion  palm oil plantation  and a P400-Million  Napier grass-based fuel production facility in the ARMM this year.  This will certainly eclipse the P1.46 -Billion  total private sector investment in 2014.

The Personnel selection for government has  also been very stringent that consequently  qualified the region for Performance-Based bonus worth P5-Million distributed to  the ARMM government personnel.

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The last 5 years indeed proved that with  enough political – even  a problematic region can attain paths of real growth.

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One provincial blueprint in the ARMM that  has been successful is  in the island-province of Basilan. The province had for a long time -due to peace concerns-lost its primary role as an economically  viable province in the 1930’s -and as a rubber and fishery center in the 1990’s.

In particular, Basilan’s  health status has improved with  all municipalities having at least one doctor, barangays having  midwives and ambulances forthcoming from the PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office). Infanticipating women now can run to half-way homes one week before delivery and there is a project called LEADCOM , an antidote to youth corruption.  These data were revealed by Ariel Hernnadez, program coordinator  and EPAP executive director.

Budgets can be summarized into either “Catch Up” funds and “special development funds”. The World Bank-United Nations  represented by  Sam Chittick  mentioned that he considered it as  huge gains in the peace building process in a “region that is used to resolve conflicts with violence” which is embedded in their unique culture.

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The Asian Development Bank makes haste slowly referring to the 10 years it took for  Indonesia to fully implement its development plan even as  Richard Bolt saw the need for ” local ownership of the projects” and  the need for national government commitment.

Economist and former NEDA head Ciel Habito asked people to look at Basilan with its 26,000 hectares developed for rubber and 10,000 OFWs that provide a huge consumer market necessitating the establishment of malls.

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Meanwhile, the Ayala Foundation through Jaime Zobel de Ayala reiterated its support for the youth development program of the ARMMM, recently youth leaders from Basilan  who underwent a 28-day tour of the provinces and hoping  to bring the “best practices” that they have seen into their respective barangays.

A steep departure indeed from the heinous past where ” older leaders who saw potential good young leaders literally  sought to kill them” since they posed a threat to their antiquated leadership.

ARMM as an engine of development with Basilan as a prime example has proven that even outside the ambit of the new BBL, genuine peace and prosperity can still be within reach in this heretofore God-forsaken, backward region. Rise, ARMM.

For comments: email to dejarescobingo@yahoo.com or bohol-rd@mozcom.com

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