B I S M I L L Ā H I R - R A H M A N N I R - R A H E E M
The Honorable Speaker Datu Roonie Q. Sinsuat and the Honorable Members of the Regional Assembly, Acting Regional Vice Governor Hon. Rejie Sahali-Generale, Your Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps, Honorable Members of Congress and Distinguished National Officials, Officials and Senior Representatives of the International Donor Community Member of the International Monitoring Team, Members of the Regional Cabinet and other ARMM Officials, Basilan Governor Hon. Jum Akbar, Lanao del Sur Governor Hon. Mamintal Adiong, Jr., Maguindanao Governor Hon. Esmael Mangudadatu, Tawi-Tawi Governor Hon. Sadikul Sahali, Sulu Governor Hon. Abdusakur Tan, Marawi City Mayor Hon. Fahad Salik, Maj. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero, Commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, Major General Anthony Alcantara, Commanding General of the 6th Infantry Division, Police Chief Superintendent Bienvenido Latag of the PRO-ARMM, Provincial Board Members, Presidents and Members of the Leagues of Municipal Mayors, Municipal Vice Mayors, Barangay Chairmen and Sangguniang Kabataan officials, Representatives from the Academe, Religious, Non-Government Organizations, and Business Sector, Our development partners from the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu!
Exactly four days from now, I shall be a full year in office. I was put into the highest position of authority in the ARMM under extreme circumstances, and when I was sworn in as Acting Regional Governor on December 10, 2009, the autonomous regional government was at its most challenging period.
I knew then, as I am still very much conscious of until today that I could not have spared any time in restoring and normalizing the operations of the autonomous regional government.
But more than just restoration and normalization, we have struggled for enhancement, for reforms and relevance.
Mr. Speaker, it is my distinct honor to address this august Assembly for the first time in my capacity as Acting Regional Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. On this memorable occasion, I wish to convey my heartfelt gratitude to the honorable members of the 6th Regional Assembly for extending me this privilege to deliver my first State of the Region Address.
I am here to report the achievements we have gained over a year’s time. I shall also lay down today the major policies and programs that we will vigorously pursue in the next twelve months.
During my installation, I expressed the policy directions and priorities to be executed and implemented within a timeframe in order to ensure the continuity of the delivery of quality services to our people.
We were prepared to establish policy measures and reforms to improve governance and administration of the Autonomous Regional Government.
We strived to lead the region with a high degree of transparency and accountability to the people and to the national government.
Alhamdulillah, in just a short time, major strides were achieved in spite of the usual difficulties of a government-in-transition.
In pursuing our goals, I organized my cabinet and appointed those persons of known integrity, competence and experience --- highly committed men and women-- to assist us in establishing good governance and reforms in ARMM.
I directed the Regional Planning and Development Office to lead in the crafting of the ARMM Strategic Action Plan or ASAP which now serves as our blueprint of development for the years 2010 and 2011. The Plan embodies the major policies and priorities of my administration, and I have emphasized on several occasions that subsequent plans, programs, projects and even budgets must be referred back to said document. And we intend to keep it that way.
Endorsed by the Regional Economic and Development Planning Board, the ASAP is also a continuation of the major efforts of ARMM towards peace and security, good governance, economic programs, social services and development, and priority infrastructure programs.
We have given priority to the restoration of peace and stability, especially in Maguindanao Province, and to the maintenance of law and order region-wide, as a prerequisite for the renewed delivery of basic public services. Working closely with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, we have focused on the perennial sources of security problems: “rido” or clan violence, terrorist groups, rebel forces, and even election-spawned hostility.
As a primary stakeholder to the peace process, the autonomous regional government has renewed its full support to the on-going peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Believing in peace as a catalyst for growth, we continuously render our full support to the peace efforts of the national government and the Moro Fronts. After all, the ARMM with its more than four million constituents is still the biggest stakeholder to any dividend of peace.
Particularly, we are in the final stage of drafting our regional peace agenda in support to the Mindanao Peace and Development Agenda of His Excellency President Benigno C. Aquino III. Major peace and development issues have evolved and important policy recommendations have been proposed for consideration of the President.
Our own peace agenda has resulted from the series of provincial consultations which culminated in the ARMM Peace Summit held last September 20 and 21 here in Cotabato City. Our people have voiced their sentiments and aspirations. It is for us their leaders to address those sentiments and be instrumental in realizing those aspirations.
As experience has been teaching us, pure military solutions would never be enough and negative events are not mere police matters. Peace and order in ARMM has taken the proportion of a social problem.
Given that reality, it would require efforts of societal magnitude to bring about the desired solution. Let us hence empty our minds of any notion that the autonomous regional government alone can solve the peace and order problem in ARMM. All of us must be into that monumental task of peace-building.
But let me state it clearly that while there are issues and concerns on security, the regional atmosphere is still conducive to socio-economic activities and development works.
In administering the affairs of the regional government, we have activated all policy-making bodies, including the planning board, for timely decisions affecting ARMM development, taking into consideration national policies and priorities of the Aquino Administration.
In our desire to transform the regional government not only superficially but in a truly substantial way, we set up financial and personnel measures to ensure good governance. Performance and financial reviews of the ARMM were and are still religiously observed in accordance with Task Force Presidential Administrative Order 273.
As one result, we have significantly reduced the hiring of contractual employees and consultants to save government resources.
We have strengthened our monitoring and evaluation system in order to keep track of the progress of program implementation by a timely resolution of problems and issues affecting such.
Mr. Speaker, my administration is not insensitive to the plight of those who have been wronged.
For the unfortunate teachers who have been unjustly denied of their salaries and back-wages from years 2006 to 2008, I never hesitated to order the release of P130 million for more than 2,000 of them region-wide. What was withheld from them for more than 3 years, we tried to hand over to them in just eight months of my administration.
And in the coming days, another P36.5 million would be ready for release.
I am confident to say that the support we have generated from the national government and the donor community is recognition of the commendable manner in which we have implemented our major programs and projects.
The ARMM Social Fund Project is now a model of success among our foreign-assisted projects. The World Bank has consistently rated as satisfactory the project performance in all its evaluation missions. Japan International Cooperation Agency or JICA and the NEDA or National Economic Development Authority are also highly satisfied with the implementation of the project.
Hence, our application for additional financing of 30 million US dollars from the national government under the new administration of President Aquino has been approved by the World Bank effective November 5, 2010.
We launched this project last November 17 during the 21st ARMM Foundation Anniversary, and in the next three years 596 more barangays across the region will benefit from the project.
The Regional Government has also signed memoranda of agreement with other donor partners, such as the UNICEF for a 2-year extension of the 6th County Programme for Children in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sulu; the AusAID for a year-long extension of the Basic Education Assistance in Mindanao or BEAM; and an implementing arrangement with JICA on a new project dubbed as “Development Study on the Promotions of Local Industry in ARMM.
Mr. Speaker, allow me to emphasize that the JICA – ARMM Human Capacity Development Project has been successfully implemented; it even included the conduct of out-of-country trainings in Japan and Malaysia for our officials and employees.
At this stage, we have also completed the draft of the Administrative Code and its Implementing Rules and Regulations which in due time would be submitted to this august body.
Hence, we are expecting another 2-year extension of the human resource development program.
On financial matters, the Office of the Regional Treasurer generated a total collection of P561.8 million consisting of regional taxes, fees and charges, share from national internal revenue taxes, and other revenues. This represents 85% accomplishment of the target collection from January to September of this year.
As primarily a regulatory and revenue-raising agency, our DOTC-ARMM has posted almost P10 million collections.
By modifying our system of budget preparation, our proposed budget for 2011 is increased by the national government to P11.8 billion, P2.0 billion higher than our current budget of P9.8 billion. Thus, we will have more appropriations for equipment for halal testing center, midwives for every community in ARMM, repair of school buildings and emergency employment.
While strengthening the institutions of the regional government, we also assisted a very important unit of our governance --- the local governments.
Our local government department has strengthened its field programs and projects to enhance the capability of the local government units, particularly with the newly elected officials.
In close coordination with the LGUs, we strengthened the implementation of flagship programs designed to improve local governance, such as Project CURE or Comprehensive and Unified Response to Eliminate Red Tape, the annual conduct of the Local Governance Performance Management System, the inclusion in the Performance Challenge Fund or Seal of Good Housekeeping Project, and implementation of Local Rationalized Planning Systems.
In partnership with The Asia Foundation, the DILG-ARMM facilitated the conduct of regional orientation on Transparent and Accountable Governance or TAG whereby 30 selected LGUs in the entire region prepared their respective technical proposals for transparent and accountable governance to be funded by the Foundation. The DILG-ARMM had evaluated LGU proposals and these proposals are now with the Foundation for final review.
To make the LGUs ready for physical expansion and proper allocation of their territories, our Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board has worked closely with some local governments in the revision of their Comprehensive Land Use Plans or CLUPs. It has also approved the application of Notre Dame of Bongao for a housing project in that municipality in Tawi-Tawi Province.
On the part of the executive leadership, we have created the Regional Housing and Rural Development Authority to address the big housing backlog in ARMM. A concrete proof that we have started is our first housing project in DOS, Maguindanao which was formally launched last November 18 during the 21st ARMM Foundation Anniversary.
All of these, and the many more that I shall be dealing with, Mr. Speaker, could be known by the public only by a regular and open interface with members of media. Our weekly radio program, “Aksyon ARMM”, and also the weekly “Tapatan sa ARMM” press conferences, allow us to communicate to our people our development updates and policy concerns. We made our presence in cyberspace by going online with our official website www.armm.gov.ph. But more than that, we have opened ourselves – both our successes and failures, and even controversial acts of commission and omission – to the scrutiny of the media and the public.
We are transparent in our works. We are making ourselves accountable for what we do or may have failed to do.
And we believe, we have done more than what was expected.
Our priority economic programs have been geared towards higher growth, more income to producers, more job creation and more revenues to the regional and local governments.
The agriculture, fishery and forestry sector has continued to contribute the biggest share in the regifonal economy.
For several years, ARMM has been on top in fisheries production in the country. It has contributed about 28% of the total national fisheries production.
The autonomous region produces about 40% of the total national seaweeds production and 70% of Mindanao’s total.
In 2009, ARMM recorded the highest volume of cassava production and remained as top producer of white corn and seaweeds in the whole country.
This partly owes to the fact that 284 farmer-beneficiaries got more than 2 thousand hectares of land in the first half of 2010. To date, DAR has already distributed 65% of the total 350 thousand hectares within the scope of CARP.
We have also implemented 15 projects under the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program or CLEEP, a micro-enterprise program designed to generate more jobs for the agrarian reform communities.
Aside from land and aquatic-based resources, trade and industry as well as regional investments registered some P387 million worth of capital infusion into small and medium enterprises and major industries, generating in the process more than 3,000 jobs.
This year, one of the top 1,000 corporations of the Philippines and one of the biggest corn starch factories in the country -- Lamsan, Incorporated -- launched commercial operations of its P172.97 million investment project registered with ARMM Regional Board of Investment. Its plant site in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao has been modernized, expanded and provided with bio-mass power.
As the biggest corn buyer in ARMM, Lamsan Incorporated supports the expansion of corn production in the region, which generates an estimated P400 million income per quarter for small farmers and growers. What is more exciting is that the ARMM Regional Board of Investment officials have reported that they are now in the process of registering the investment of Marawi City-based EA Trilink Corporation, which is a 33-million-dollar or 1.5 billion-peso project for a telecommunications-hub in the ARMM. This 1.5 billion-peso project, the biggest investment so far in the region, seeks to make the ARMM an international gateway for telecommunications and cyberspace industries supporting internet-based businesses. This also enhances literacy and education by extending the most modern tools of learning to all.
The region recorded a total export sales of P657 million and domestic sales of P337 million out of the existing major industries in the ARMM.
On the Halal Initiatives, the enactment last January of MMA Act 254, otherwise known as Halal Labeling Act of 2009, is a manifestation of our commitment in pursuing an economic agenda consistent with our philosophy. The IRR for that regional law is underway and aggressive advocacies have been undertaken to promote halal investment, marketing and financing.
On cooperative development, 681 cooperatives have renewed their registration and another 162 are newly registered.
Our programs on environmental management and protection are being sustained. We have reforested and rehabilitated about 63 hectares of forestland and produced more than 85 thousand seedlings of various species.
We have partnered with other agencies and organizations for tree planting activities, especially in critical resources such as watersheds.
For the long-term perspective, we have intensified the protection and management of our lakes, marshes, rivers and forests to contain the risk of climate change and to ensure sustainable development of the region.
Mr. Speaker, we declared Polloc Port as free port and barangay Polloc as special economic zone in Parang, Maguindanao. Relegated into the pipeline for several years, the plan to declare Polloc Port as a Freeport became a reality when I signed the proclamation for such purpose on March 15, 2010. In the presence of foreign dignitaries like Japan Embassy Secretary Hirochicka Namekawa and Counsellor Hussain Ibrahim Al-Badr of the Qatar Embassy, I symbolically opened up the Polloc Port for would-be locators and investors in the hope of achieving economic transformation in this part of the region.
Consequently, on-site priority infrastructure projects in the form of water supply system rehabilitation, restoration of lighting facilities and setting up of one-stop shop were implemented to fully develop the Polloc Port and upgrade its operation and services for it to become an internationally competitive freeport.
The Freeport Port and Economic Zone are key economic strategies in the region’s effort to attract more investments to our shores, and create more opportunities to improve the economic well-being of our people.
We have also rehabilitated and upgraded the capacity of various ports in the island provinces in partnership with some of our donors and the concerned LGUs.
With science and technology as entrepreneurial sources, our DOST has continued to support micro, small and medium-scale enterprises through the implementation of Small Enterprise Upgrading Program or SET-UP.
It has also conducted technology transfer and demonstration activities and awarded scholarships to qualified and deserving students.
Our advances in the economic realm were also matched by vigorous provision of basic public services.
We upgraded the delivery of social services to our constituents, both in quality and extent.
In education, our efforts were focused on expanding the access to basic education, improving the quality and relevance of basic education, and improving efficiency and effectiveness of the schools and the divisions’ educational system.
To sustain that, more than 55% of our proposed P11.8 billion budget for 2011 goes to education.
Mr. Speaker, we thank the Regional Assembly for the timely passage of Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 279, known also as the ARMM Basic Education Act of 2010, which will further strengthen the Regional Basic Education System.
We are currently implementing the BEAM One-Year Extension Program which includes a school on-the-air program using an FM radio owned and operated by DepEd-ARMM, human resource development, early childhood education, strengthening of madaris, literacy and livelihood projects.
About 2,000 children benefited from Early Childhood Education assistance while more than 1,400 women were provided functional literacy assistance. Moreover, 22 madaris were assisted in their accreditation by the Department of Education-ARMM.
On higher education program, we have awarded scholarship certificates under the one-town-one scholar or OTOS program.
Our technical education and skills development program provided 244 skills training for more than 5,800 workers, in partnership with technical-vocational institutions, NGOs and LGUs.
We also awarded 209 scholarship slots under the Training for Work Scholarship Program and soon we will distribute 1,024 Private Education and Student Financial Assistance or PESFA slots to our provinces.
Other initiatives include the distribution of computer sets to 91 recipient public high schools in the region under the Personal Computer for Public School Project or PCPS Phase 4.
Mr. Speaker, let me inform you that since the implementation of said project in which ARMM has been a recipient region, a total of 232 public high schools were benefitted. This project is funded by the Non-Project Grant-Aid-Counter Value Fund of the Japanese Government.
In the public health sector, we have deployed 300 newly-hired midwives in the different municipalities to augment our health personnel and address high maternal and infant mortality rates especially in remote areas.
Thousands of assorted essential drugs and medicines were distributed in strategic barangays in order for the locals to access affordable medicines.
We have forged a memorandum of agreement with the National Nutrition Council which paved the way for the creation of NNC-ARMM and the ARMM Anti-Hunger Task Force to enhance the region’s capacity in mitigating hunger and malnutrition.
We implemented the “Operational Plan Pangalawang Paningin” project that provided free eye operations to hundreds of indigent beneficiaries in the different hospitals in the region.
Mr. Speaker, our welfare services programs have continued to cater to the needs – especially – of the poorest among the poor.
We are currently implementing the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps where more than 18 thousand beneficiaries have received their cash grants.
We have provided Emergency Relief Assistance to more than 27 thousand families that were affected by man-made and natural calamities all over the region.
Provision of core shelters, post-harvest facilities and supplemental feedings were also extended to the IDP families.
An Early Recovery Plan for sending home the IDPs was already laid down and there will be three batches for the identified resettlement areas with provisions of food packages and livelihood assistance. The ER plan is a product of improved relations among ARMM, NGOs, iNGos and donor institutions resulting to a more focused and coordinated interventions to IDPs. Focus is shifted from relief and emergency operations or camp maintenance towards early recovery and rehabilitation of IDP communities or return sites.
Other support activities which included food assistance to IDPs, food for work, food for training, and maternal child health and nutrition were also implemented by some donors.
The World Food Program in cooperation with the social welfare department and some LGUs served a total of 89,000 beneficiary IDPs with 688 metric tons of mixed commodities. Last July, WFP launched an 18-month long protracted relief and recovery operation with flexibility to address residual emergency needs.
ARMM’s offer of free storage at Polloc Freeport to WFP enables the latter to boost its emergency school feeding, supplemental feeding and food-for-work/food-for-training activities.
Under labor and employment, the Special Program for Employment of Students or SPES provided summer jobs to 715 students.
Newly hired nurses were also deployed in the different municipalities under the Nurse Assigned in Rural Service or NARS Program.
Unfortunately, something tragic happened to the volunteer nurse “Florence”. We are still deeply saddened by that incident. We reiterate our strong condemnation of that inhuman act and we hope that soon justice will be served to “Florence” and to her family. We have extended material, psycho-social and moral support, and we intend to stand by her till she gets the justice she deserves.
Our labor department has also conducted 14 job fairs all over the autonomous region.
We have just launched the one-stop-shop for the processing of vital documents of our overseas workers.
Aside from the OFWs, the Youth Employment and Migration program provided educational assistance to 449 under-privileged children of migrant workers and other disadvantaged youth in some target areas.
There are other things done in order to reinforce social cohesion and regional unity in ARMM.
For our IPs, a draft Implementing Rules and Regulations for MMA Act No. 241, or “An Act to Recognize, Respect, Protect and Promote the Rights, Governance and Justice Systems and Customary Laws of the Indigenous Peoples/ Tribal Peoples of the Autonomous Region”, is now subject for consultation and refinement.
A draft of the ARMM Gender and Development Code was also completed by the Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women in close coordination with the RPDO, POPCOM Region XII, DILG and other regional line agencies, and was supported by the UNFPA and UNICEF.
No doubt, ARMM is home to a wonderful tapestry of colorful and lively cultures. In many celebrations, our Bureau on Cultural Heritage was at the helm of promoting the icons of our distinct identity. The recent ARMM 21st Foundation Anniversary was not only a renewal of regional ties, but also a visual delight and aesthetic display of how vibrant our cultural wealth is.
It was also an occasion to showcase the sports program of the region, reinforcing our belief that we have a pool of athletes that we can bring to bigger sports competitions.
Due to the direct participation of our youth, whose roles in regional development and nation building are regularly promoted by the CDO-BYA, the numerous celebrations, seminars and public assemblies of ARMM have always been dynamic and full of optimism.
On the regional scale, our tourism department led in promotion programs geared towards travel and investment interests. In spite of the usual adverse perceptions, our tourism officials strengthened tourism councils in the region and showcased our beautiful spots and unique products in Mindanao-wide tourism activities, such as the 14th Mindanao Trade Expo and 5th Mindanao Travel and Tour Expo. The celebrations of our festivals, most notably the ARMM 21st Foundation Anniversary, were in themselves major tourism achievements.
Mr. Speaker, in the field of infrastructure development, we released almost P100 million road maintenance funds to the six engineering districts of the region. Hence, road repair and maintenance are within the direct responsibility of the engineering districts, and no longer with the regional department of public works. Even then, a very strict monitoring of their field engineering works is well established.
Procurement works for our infrastructure projects, both foreign and locally funded, were done with transparency and in strict accordance with guidelines and regulations. Bids were published in reputable national dailies and all acts of the bids and awards committee were out in the open.
Let me take this occasion to thank JICA for the equipment support. Initially, 6 dump trucks have been received by DPWH-ARMM. Other heavy equipments for the maintenance of our roads and bridges are due soon.
I also thank the Japanese Government for the on-going construction of the ARMM-JAPAN Friendship Hall and Training Center at the ARMM Compound. I look with optimism and excitement on the early completion and eventual inauguration of that building.
Under the 2010 annual infrastructure fund, a total of 294 various projects worth P659 million, consisting of 85 Regional Impact Projects (RIPs), 102 Provincial Impact Projects (PIPs) and 107 District Impact Projects (DIPs) are all on-going implementation.
Other significant on-going projects that I wish to cite are the 2008 and 2009 School Building Programs and the ARMM Social Fund Project.
While the School Building Program is nationally-funded, it is being coordinated and facilitated by the autonomous regional government.
In just a year, we have awarded the construction of 352 new classrooms and repaired 75 school buildings under the 2008 SBP. In the 2009 SBP, 38 new classrooms are already completed, 46 are on-going projects, while several more are just waiting for fund releases from the budget department.
As our flagship program, the ARMM Social Fund Project has already completed more than 2,000 Community-Based Infrastructures and organized 983 groups with 27,000 women and youth benefitting from the Learning Livelihood and Food Sufficiency Program.
An estimated 900 thousand people across the 987 project-assisted barangays in ARMM are the beneficiaries of these sub-projects.
The 13 World Bank-funded Strategic Regional Infrastructure subprojects were completed according to plans and specifications, 8 subprojects of which have been provided with additional equipment and facilities to maximize service delivery.
Under the JICA component, 15 out of the 33 SRIs had been completed and turned-over to proponent agencies and LGUs. These subprojects consisted of hospitals, two-storey school buildings, port improvements, local government centers, training and laboratory centers, water system and road projects.
With support from the USAID, the Sanga-Sanga and Jolo Airports were improved and upgraded. Asphalt overlay of Awang Airport runway was also undertaken by DOTC-National.
Mr. Speaker, we shall continue to pursue the following initiatives to enhance further our socio-economic development that will alleviate poverty and improve the standard of living of our people:
a) We will continue to extend our full support and cooperation to the peace process between the GRP and Moro Fronts;
b) We will streamline the regional bureaucracy and conduct rational allocation and efficient programming of resources especially for locally-funded agencies in order to strengthen service delivery;
c) We will enhance revenue-raising powers of the Autonomous Regional Government and strengthen systems and processes in revenue collection and remittances;
d) We will impose strict monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of programs and projects through an enhanced Performance Management System to ensure responsiveness and accountability of our agencies;
e) We will close the gap between planning and budgeting;
f) We will continue developing and promoting our potentials in the halal industry given our comparative advantage and cultural ties with the Muslim countries;
g) We will continue our land acquisition and distribution program for our landless farmers and strengthen our cooperation with the DAR-National to fast track the implementation of Agrarian Reform Communities II project in ARMM;
h) We will enhance our social services programs: poverty alleviation and livelihood activities; quality education and universal health care; and other social development-oriented projects; A two-storey building for the DepEd would rise next year through the assistance of BEAM.
i) We will provide housing projects to other provinces at the appropriate time;
j) We will revive traditional barter trading with our neighboring countries given that the Polloc Freeport is already in full operations and
k) We will continue the implementation of priority investment programs and projects, including those to be funded out of the P1.0 billion infrastructure funds under the 2011 budget.
Mr. Speaker, in furtherance of our peace and development initiatives, we urge the Regional Assembly to speed-up the enactment of our priority legislative measures, as follows:
1. ARMM Administrative Code in order to further professionalize and strengthen the bureaucracy
2. ARMM Public Works Act of 2011
3. Local Budget Act of 2011
4. ARMM Investment Act
5. ARMM Gender and Development (GAD) Code
6. Legislative Support to the Implementation of our Regional Housing Project
7. Regional Development Corporation that will have to generate non-tax income because we cannot impose more taxes to our impoverished population;
8. Securitization Act
9. Scholarship program for the poor but deserving students in ARMM to complete their tertiary education, and
10. A stricter guidelines and qualifications on the creation of new local government unit.
Mr. Speaker, we now appeal to the national government to consider favorably our policy recommendations that would empower ARMM, especially the following:
1. We strongly propose for the immediate reactivation of the Oversight Committee on Devolution with priority to the devolution of revenue-generating agencies of the national government to the Autonomous Regional Government;
2. We urge the national government to allow the active participation of Muslims in national affairs by allowing more representation of ARMM in the central offices of the national government, including the assignment of Muslim diplomats in Muslim countries;
3. We urge the national government for the immediate and full implementation of Executive Order 125 that will allow the Regional Government to manage and implement all locally and foreign funded projects in ARMM;
4. We ask the national government to allocate more resources to ARMM through the following:
a. For the national government to allocate ARMM an equitable and proportionate share in the national budget equivalent to at least 1.0 percent of the national budget every year.
b. To increase the annual assistance of the national government to ARMM for local infrastructure projects from 1 billion to 2 billion pesos annually, since ours is still way beyond the average for the administrative regions which is about 3 billion pesos yearly; and
c. For the national agencies to carry ARMM in their regular programs and projects for 2012 and the succeeding years as mandated by RA 9054.
5. Finally, we appeal to the government and the MILF for the immediate resumption of the stalled peace negotiations, and bring it to its final conclusion of lasting peace and sustainable development in Mindanao.
At this juncture, Mr. Speaker, let me express once more our gratitude to our major donor partners such as the World Bank, the JICA, the UN System, the UNDP, the AUSAID, the ADB and all other donor institutions supporting ARMM.
We will pursue further the socio-economic development of our people, ensuring their security and the stability of their communities. Let me announce that this month of December, we will be giving bonus to the employees of the Autonomous Regional Government.
We will continue to adopt strategic measures to fully develop the region’s economic potentials and support Mindanao’s overall economic growth.
We believe that with the support of the national government and the international community, we can achieve more in our peace and development efforts.
Let me appeal to all Muslim leaders in ARMM regardless of their political belief and ethnical identity to extend more support to our program of governance for the well-being of Muslim Mindanao.
To the members of the Organization of Islamic Conference, we wish to acknowledge once more your full support to the government’s peace efforts in Mindanao. In the same way, we will continue to count on you.
We are counting on the continuing mediation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference through the facilitation of the Malaysian government in the final resolution of armed conflict in Mindanao and to finally bring lasting peace to this Island.
We urge all peace stakeholders to help in sustaining the favorable environment of peace and stability on the ground and to continue to rally behind the peace efforts of the government and the Moro Fronts.
We further appeal to the members of the International Monitoring Team to help us keep the ceasefire intact on the ground and to help secure the gains of peace in cooperation with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities.
With strong political resolve of President Aquino and the full support of Mindanao leaders, we are optimistic that a comprehensive political settlement with the MILF and full implementation of 1996 Final Peace Agreement will be realized within the term of the President.
To His Excellency President Benigno C. Aquino III, I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for his deep concern for this region and his determination to bring lasting peace and economic progress in Mindanao.
I also wish to express further my sincere thanks to the President for his continuing trust and confidence in me.
The autonomous regional government is a legacy of countless men and women who have sacrificed their time, efforts, wealth and even lives. Inspite of all its shortcomings, the ARMM is our instrumentality for peace and development. The responsibility is ours to make it work for the benefits of our people.
Thank you very much. Mabuhay Po Tayong Lahat. Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu!