ARMM in 2015: A story of resilience, good governance, and strengthening peace

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A YEAR AGO, ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv S. Hataman wrote his parting words to a region he swore to serve for as long as it needed him, preparing himself for the eventual farewell as he — together with the people — welcomed a new beginning for the region.

He devoted the three years of his term to the realization of the Bangsamoro, pending the then expected approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

And yet today, the Working ARMM Government is still at the forefront of delivering basic services and assistance to the provinces of the autonomous region.

Acknowledging the recent challenges to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the ARMM continued to pursue its mandate this past year guided by the principles of good governance and with a renewed resolve to build trust and faith in the Bangsamoro.

Efficient delivery of basic services, including developmental initiatives in remote areas previously unattended by national agencies, as well as a consistent flow of investments both public and private, has been documented all over the region, topping accomplishments recorded in recent years.

In his final State of the Nation Address in July, President Aquino underscored the progress and reforms in ARMM, emphasizing on Hataman’s role in achieving the Aquino administration’s primary objectives, especially in matters of good governance as espoused by Tuwid Na Daan.

On the economic front, private investments in ARMM consistently came in big numbers throughout the year. As of the third quarter of 2015, the region’s Board of Investments registered projects amounting to P6.5 billion, described as the highest in its history.

Projections earlier made by the National Economic and Development Authority indicated that the passage of the original draft of the BBL, which the ARMM leadership fully supports, could help the region’s economy achieve a growth rate of up to 12.8% next year and consequently reduce poverty incidence.

Investments and employment

In 2014 alone, aggregate investments amounted close to P4 billion. This years’s investments are expected to produce 4,894 jobs, which is about 43% higher compared with 2014’s total of 3,433 employment generated.

The latest of the major investments are those of the Maguindanao Energy Farms Inc. based in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao; Matling Industrial and Commercial Corp. operating in Malabang, Lanao del Sur; and the Southsea Industrial Energy Corp. in Tubig-Indangan, and Simunul in Tawi-Tawi. These ventures are worth over P1 billion.

Earlier during the year, a proposed P3.7 billion Cavendish banana plantation of Al-Sahar Agri Ventures Inc. was also approved. The project will cover 2,600 hectares of farms in four towns in Maguindanao.
“The region will continue to attract investors as long as there is sustained peace and stability,” said Gov. Hataman, something the Aquino administration and the current ARMM leadership have successfully pursued these past years, notwithstanding the Mamasapano misencounter which has resulted to losses which are felt to this day.

Solid investments this year came through amid apprehensions expressed regarding recent revisions and insertions to the BBL. “There were fears raised by investors, expressed through the Promotion of Investment Sustainability Organization,” said Ishak Mastura, chairman of the Regional Board of Investments (RBOI).

He added there are those who believe the revised basic law drafted in Congress for the Bangsamoro could make the region less autonomous. Currently, businesses in ARMM secure permits, licenses, approvals, administrative and consents from the regional government without having to go to Metro Manila.

The revised BBL, business leaders in the region observed, could also derail the implementation of a major information communications technology project.

The latest version of the BBL, regarded a weaker version of the original draft, remains snagged in Congress despite statements of support from leaders of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Nevertheless, the region’s leaders remain optimistic ARMM would be able to achieve its target of 5% growth rate in gross regional domestic product this year. Under the Aquino administration, the region has become a model in economic resilience weathering adversities, from natural to man-made calamities.

Infrastructure programs

Meanwhile, ARMM’s infrastructure program has been responding significantly to the needs of the communities. In the last quarter of the year, over P634.4 million worth of infrastructure projects were rolled out after two memorandums of agreement were signed in September upon the initiative of the regional governor.

Efforts to efficiently build more relevant infrastructure in the coming year have been ongoing. In December, Gov. Hataman and Datu Roonie Sinsuat, Regional Legislative Assembly Speaker, signed the Regional Public Works Act of 2016 which authorizes the appropriation of a P10.1 billion budget for next year’s infrastructure program.

The appropriation will cover the construction, development, upgrading, and operation or maintenance of roads, highways, bridges, water supplies, flood control, ports, airports and other projects excluding buildings.

Over P1 billion of the total amount is allocated for additional infrastructure within the trans-central road in Basilan in 2016. The completion of the road is a key in accelerating development and promoting peace and order in the island province.

Excellent administration of the region’s bureaucracy, a manifestation of good governance, was officialy recognized by the national government this year. The region qualified for its previous year’s performance-based bonus after ARMM’s agencies successfully complied with good governance parameters.
The performance bonus is a merit-based incentive in recognition of exemplary public service. It is given to employees based on their performance and contribution to the accomplishment of their department’s overall targets and commitments.

“It is not just compliance with the requirements, but is also meant to encourage and ensure that the agency accomplishes what it has pledged to accomplish,” said Maricris Valte of the Development Academy of the Philippines.

ISO certification

Meanwhile, the Civil Service Commission also conferred in September the Citizen’s Satisfaction Center–Seal of Excellence Award to four frontline service offices in the region.

The four awardees are PhilHealth Regional Office-ARMM, Social Security System-Basilan Branch, PhilHealth-Marawi and Philippine Statistics Authority-Lanao del Sur provincial office. Agencies rated as ‘Excellent’ based on a report card survey received a plaque of recognition and P100,000 cash.

The regional government announced it is on track to be fully compliant with the International Standards Organization (ISO) 9001:2008 certification.

The announcement was made December 22 at the Office of the Regional Governor’s Badjau Hall by Mark Anthony Lugay, management system lead auditor of TUV Rheinland Philippines, Inc.

The certification covered the completed staff work for the regional governor’s issuances and engagements.

ISO 9001 is an internationally recognized quality management standard, which specifies Quality Management System (QMS) requirements focused on an organization’s ability to meet and improve upon customer satisfaction and quality requirements.

As a step towards promoting livelihood development in the region, the Basic Education Assistance for Muslim Mindanao is currently implemented in the region, with the help of funding from the Australian government. It is a five-year initiative with a comprehensive education and youth development intervention program that contributes to poverty alleviation and emergence of peace in ARMM. This is achieved through targeted investments in basic education and training of out-of-school youth in technical-vocational courses.

The said program has provided skills training to roughly 10,000 youth beneficiaries since it was launched in 2013.

Foood security

To alleviate the adverse impact of the El Niño phenomenon in the region, ARMM’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has pushed for a mitigation plan that would entail initial expenses estimated at P48 million.

Regional agriculture and fisheries officials were tasked to submit reports twice a week to formulate and design interventions in support of the affected groups. It is estimated that close to 14,000 metric tons of palay were lost in ARMM in the first four months of 2015 because of El Niño.

In the middle of this year, together with the Food and Agriculture Organization, the department signed a P21 million project that assisted pre-identified farmers restore their livelihood by providing them with agricultural inputs and productive assets lost or damaged during the crisis that lasted weeks after the Mamasapano misencounter in late January, as well as from the dry spell that was felt throughout the region.

Makmod Mending Jr., former Agriculture and Fisheries Secretary, said his department is also monitoring the Kabunlan and Malmar irrigation systems that supply irrigation to farms in Maguindanao, which is considered major granary in Mindanao.

Aside from the regional implementation of the extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, the Department of Agrarian Reform-ARMM has distributed over P20 million worth of common service facilities to beneficiaries during the year.

As a response to the health concerns in the region, ARMM’s Health department intensified its region-wide drive on five critical health care programs with the poor as a priority. The strategy focuses on the reduction of maternal deaths; improved infant health and reduced infant deaths; improved health of children under five years old; combat human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and malaria, as well as other diseases; and implement a service delivery network in all areas of the region.

With mainly rural areas under its jurisdiction, the region’s initiatives on mitigating the adverse effects of climate change are mainly focused on reviving its forests and protecting its ecosystems.

After a total log ban in the region, through Executive Order 001, was issued in December 2011, ARMM’s forest cover is now placed at 301,000 hectares, based on the most recent geo-mapping, tagging and monitoring, an increase of 6.7% compared with the figure posted in 2003.

As 2015 draws to a close the ARMM government remains hopeful for the approval of the BBL and the long-awaited transition to the Bangsamoro.

As things unfold in time, Gov. Hataman remains steadfast in walking along the straight and righteous path — the “Tuwid na Daan” –as he continues to be at the helm of reforms in the region, fully committing himself to serving the people.

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