COTABATO CITY – The Regional Economic and Development Planning Board (REDPB) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) held its 3rd regular board meeting on December 03, 2007 in Davao City.

ARMM Regional Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan, the REDPB chairman, presided the meeting and laid down seven (7) matters that require appropriate actions by the board.

The Board first approved methodology to program the P650M annual national assistance provided in the proposed ARMM 2008 budget

Under the Republic Act 9054 also known as the Organic Act for the Expanded ARMM, the national government is mandated to provide an annual assistance to the autonomous region for five (5) years. The government first extended assistance on 2003 and will end in 2008.

Executive Director of the Regional Planning and Development Office (RPDO) Diamadel Dumagay, the REDPB secretary said, “We had only one month to go and should start identifying programs and projects while the regional assembly should pass a public works law and submit to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for consideration.”

Regional Governor Ampatuan as the REDPB chairman was given confidence to program the P650M assistance with the close coordination of the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA), provincial governors, and the city mayors.

Second is the adoption of the guidelines of ARMM Medium Term-Regional Development Plan (MTRDP) for 2005-2010 in accordance of the guidelines issued by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)

The Board approved and authorized the RPDO as the technical secretariat to coordinate the updating of MTRDP from 2005 to 2010 and the formulation of the ARMM Regional Executive-Legislative Agenda from 2008-2010.

One of the highlights of the meeting is the adoption of the Mindanao Peace and Development Program (MPAD) in which the United States government funds $190 M to Mindanao including ARMM in the next five years until 2012.

On May 18, 2005, the United States and the Philippine governments have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Mindanao peace and development initiatives. Months earlier this year, the two (2) governments again signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) to implement MPAD to cover the entire Mindanao island including the ARMM.

The program is for the economic infrastructure, governance and social services in conflict affected areas of ARMM and response to problem such as conflict management, period resolution, agrarian reform, ancestral domain and organic law modification.

The US-Philippine MoA mandates that ARMM will work closely with the Mindanao Economic and Development Council (MEDCO) as the coordinating oversight agency of the Philippine government for the program implementation in Mindanao.

In the policy guideline of the MPAD, the government will have a separate and distinct implementation mechanism in the area of ARMM. The six-province and two-city autonomous region will be covered by the social, economic and infrastructure program but conflict affected areas are the priority areas. The US government aims to fast track the rehabilitation and more sustained development in the conflicted areas of ARMM.

Meanwhile, some of the Board members questions eligibility of non-government organizations (NGOs) or the service providers contracted by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) or its partner organizations that undertake the social preparation to any programs implemented in ARMM

The MPAD is part of the parallel mechanism in support to the peace process. The Board tackled to establish a clear criteria and mechanism for the determination of the eligibility of NGOs before becoming service providers for the ARMM.

The REDPB further approved to draft a position paper in programming the implementations of the MPAD for ARMM.

The Board also agreed on the proposed Master Plan and Feasibility Studies for Agricultural Productivity Improvement through Groundwater Irrigation Development in ARMM. The implementing agency of the project is Department of Agriculture with the possible funding of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

REDPB secretary Dumagay stressed that the project is effective in boosting the economy of ARMM, which relies in agricultural economy.

Also agreed by the Board is the proposed plan to establish a regional office of National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in ARMM. The autonomous region is a host to improve biggest irrigation systems in Mindanao – the Kabulnan irrigation system and the Malitubog-Maridagao irrigation system, which has a combined irrigated area of 23,000 hectares.

Presently, ARMM irrigation program is covered by three regions: Maguindanao province under Region 12 in which NIA has a provincial office in Midsayap; the Lanao area is covered by Region X and Cagayan de Oro City and the three provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan is under Region IX.

The body also reviewed and adopted the ARMM Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Progress Report

The Philippines is a signatory to the UN Commitment Millennium Summit in the pursuit of the MDG up to 2015. The REDPB have already prepared report years ago as part of the national government’s report to the United Nation.

The MDG’s eight (8) goals are eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, seeking universal primary education, promotion of gender equality, child mortality, improvement of maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and development of global partnership.

Finally, the Board adopted the ARMM Regional Executive Agenda (AREA) Assessment Report as what Governor Zaldy’s pronouncement in his recent State of the Region Address (SORA).

Other matters being approved in the meeting are the proposal that the National Statistics Office (NSO) in Basilan which is presently under Region IX, be under NSO-ARMM; and the adoption of Taw-Tawi vice governor Ruby Sahali-Tan’s project feasibility study of Tawi-Tawi water system.

The P300M water system, Tan said, will be serving the 414 households and industrial usage for the province of Tawi-Tawi, which has a possible funding from Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP) and JICA.

Moreover, Sharif Kabunsuan acting provincial governor Ibrahim Ibay and Marawi City mayor Fahad Salik took oath as regular members of the Board.

The 4th REDPB meeting is scheduled on the first quarter of 2008 in Cagayan de Oro City. (bpi-armm)

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
December 04, 2007