Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. told vice governors of Mindanao the substitute bill for the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law is not just inclusive but beneficial and fair to all: Moros and non-Moros alike.
Marcos, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, was one of the guest speakers in the Mindanao Vice Governors’ Conference held at the Limketkai Luxe Hotel in Cagayan De Oro City. He said he only did “the right thing to do’’ in crafting the substitute bill.
The conference was led by Misamis Oriental Vice Governor Jose Mari Pelaez, the vice president for Mindanao of the Vice Governors League of the Philippines.
“I believe we tried very hard to be fair to everyone concerned,” Marcos said when asked in the press briefing about allegations that his substitute bill, the Basic Law on Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (Senate Bill No. 2849), watered down the powers granted to the Bangsamoro government.
Explaining the reasons behind the changes, Marcos pointed out that many of the provisions of the bill treated the Bangsamoro government similarly to other local governments in the country, in order to draw them closer to mainstream Filipino society instead of treating them as a separate group.
This principle, according to Marcos, guided the substitute bill’s provisions on the authority of the Bangsamoro government over Lake Lanao, which some critics in social media have tagged as “anti-Moro”.
“What is different in our substitute bill is we just considered what was described either as inland waters or Bangsamoro waters to adhere to the definition of municipal waters. I don’t see why we need to change it,” Marcos said.
Under the Local Government Code, “municipal waters” includes streams, lakes, and tidal waters within the municipality that are not the subject of private ownership and are not within national parks, public forests, timber lands, forest reserves or fishery reserves.
Marcos noted that SB 2894 even extended the boundary for marine waters from 15 kilometers up to 22.224 kilometers (12 nautical miles) from the low-water mark of the coasts that are part of the Bangsamoro geographical area.
However, he said SB 2894 ensured that the power plants generating electricity from the waters of Lake Lanao, as well as the transmission facilities connected to the national grid, remained under the supervision of the National Power Corporation.
“Lake Lanao is critical as it supplies 60 percent of all the power in Mindanao. We all know that we are in crisis when it comes to power generation in Mindanao,” Marcos said. Rotating brownouts lasting from four to eight hours frequently occurs in many areas in Mindanao.
During the Senate hearings on the bill, the Mindanao Development Authority took the position that Lake Lanao should be excluded from the Bangsamoro territory, and should be maintained under the exclusive control of the national government for the communal use and benefit of the entire Mindanao.
Marcos said that while he tried his best to correct the flaws of the draft BBL in the substitute bill, it could be further improved with additional inputs from his fellow senators during the period of amendment and in the bicameral conference committee, after both Houses of Congress have passed their own version of the measure.
Other than the Bangsamoro, the two-day conference tackled other topics including the status of development programs and projects for Mindanao, the K to 12 basic education program, and the energy situation in Mindanao.
Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat was also one of the guest speakers at the conference, attended by 15 vice governors from Mindanao and one delegate from Aurora province, as well as several members of provincial boards.