Vice President Jejomar C. Binay bared his agenda to develop Mindanao with increased government spending for social services and infrastructure, a bigger share of national taxes for local governments, and bringing more foreign investors in agriculture and power.
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In a speech at the Kusog Mindanaw’s Presidential Forum in Davao City, Binay noted that five of the 10 poorest provinces are in Mindanao, including Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao which are both in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Binay, the standard bearer of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) cited the Social Weather Station’s September, 2015 survey showing Mindanao’s poverty incidence remained at 70 percent, unchanged since June.
To alleviate poverty in Mindanao, he said his administration will allocate higher share of the internal revenue allotment (IRA) for poor municipalities should he win the presidential elections.
“We shall endeavor to give the poorer 3rd to 5th class municipalities a bigger share of the IRA,” said Binay.
“At present, the 34 percent shared by close to 1,500 municipalities is not sufficient to finance economic activities and social services in the countryside, especially municipalities that are IRA-dependent,” he added.
Binay also said his administration will strive to create a business environment that will attract investors in agriculture and manufacturing, and generate more jobs in these sectors.
MINDANAO AGENDA — Vice President Jejomar Binay, standard bearer of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) lays down his agenda for Mindanao during a presidential forum organized by Kusog Mindanaw where four presidential candidates were invited to present their program of government but only he obliged. (Ali G. Macabalang)
“These sectors absorb low-skilled and less-educated workers,” he said, noting that majority of Mindanaoans are subsistence farmers and landless laborers.
Moreover, manufacturing is very small and agriculture, despite being the dominant sector is the least productive.
“We will promote cacao, coffee, and coconut, since these crops give Mindanao a competitive advantage. We will undertake an aggressive expansion of rural infrastructure and improvement of supply chain and logistics,” Binay said.
The Vice President also vowed to invest more in social services under his presidency.
He cited a World Bank report that an additional R350 billion is needed in the next three years in Mindanao for investments in health, infrastructure, and education to bring it within the upper middle class category of the Southeast Asian region.
Aside from increased social services, Binay said his administration will push for infrastructure development in Mindanao to attract investors.
“A Binay presidency will continue investing more in Mindanao and ensure that it benefits from the 5 percent or more of GDP [gross domestic product] allocated for infrastructure spending alone,” Binay said.
“More infrastructure projects mean more construction jobs, more economic activities, and more investors coming in as infrastructure projects get completed,” he added.
Binay noted the importance of getting more investors in the power sector and vowed to streamline the application process for the construction of power plants.
“My administration will cut down the bureaucratic inefficiencies that delay the construction of new power plants. It currently requires 160 signatures gathered over two years before a new power plant is approved,” he said.
“We will streamline the application process for new power plants to ramp-up Mindanao’s power supply,” he added.
Binay mentioned that Mindanao’s power supply is lower than demand, which affects long-term productivity and business viability.
As of November 23, the opposition leader said Mindanao grid had a capacity of 1,157 megawatts, which is 212 megawatts short of the peak demand at 1,360 megawatts. Mindanao is projected to require at least 500 MW of new capacity by 2016, another 500 MW by 2020, and 1,600 MW by 2030.
At present, Mindanao relies on two government-run hydropower plants for 50 percent of its supply. The threat of El Nino puts Mindanao’s energy supply at risk, he added.
The Vice president also noted that while new coal-fired plants are expected to come after 2015, officials say that as supply improves, Mindanao also needs to brace for rate increases.
To further improve Mindanao’s business environment, Binay said his administration will decentralize the issuance of permits.
“At the moment, businesses in Mindanao are having a hard time getting permits due to centralized regulations. Mining permits from the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] have been devolved but regional directors cannot approve a permit without clearance from Manila,” he said.
“Import commodity clearance has been devolved to Department of Trade and Industry local offices but it still needs the signature from the head office in Manila. The centralized system makes it harder and more costly to do business in Mindanao, or anywhere outside the capital,” he added.
Binay said he is open to “constitutional renovation,” especially on matters that bar investments in the country.
“We might as well explore reorganizing governance, including enhanced decentralization and greater share of Internal Revenue Allotment or IRA to poor 4th and 5th class municipalities,” he said.
“The more decentralized decision-making is, the more responsive it will be. The more empowered local government units are, the more accountable they become. Presidents may no longer behave like emperors, impervious to the views of the grassroots,” he added.
Binay also expressed his support to an agreement that promotes peace in Mindanao as long as it is within the bounds of the Constitution.
“Let me emphasize my commitment to lasting peace in Mindanao. We need a peace agreement that would address the concerns of all groups and stakeholders, whether Muslim, Lumad, or Christian,” he said.
“I support an agreement that is within the bounds of our Constitution and national sovereignty. But peace and development need not be put on hold while Congress deliberates the BBL,” he added.
“My presidency will continue to work with our development partners — the Asian Development Bank, AUSAID, JICA, among others — in implementing various projects, Institutional development and capacity building to improve the welfare of Filipinos in Mindanao,” he further said.
The organizers of Kusog Mindanaw, a bloc of peace advocacy groups and different business organizations earlier invited four presidential candidates – Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Mar Roxas and Binay to share their platforms of government and their solution to existing problems particularly the paralyzing power outages besetting the island.
But only Binay obliged. The three aspirants begged off due to prior commitments. Even Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, a latecomer in the presidential race begged off because of prior commitments.
The vice president lauded the Kusog Mindanao dialogue organizers for holding such forum, particularly the Cotabato City-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) and foreign partners Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) of Germany and the World Bank as facilitators of the group’s activities in Mindanao. (with reports from Ali G. Macabalang and Nonoy E. Lacson)
Source: Manila Bulletin