House okays MinDA Bill on second reading

Nov. 16, 2009

MANILAThe House of Representatives has approved on second reading the bill creating the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) which will become a permanent agency that will integrate the socio-economic development of Mindanao.

After a series of committee deliberations at the House, the chamber in plenary session passed House Bill 6958. The bills approval on third and final reading is expected next week.

The passage of the bill at the House heralds a longed-for development after efforts in pushing for the creation of a permanent Mindanao development agency has been delayed for more than five decades. Previous advocacies for the creation of the first Mindanao Development Authority (MDA) dates back to 1960.

House Bill 6958 seeks to strengthen the existing Mindanao Economic Development
Council (Medco) into a more permanent institution. This would ensure the continuity and consistency of inter-regional and Mindanao-wide programs and ensure a permanent mechanism that will provide a coordinated and rationalized platform for program implementation and monitoring, investment promotion, as well as policy advocacy for Mindanao.

Established in 1992 through Executive Order 512, Medco is the only mechanism that does all these in a limited capacity.

Deputy House Speaker Simeon Datumanong, principal author of the bill, underscored the urgent need for an institutionalized agency that looks beyond regional concerns in Mindanao.

With its uneven development and peace and order problems, Mindanao needs to catch up with the mainstream national development. To do that, we need to legislate an agency that seeks to address Mindanaos development imperatives as well as issues of continuity and consistency of development efforts in the island-region, he said.

The MinDA, when created, shall also act as implementing agency for Mindanao-specific interregional and Mindanao-wide programs and projects. Its authority shall cover all provinces and cities in region 9- 12, in Caraga and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).

While it has been a national governments pronouncement to give special attention
to Mindanao, there is a need for an agency that can actively articulate the Mindanao agenda and push it to become part of the national government priorities, Sultan Kudarat Representative Datu Pax Mangudadatu, co-author of the bill, said.

When enacted, the MinDA shall also act as the Philippine Coordinating Office for the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines East Asean Growth Area
(Bimp-Eaga), the lead government agency in coordinating the formulation and implementation of all Philippine-Eaga activities, programs and projects.

Minda shall also be the prime agency that will advocate for the adoption and approval of policies as well as promotion of initiatives for Mindanao and Palawans active participation in the Bimp-Eaga cooperation.

Medco has been helping us in advocating a conducive policy and business environment for the tuna industry and has actively helped us in the following in linking us with our counterparts in the Bimp-Eaga to promote trade and commerce as well as cultural and social linkages, said Marfenio Tan, president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing Associations and Allied Industries, Inc. (SFFAII).

With this piece of legislation, we can be assured that a permanent mechanism for
a holistic Mindanao development will be put in place, Tan said.

Meanwhile, the senators are set to deliberate on second reading next week the
Mindanao Economic Development Authority (Meda) bill, the counterpart bill of
MinDA at the Senate, as authored by Senators Edgardo Angara, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Richard Gordon, Loren Legarda, Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada, Mar Roxas and Manny Villar.

Last September, Mindanao leaders in the private sector, religious, youth and government attended the senate hearing on the Meda Bill.

Mindanao should not only be seen as a promise and the fulfillment is in Manila. Meda can be the champion as an institution, said Fr. Albert Alejo, project director of Konsult Mindanaw and one of the hearings resource speakers.

In a presentation by Konsult Mindanaw last month attended by President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo, one of the strong recommendations was the need for a Mindanao mechanism. The group conducted around 300 focus group discussions with around 5,000 participants in all regions.

In a short meeting with Mindanao stakeholders after the presentation, Mrs. Arroyo
vowed to certify the Meda bill as urgent. (Medco)

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