House bill for permanent Mindanao development body up for second reading

Jun. 17, 2009

Quezon City — The joint House committee on Mindanao Affairs and on Government Enterprises and Privatization recently approved the substitute version of House Bills 5255, 5260 and 2303, which all push for the creation of a permanent Mindanao development body.

In a joint hearing, Mindanao congressmen approved the substitute bill, entitled An act creating Mindanao Development Authority or MinDA. The bill is then set for second reading at the lower house when session resumes in July.

The MinDA bill aims to create a Mindanao-wide development mechanism that will integrate and harmonize all development efforts in the island.

Principally authored by deputy House speaker Simeon Datumanong and Sultan Kudarat representative Datu Pax Mangudadatu, HB 5255 seeks to create a single, permanent unifying development body in Mindanao called the Mindanao Economic Development Authority or Meda, a thrust similar to its counterpart bills, HB 2303 and 5260.

The only difference is that HB 2303 authored by Camiguin representative Pedro Romualdo, seeks to abolish Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), while HB 5260 authored by Cagayan De Oro representative Rufus Rodriguez removed the East Asia Growth Area (Eaga) functions from Meda.

The three bills filed were then deliberated and consolidated by the technical working group on Meda chaired by Zamboanga del Sur representative Antonio Cerilles.

“All bills have been harmonized and hopefully, this time, Mindanao can move forward,” said Cerilles, adding that the turfing issue with the Autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has already been threshed out.

“All the provinces and cities in Mindanao are interconnected and the ARMM region cannot just act without cooperating. All corners of Mindanao have to develop as a whole to attain equal pacing with Luzon,” he said.

The working group also proposes that the head of MinDA shall sit in the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) board to ensure Mindanao’s equal share in the prioritization of development programs and projects.

On SPDA, Cerilles said that Congress cannot abolish the agency because it has been an international commitment and enshrined in the Tripoli Agreement. The working group, however, recommends that a bill should be filed to strengthen it.

“I fully agree with the move to empower this authority since Mindanao is also not getting its fair share in the allocation of funds just like the Bicol region,” Camarines Sur representative Felix Alfelor, chair of the Committee on Government Enterprise and Privatization, pointed out.

Compared to Luzon and Visayas, Mindanao has the highest percentage of unpaved national roads at 37.81 percent; the lowest in irrigation development at 31.5 percent and the least in terms of farm-to-market roads paved at 19.68 percent.

Mindanao continues to lag behind in terms of economic growth, poverty and human development. Six out of the ten poorest provinces of the country are in Mindanao while four of the bottom five provinces which ranked lowest in human development all over the country are in Mindanao. (Medco-PIA)

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