Engr. Baintan A. Ampatuan, CSEE
Under the General Appropriations Act of 2015 enacted by Congress, ARMM – which is practically dependent on the national government for its budgetary requirements every year – has been allocated an amount of P25.2 billion pesos. The national government expenditure program for 2015 is P2.62 trillion pesos - the biggest in a single year budget of the Philippine government.
This level of expenditures provided by the national government to ARMM is necessary to enable the Autonomous Regional Government (ARG) to carry out its functions and to implement its development plans and priority programs. For decades, ARMM has been left out in Mindanao’s development not only due to the long drawn-out conflict but also due to lack of funds for its development.
While ARMM has an autonomous character, it has no fiscal autonomy, hence unable to generate adequate local revenues needed for its operation and for its development purposes.
As a matter of review, the Organic Law mandates the national government to provide ARMM a proportionate and equitable share in the annual national budget and foreign-assisted projects in addition to other financial assistance, support and subsidies to accelerate its development.
This budgetary allocation has come at a time when ARMM, under Governor Hataman’s stewardship, urgently needs more resources in pursuing its various plans and programs that help promote peace and stability, delivery of quality services and in sustaining socio-economic and political gains in ARMM within the context of good governance, humane environment and sustainable development.
For the past twenty years (1991-2010) the average allocation of infrastructure funds to the autonomous region, which come in the form of annual assistance, is 875.000 million pesos.
But the allocation of more development funds to ARMM began following the appointment of Governor Mujiv S. Hataman as OIC Regional Governor of ARMM by President Aquino in December 2011.
The Regional Governor upon his assumption to Office enunciated his key reform agenda focused on three pillars: 1) peace and security, 2) good governance, and 3) socio-economic development with “open governance” as the overarching strategy.
Regional Governor Hataman has initiated the desired reform in structure, systems and processes of the ARMM bureaucracy with the theme “Matuwid na Pamamahala Tungo sa ARMM na Masagana’t Mapayapa”.
With the current leadership’s reform agenda, Governor Hataman enjoys the full trust and confidence of the President to carry out the necessary governance reform in ARMM.
In support to the ARMM reform agenda, major national agencies led by DILG formulated a roadmap on governance reform in ARMM which included Transition and Investment Support Plan (TISP) with estimated investment requirement of P8.5 billion pesos for 2011 and P11.5 billion pesos for 2012, respectively.
The Transition Plan was designed to improve service delivery performance on education, health and social welfare; to create an enabling environment for equitable growth in infrastructure, agriculture, environment and natural resources and agrarian reform; to reform and strengthen governance capacities by enhancing fiscal accountability, professionalizing ARMM bureaucracy and to promote greater transparency and accountability.
It was evident that the implementation of the TISP by the national government agencies in coordination with the regional counterparts in ARMM have benefited the constituencies in different parts of the autonomous region.
As part of governance reforms, the current ARMM leadership strongly promotes and observes transparency and accountability in public service. Regional Line Agencies’ compliance to good governance conditions such as: 1) Transparency seal, 2) Citizen’s charter, 3) Liquidation of cash advances, 4) Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), and 5) PhilGEPS posting in the said websites were ensured. It is the first time that twelve (12) agencies of the region have attained 100.0% compliance to the requirements of the transparency seal.
The Regional Budget Coordinating Committee (RBCC) has instituted transparent programming and allocation of the region’s resources. The committee regularly convenes to determine the extent of programs and projects implementation as well as the responsiveness of the agency targets and resource allocation.
On socio-economic development, the ARG had gained the support of the national government for the implementation of the ARMM-HELPS (Health, Education, Livelihood, Peace and Governance and Synergy) with an initial allocation of P515 Million pesos in 2014 covering 50 barangays in the region. ARMM-HELPS, a banner program of the current leadership, was designed to bring the services of the ARG closer to its people. This project will be complemented later by the ARMM BRIDGE program with an allocation of 120 Million in 2015. These are just few of the ongoing reforms that are currently taking place.
It is expected that the implementation of more development programs and projects that would be funded out of the ARMM 2015 Budget under Governor Hataman’s initiative, will create more direct and indirect impact to the social and economic welfare of the residence of the autonomous region, particularly the Bangsamoro people.
Budgetary expense class
By expense class, the 2015 ARMM approved budget of P25.2 billion pesos is broken down as follows:
Personnel Services (PS) allocated amount is P10.8 billion pesos which is equivalent to 43.1 percent of the total budget. Maintenance and Other Operating Expenditures (MOOE) is P3.1 billion pesos or 12.3 percent of the total.
The Capital Outlay (CO) allocation is P11.2 billion pesos which constitutes the biggest share equivalent to 44.6 percent of the total due mainly to the substantial allocation for infrastructure development program.
The slight increase in personnel services of P217.724 million pesos from P10.650 billion in 2014 to P10.868 billion in 2015 or equivalent to about 2.0 percent is due mainly to personal services adjustment and retirement and life insurance premium (RLIP).
It may be reckoned with, that current ARMM staff complement both at the regional and local level offices is more than 30,000 personnel, 98 percent are plantilla position.
The allocation for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenditures (MOOE) is decreased from P4.272 billion pesos in 2014 to P3.103 billion pesos in 2015 or a reduction by P1.169 billion pesos equivalent to 27.4 percent. The MOOE for 2015 no longer include allocation for Bottom-Up-Budgeting (BUB) and Salintubig Program which is one of the main reasons of the decrease in the operating expenditures.
It is interesting to mention that the Capital Outlay allocation has been increased substantially from P5.6 billion in 2014 to P11.2 billion pesos in 2015 or equivalent to 100.9 percent increase. The substantial increase has been noted in the annual infrastructure funds. This would mean that more infrastructure projects will be implemented in many parts of the region during the year.
This amount, though, has been long in coming. As early as 2001 or fourteen years back, RA 9054 provides that, in addition to its regular operation, the ARG shall be provided by the national government an annual assistance to fund infrastructure projects, and shall be included in the General Appropriations Act ( Sec. 11, Act XVIII).
Sectoral and agency distribution
An analysis of the sectoral and agency distribution of the 2015 approved budget of ARMM indicated that the P11.257 billion shares of the infrastructure sector is programmed as follows: a) Annual Infrastructure Projects, P10.103 billion pesos; b) ARMM-HELPS, P949.7 million pesos; c) Regular Program, P97.0 million; d) BRIDGE-ORG, P57.4 million, and e) PAMANA, P50.0 million pesos.
Part of the P11.257 billion infrastructure budget is P503.425 million pesos for DPWH and P59.499 for DOTC, respectively. The two departments led the ARG in the planning, programming and implementation of infrastructure programs in ARMM.
The Social Services Sector and its agencies got the second biggest share with a total of P10.234 billion pesos or 40.6 percent of the total budget.
The education department got the lion share of P8.836 billion pesos or equivalent to 35.0 percent of the total budget of ARMM. However, more than 95 percent of the education department’s share goes to personal services that leave too little for development expenditures.
The other agency that got bigger allocation is the health department amounting to P691.604 million pesos. The remaining amount is shared by CHED, DSWD, TESDA, DOLE, OSCC and RTWPB.
The remaining amount of about P981.414 million pesos goes to various agencies (DAF, DENR, DAR, DTI, DOST, RBOI, DOT and CDA) under the Economic Sector.
The sectoral sharing implies that infrastructure and education programs and projects of ARMM are the priority thrusts of the Hataman’s Administration for 2015. This is understandable considering that the autonomous region has to upgrade its infrastructure facilities in order to be competitive with the other regions in Mindanao. On one hand, the autonomous region needs to invest more in educational development program considering that the literacy rate of ARMM is the lowest in the country.
Priority Infrastructure Programs and Projects
Based on the 2014 yearend report of the DPWH-ARMM, the 2015 P10.103 billion pesos annual infrastructure funds of the ARG will be utilized for the implementation of programs and projects to include the following: a) Rehabilitation/ construction of 505.312 kms. of major and local roads; b) Rehabilitation/ construction of 35 bridges; c) Expansion/ construction of 35 seaports and 91 water supply projects; and d) Construction of 8 shore protection and construction of 37 flood control and drainage structures.
Provincial allocation by project category
To ensure inclusive and equitable growth and development of the component provinces of the autonomous region, the Hataman Administration has allocated funds for the implementation of numerous infrastructure programs and projects in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.
The province of Basilan has been allocated a total of P3.073 billion pesos for the construction and or rehabilitation of 93 infrastructure projects including 11 major roads and 36 local roads, 13 water supplies, 25 seaports, 4 bridges, 2 shore protection walls, 2 drainages and 4 box culvert. Basilan province has some high impact infrastructure projects that have to be implemented to spur the socio-economic development of the province.
The province of Sulu got an allocation of P2.416 billion pesos for its two (2) Districts. The 1st District is allocated P1.272 billion pesos for the construction of 64 infrastructure projects that include 35 major roads, 13 local roads, 10 water supplies, 4 seaports, 1 bridge and 1 shore protection wall.
The 2nd District of Sulu is allocated P1.144 billion pesos for the construction and or rehabilitation of 44 projects that cover 7 major roads, 17 local roads, 10 water supplies, 7 seaports, 2 drainages and 1 shore protection wall.
The Province of Tawi-Tawi has been allocated a total of P 1.099 billion for the construction and or rehabilitation of 75 projects which constitute 17 major roads, 24 local roads, 7 water supply, 3 seaports, 19 bridges, 4 shore protection walls and 1 drainage.
The Province of Maguindanao got a total allocation of P1.974 billion pesos for the implementation of 98 projects both for its two districts. The 1st District got a share of P942.520 million pesos for the construction and or rehabilitation of 11 major roads, 9 local roads, 9 water supply, 4 seaports and 1 bridge.
The 2nd District of the province is allocated P1.032 billion pesos for the construction/rehabilitation of 55 projects to include 18 major roads, 9 local roads, 17 water supplies, 1 bridge and 10 drainage.
A total of P1.452 billion pesos have been programmed for the two districts of the Province of Lanao del Sur. Its 1st District is allocated P828.020 million pesos to fund 47 projects which include 16 major roads, 12 local roads, 5 water supplies, 2 seaports, 6 bridges, and 6 drainages.
The 2nd District of the province is given P624.320 million pesos intended for its 39 projects which cover 15 major roads, 22 local roads, 9 water supplies and 6 bridges.
The successful implementation of the various infrastructure programs and projects to be funded out of more than P10.0 billion infrastructure budget will have tremendous impact on the economic and social well-being of the constituents of the autonomous region, particularly the Bangsamoro people.
Better roads, bridges, and communication facilities in ARMM help the region to attract investors in this region. In consequence, the increase in local and foreign investment in ARMM would mean higher income to producers, more employment generation and increased revenue for the regional and local governments.
Roads play an important role in the growth and development of the region. Major rural roads serve as main access routes to agricultural areas and facilitate the movement of agricultural products from the farms to the market outlets in the urban centers. In turn, the farmers and fishermen will get the right prices for their products and will increase their farm income.
Access to safe water is essential not only for human survival but also to improve the lives of people, particularly the poor and the marginalized. Safe water is a necessary requisite in the development of healthier and more productive communities in ARMM.
Water supply forms part of broader water sector in ARMM which include irrigation, drainage and flood control.
Owing to its geography, sea transport is crucial to the domestic and international trade network in ARMM. Seaport projects, therefore, are integral part of ARMM’s total transport system.
For this reason, the seaport projects are the major component of the overall transport development program in the autonomous region.
Seaports in ARMM cater to both foreign and domestic vessels. As mentioned earlier, there will be a construction and expansion of some 45 seaports in ARMM particularly in the island provinces.
More seaports in ARMM would increase traffic and trade volume and improve cargo handling; increased skilled labor and increased income.
Engr. Baintan A. Ampatuan is the incumbent Executive Director of the Regional Planning and Development Office (RPDO).
Diamadel E. Dumagay is the Executive Director of Tripartite Solidarity Forum, Inc. and former Executive Director of RPDO-ARMM.