The Bangsamoro Parliament on Friday approved and ratified the region’s budget for 2020 amounting to 65.92 billion pesos. Interim Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim, who later signed it into law, was present when forty-eight (48) Parliament members voted for its passage. It is the first appropriation legislated by the new Bangsamoro Government to fund the interim government’s programs and operations in the second year of the transition. 

Embracing Autonomy

The 2020 budget is a product of the increased autonomy bestowed to the Bangsamoro Government by RA No. 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). It institutes the newly vested authority of the Government to enact its own appropriations law as well as the expanded fund sources it can access in the coming years. These comprise the block grant, BARMM share in the national taxes within its territories, and locally sourced taxes, fees and charges. The Government projected this to reach 65.92 billion pesos for year 2020. 

Along with the bigger resource is the responsibility to authorize a budget that corresponds to the limitations prescribed by existing laws. One limitation is on the types of expenditure of the government, which puts down a 45% cap for personnel services to pay the salaries, wages, and other compensation of its employees. This is well reflected in the budget with a total of 26.66B (45%) appropriation specifically for this purpose while 24.12B (37%) is allocated as maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) to support the operations of the Bangsamoro ministries and offices, and 12.13B (18%) as capital outlay (CO) to build on the Government’s assets. 

Financing the Priorities

The budget is anchored on the Twelve-Point Priority Agenda of the Bangsamoro Government as aligned with the Philippine Development Plan and the 0+10 Point Socioeconomic Agenda of the Duterte administration. Reflecting the priorities of the Government, 66% or a total of 43.2B of the total budget has been allocated to fund the programs and projects of eighteen (18) ministries and offices of the Bangsamoro bureaucracy. 

The development projects of the Government are also expected to be carried out now with larger budgets. 1.65B is allocated for the Tulong Alay sa Bangsamorong Nangangailangan (TABANG) Project to extend help to the Bangsamoro people in need through humanitarian projects like jobs placement, seeds distribution, and medical assistance. The Government will also fund the Marawi Rehabilitation Program with 500M to hasten the rehabilitation of the city. 2.82B of the budget has been earmarked for Kapayaan sa Pamayanan (KAPYANAN), a project that will provide housing programs and livelihood opportunities for the Bangsamoro people. These programs, among others, are currently lodged under the Office of the Chief Minister. 

The five ministries/offices with the biggest budgets are the Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education (19.06B), Office of the Chief Minister (7.92B), Ministry of Public Works (4.09B), Ministry of Health (3.07B), and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (2.59B). This is consistent with the mandate of the BOL to assign the highest budgetary priority to education, health, and social services. The appropriations law also specifies to expedite the enactment of the Transition Plan and the Administrative Code to usher these ministries in implementing their respective programs. 

The rest of the budget has been appropriated as special purpose funds (SPF) to cover expenditures for specific purposes that cannot be identified yet during budget preparation. The Bangsamoro Government appropriated for three funds: 

  1. Miscellaneous and Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) in the amount of 9.28B intended mainly for the compensation adjustment for salary increases and the funding requirements for personnel of offices the Bangsamoro Government has yet to create;
  2. Contingent Fund (CF) of 13.20B to provide for the Transitional Development Impact Fund and for new or urgent projects and activities of the Bangsamoro Government; and
  3. 252.52M Pension and Gratuity Fund (PGF) for the pension of absorbed employees in health, education, and social services sectors, retirement benefits, and other deficiencies in the appropriations for retirement and terminal leave benefits.

With the newly enacted budget, the Bangsamoro Government has now a spending program to initiate meaningful reforms in the region and to progress its initiatives for the transition. This budget should be considered as the budget of the Bangsamoro people, giving meaning to our vote during the 2019 Bangsamoro autonomy plebiscite. It should also serve as a tool to keep the government in check as they fulfill the vital role of spending public funds and delivering services to the people.