MANILA – Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman is pushing for more infrastructure funds for Mindanao in the proposed 2023 national budget.
Speaking during the ongoing plenary debates on the budget on Thursday, Hataman opposed the huge cut in Mindanao's infrastructure funds citing that the country's southern regions have been plagued with poverty due to past conflicts between insurgents and government forces.
“Malinaw sa atin na ang infrastructure ay siyang lumilikha ng trabaho at lumilikha ng income sa madaming manggagawa sa construction, so malaking contribution ito sa pag-address ng poverty. At ang multiplier nyan ay yung peace and security sa mga lugar na tinatamaan ng imprastruktura (It is clear to us that infrastructure creates jobs and provide income to many workers in the construction sector. This has a big contribution in addressing poverty. The multiplier of that is peace and security in areas where infrastructure projects are being implemented),” Hataman said.
Hataman called on fellow lawmakers, especially those from Mindanao, to unite and work for the restoration of the infrastructure budget of the island back to its 2022 levels.
Mindanao suffered a huge slash in infrastructure outlay, from PHP84.69 billion in 2022 to only PHP30.49 billion in 2023, or a reduction of a whopping PHP54.2 billion, or almost a 64 percent decrease from last year.
Hataman also asked if the Development Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC) considered poverty incidence in formulating the proposed national budget.
According to Hataman, four out of the top five poorest regions in the country as indicated by their poverty incidence are found in Mindanao -- the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 45.8 percent; Caraga, 38.3 percent, Zamboanga Peninsula, 37.4 percent and Soccsksargen, 34.1 percent.
The other region on the list is Eastern Visayas with 36 percent.
"Ang tanong ko dito, paano ba ginamit ng DBCC ang datos na ito sa pagbuo ng National Expenditure Program (NEP) para sa 2023? Kasi hindi ko po alam kung paano matutulungan ang mga rehiyon na nabanggit natin (My question is how did the DBCC use this data in formulating the NEP for 2023. It's because I don't know how we would be able to help the regions that I have mentioned),” Hataman asked Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, a sponsor of a part of the proposed national budget.
Quimbo responded by saying agencies have regional offices that send feedback on regional needs, such as data on the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and other social welfare programs.
Hataman agreed that while 4Ps helps address poverty incidence, infrastructure projects provide numerous jobs and income, especially in impoverished areas in many parts of Mindanao.
The Basilan solon added that all regions have their own Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution but this depends on the infrastructure allocation gained in order to have private investments in the said impoverished regions.
"Kung magulo 'yung lugar mo or mahina ang imprastruktura mo, definitely may relation yun sa mga (If your area has peace and order problems or you have weak infrastructure development, it has something to do with) private investments," he explained.
Hataman pointed out that there should be proper coordination with the DBCC because its major function is to study the macro assumptions based on data submitted by concerned agencies.
“Alam naman nating malaki ang hinahabol ng Mindanao in terms of progress and development dahil naging entablado ito ng napakaraming digmaan. At ngayong may kapayapaan na, sana naman ay buhusan ng pondo dahil maraming rehiyon dito ang nakasadlak sa kahirapan (We know that Mindanao has a lot of catching up to do in terms of progress and development because it has been the stage of many conflicts. Now that there is peace, I hope that more funds will be allotted because many regions here continue to grapple with poverty)," he said. (PNA)