First class status for local governments unlikely without autonomy

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BAGUIO CITY  – A Palace official underscored that local government units in the different parts of the region will have a difficulty improving their current status once the quest for the establishment of the Autonomous Region in the Cordillera (ARC) will fail under the present administration.

Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) Assistant Secretary Orville Ballitoc said that most of the 75 municipalities in the region fall under the fourth to sixth class category because of their limited land area due to the peculiar terrain in their areas of jurisdiction aside from having lesser population compared to other towns in the lowland areas which are not in conformity with the criteria in the distribution of the limited resources of the national government.

He disclosed that currently, the criteria in the distribution of the limited resources of the national government is land area and population equals sharing that is why most of the barangays, municipalities, cities and provinces are always left behind in the distribution of government resources primarily because of the limited land area restricted by the mountainous terrain and small population thereby depriving the said local governments of their chances to develop into progressive localities despite their resilience.

The Palace official claimed that vote-rich municipalities in the region which happen to be located in low-lying areas have a population of more or less 30,000 with only 20,000 voting population compared to similarly situated municipalities in the lowlands that have a population of between 60,000 to 80,000 and with a voting population of more or less 40,000 thereby leaving the Cordillera local governments behind in the allocation of the government’s resources based on the prescribed criteria.

With the establishment of the proposed Autonomous Region in the Cordillera (ARC), Ballitoc asserted that the share of the regional, provincial, city, municipal and barangay governments will be legislated in the autonomy law that will be crafted with the Bangsamoro Organic Law serving as a template considering the existence of fiscal provisions granting substantial financial benefits to the regional government.

According to him, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will be granted an annual block grant of P70 billion aside from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of local governments and other pertinent fiscal incentives granted to the localities comprising the BARMM which are much bigger compared to the funds they were receiving when the said localities were part of the regular regions in Mindanao.

Assistant Secretary Ballitoc advised that the proposal to convert the Cordillera into a regular region is not the way to go in terms of speeding up countryside development because local governments will be treated similar to those local governments in the lowland areas through the criteria of population and land area in the distribution of resources without any additional funding.

Assistant Secretary Ballitoc served as the main speaker and facilitator during the recently concluded 20day CAR Autonomy Partners and Advocates Assembly and Mid-Year strategy Cum Planning workshop.

By HENT
Illustration by Don Ray Ramos

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