Monday Oct, 14 2019 06:58:44 AM

IAG, Ateneo School of Government launch knowledge portal on Bangsamoro

Breaking News • 23:30 PM Fri May 31, 2019
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IAG news release
accessbangsamoro.ph

A knowledge portal that promises to be a credible capacity-building online infrastructure for the Bangsamoro has been unveiled today during a short ceremony in Cotabato City.    

Access Bangsamoro is an online and social media portal that aims to promote the free flow of information, discussions and analyses for the effective implementation 
of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and successful transition to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).    

Maintained and hosted by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) and the Policy Center of the  Ateneo School of Government (ASOG) with funding  assistance from the Government of Australia, “the Access Bangsamoro portal can potentially be a game-changer and a force for good in the Bangsamoro,” said IAG Executive Director Benedicto Bacani.    

The launching ceremony in Cotabato City highlighted the messages of support from BARMM Chief Minister  Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Presidential Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.  and Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson.    

Chief Minister Ebrahim said the Bangsamoro Government is committed to support Access Bangsamoro with the “hope that the portal will provide a significant space for research and discussions  that  will promote  transparency, accountability and moral governance  in  the Bangsamoro.”  

“While we continue to face critical issues and challenges during this transition period, we in the  Bangsamoro Government will remain steadfast in pursuing good governance in the region. It is then our hope  that the Access Bangsamoro would also be instrumental  in pursuit of such noble cause,” added the BARMM chief minister who assumed the leadership of the expanded autonomous region in southern Philippines only last February.    

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana lauded Access  Bangsamoro, calling it a  “masterfully designed” concept that can “bring stakeholders together to openly exchange views on how to realize prospects and address gaps and challenges in a policy-based approach.”    

“The challenge is now upon us to maximize this  platform to achieve its objectives in assisting in the successful transition. It took us decades to be where we are now, in a state where we can finally provide our Moro brothers and sisters the real fighting chance to a peaceful  and  progressive  life,  and  the democratic space to exercise their right to self-determination. We can neither fail nor falter,” he added.    

The defense secretary was recently named by President Rodrigo Duterte as Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) for BARMM.

Secretary Lorenzana also thanked the Australian  Government for funding the project, saying the “shared endeavor is another leaf to our countries’ years of friendship.” 

Australia has allocated  about  A$85  million  for development assistance to the Philippines this year  with 50 percent focused on Mindanao specifically for  education, infrastructure, governance and planning budget.    

The IAG-ASOG Access Bangsamoro collaboration is part  of the Australian Government support to peace and stability in the Bangsamoro region.    

“During the transition period, the structures and processes to implement the Bangsamoro Organic Law and rebuild democratic institutions will be put in place. Access Bangsamoro will  serve  as  a  platform  for  education  and  discussion,  help  create  sound  and  effective evidence-based  public  policy,  and  engage  as  wide  a  part  of  society  as  possible,” Ambassador Robinson said.    

BTA-BARMM Parliament Speaker Ali Pangalian Balindong hailed Access Bangsamoro as a third-party initiative that “will definitely help push the peace envelope further forward.”    

“It will help inform the whole country of the Bangsamoro, especially that many up to now may still just think that the issues in the region are only of the region, including a host of prejudices and assumptions about the people in the region,” Speaker Balindong said.    

Secretary  Galvez  called  Access  Bangsamoro  “an  innovative initiative” that can be a “valuable tool for the BARMM government's efforts to carry out meaningful and sustainable reforms in the  region,  where  people can be apprised on what’s happening  in  the Bangsamoro, participate in discourse relating to  governance, and put their insights and suggestions forward.”   

For IAG Development Consulting Inc. (IDCI) chief  operations officer and former ARMM board of investments chief Ishak Mastura, the portal “is not just any kind of web portal but a window to the challenges of Bangsamoro modernity.”   

“For too long the Bangsamoro has struggled to keep its culture and tradition alive amidst a fast evolving modern and technological world. It is the hope of Access Bangsamoro that by leveraging today and tomorrow’s analytical and technological tools, we also strive to go up the learning curve and not remain content with our past traditions and culture that have enabled us to survive but in fact we may need them to be re-examined and adapted to the challenges of modernization,” he said.   

Lawyer Michael Henry Yusingco, a senior fellow  with  ASOG  and  IAG,  added  that  “the success  of  the  Bangsamoro  Autonomous  Region  in  Muslim  Mindanao  (BARMM)  will definitely  be  an  impetus  for  the  rest  of  the  country  to  reform  the  current  national decentralization  framework.    

Hence,  Access  Bangsamoro  can  also  help  Filipinos  how  to establish genuine and meaningful local autonomy in the country as designed by the 1987 Constitution.” 

Access  Bangsamoro  as  a  repository  of  policy  and  legislative  ideas  is  an  online  platform Yusingco  said he  would  recommend to reform-minded Filipinos,  hoping that  “it  can later evolve into a community of citizens working together not just for a stable and prosperous BARMM, but also for a better and brighter Philippines.” Access  Bangsamoro  initially  focuses  on  three policy  issues.    

These  are  intergovernmental relations, parliamentary and electoral system,  and public finance management and block grant. 

The  establishment  of  intergovernmental  relations  (IGR)  mechanisms  is  an  innovative feature  of  the  BOL  but  one  that  will  be  extremely  challenging.  

The  BOL  mandates  the creation of various IGR bodies such as the National Government-Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental  Relations  Body,  the  Philippine  Congress-Bangsamoro  Parliament Forum,  Fiscal  Policy  Board,  Joint  Body  for  Zones  of  Joint  Cooperation,  Infrastructure Development Board, Energy Board and Sustainable Development Board.    

The  most  challenging  item  in  the  BTA’s  to-do-list  is  the  familiarization  of  the  entire Bangsamoro community to the new parliamentary structure of the regional government as mandated  by  the  BOL.  

The  chief  minister  in  the  BARMM  is  not  directly  elected  by  the people unlike the regional governor in the ARMM.   

This is a totally new dynamic  because people will not only be voting for a member to the Bangsamoro Parliament, but they will also be indirectly voting for the potential chief minister.  

Public financial management, the third policy issue,  concerns the effective administration of the collection and allocation of funds by the state.   

The block grant is only one element, albeit  a  very  important  one,  of  a  broader  area  of  concern  in  the  BARMM  that  is  public finance. 

The institution of the block grant in the BOL represents a fundamental shift in the fiscal position  of  the  regional  government  of  the  BARMM.    

The  block  grant  shall  be equivalent to 5 percent of national revenue collections and shall be automatically released to  the  Bangsamoro  government  subject  to  its  full  control.    

This  is  a  significant  departure from the current arrangement wherein the ARMM is treated similarly  to a line agency  of the national government.   

A  website,  Facebook  Page,  Twitter  page  and  YouTube  channel  comprise  the  Access Bangsamoro  portal  when  it  is  launched  on  May  30.  Guests  visiting  the  website  at accessbangsamoro.ph  will  be  able  to  dig  deeper  into  the  three  policy  issues,  read  think pieces  from  Access  Bangsamoro’s  senior  fellows  and  network  of  experts  and  learn  more about the Bangsamoro through data and infographics.   

YouTube videos featuring local and international experts discussing issues relevant to the Bangsamoro are also embedded in the website under “Bangsamoro Talks”.    

For  the  maiden  offering  of  “Bangsamoro  Talks”,  guests  can  watch  Laureate  Professor Emeritus  Cheryl  Saunders  of  the  Melbourne  Law  School  talk  about  intergovernmental relations  and  its  implementation  in  the  BARMM  as  mandated  by  the  BOL,  Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) of the House of Representatives Director General Romulo Emmanuel “Jun” Miral Jr. discuss the concept of the BARMM block grant, Australian National University Professor Paul Hutchcroft explain what it means for BARMM to  have  a  parliamentary  system  and  what  kind  of  implications  this  might  have  for  the choice of the electoral system and Mindanao State University (MSU-IIT) Iligan Chancellor Sukarno Tanggol talk about the electoral code for the BARMM.  

An  IAG  team  based  in  Cotabato  City  and  ASOG  team  based  in  Manila  will  populate  the website  with  more  content  in  the  coming  weeks.  Follow  Access  Bangsamoro  onfacebook.com/accessbangsamoro  and  twitter.com/accessbm.  Visit  the  website  at accessbangsamoro.ph

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