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‘Fiscal autonomy is earned’, DoF on proposed Bangsomoro region

Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez has called on lawmakers to take into account the end goal of attaining economic self-sufficiency and sustainable development for the proposed Bangsamoro region to ensure fiscal autonomy and lasting peace in crafting the fundamental law creating the new autonomous political entity in Mindanao. 
Dominguez said that like the rest of the country, the fundamental requirements of sustained growth such as hard infrastructure, human capital investment, new communications technologies and efficient administrative systems should also apply in the creation of the Bangsamoro autonomous region. 
“Fiscal autonomy is earned. It should be attained with the end goal of economic self-sufficiency and sustainable development. The provisions of the proposed law must ensure that in order to win public support,” Dominguez said at the Senate hearing on the creation of a basic law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous region. 
The hearing chaired by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri was jointly conducted by the Senate committees on local government (subcommittee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law [BBL]; constitutional amendments and revision of codes; ways and means; and finance. 
Dominguez, who was invited as one of the resource persons at the hearing, said any proposed funding scheme for the Bangsamoro region should  be “programmatic, transparent, performance-based and phased”  to conform with the criteria of modern governance and win broad public support for the BBL. 
“Let me begin by expressing full support for the formation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region through the enactment of a basic law. This will enable the achievement of a more substantial autonomy arrangement that meets the expectation of the Islamic community in Mindanao. In turn, this should be a major step towards achieving sustainable prosperity for all communities in Mindanao,” said Dominguez in his opening remarks at the hearing. 
He pointed out that the stable economic fundamentals and strong growth momentum that the country enjoys today did not happen overnight but was attained through three decades of fiscal discipline, with the economy going through difficult structural adjustment programs to work down what was once a crushing debt load. 
“Today, our people are ready to reap the rewards of long years of sustained fiscal discipline. Our credit ratings are at their best and our financial system is sound,” Dominguez said.  
“We expect increased investment flows drawn by the expectation that the national government will continue with its sterling record of fiscal management,” he said. 
In the case of the proposed Bangsamoro region, Dominguez said “the implementation of plans and programs must be clear and reliable to ensure effective utilization of funds.”
“These are the criteria of modern governance. Ensuring them will help in winning broader public support for the proposed autonomous  arrangement,” Dominguez added. 
Dominguez said fiscal provisions in the BBL, which, for instance, allow  the Bangsamoro government to issue bonds along with other revenue-generating measures,  would not succeed unless the autonomous region first achieves  fiscal discipline. 
“The public has to see that fiscal discipline is being practiced in all areas, specifically now in this particular area,” Dominguez said. 
 Dominguez said lawmakers should look at past experiences in devolving certain basic services to learn from them and take them into consideration in crafting the BBL. 
“We want this Bangsamoro basic law to succeed for the people who will be covered in this area but let us learn from the lessons in the past, and make sure those lessons are applied,” Dominguez said. 
According to the finance chief, one key program that should be included in the economic programs of the BBL is infrastructure development, which should be in sync with the rest of Mindanao’s overall transport plan. 
“The fundamental requirements for sustained growth such as hard infrastructure, investment in human capital, new communications technologies and efficient administration  systems apply to the Bangsamoro autonomous region as much as it does to the rest of the country,” he said. 
Dominguez expressed confidence in the “efforts patience, sacrifice and hard work”  being put in by the lawmakers crafting the BBL and assured them that the Department of Finance would continue to work closely with them on this concern. 

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