THE push for an autonomous Cordillera will continue even as the government has denied the initial funding requested by the region’s lawmakers and representatives, Baguio Rep. Marquez Go, one of the bill’s sponsors, said.
A joint position paper issued by the nation’s top finance managers said the national government could not yet afford to provide the proposed Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC) a 10-year block grant of P75 billion, as provided by House Bill No. 3267.
According to Go, the finance officials said that the government currently cannot afford to provide the block grant as it is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and adjusting to the new funding mechanisms created by the Supreme Court’s Mandanas-Garcia Ruling, which expanded the sources of revenues shared by towns and provinces by ruling that local governments are entitled to a share of all tax revenue rather than just that collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), which cut the national government share of funds to increase the local governments’.
However, Go clarified that even with the block grant denied and the finance department experts of the national government suggesting that the national finances might be in an appropriate state for the block grant by five years’ time, the push for the ARC will continue.
“They just asked Congress to understand the fiscal implications of its bureaucracy and the block grant it requires (if HB 3267 is passed),” he said.
Kalinga Representative Allen Jesse Mangaoang said that initial figures provided by the national government had the region seeking 2.5 percent of the annual budget, estimated to be P37 billion annually, plus a block grant of P10 billion per year for the first five years to get the region on its feet.
The figures are roughly half of the country’s other autonomous region, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which receives five percent of the annual national budget, coming to roughly P100 billion annually, including the block grants.