MANILA, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The creation of a larger autonomous Bangsamoro region in southern Philippines would open high growth prospects for Mindanao and the rest of the country, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said on Tuesday.
Filipinos in the vote on Monday to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that will pave the way for the creation of a larger Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in the south. Results of the referendum are expected to be released later this week.
Philippine Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the ratification of the BOL through a plebiscite and the creation of BARMM would increase investments in the region.
"Given that the BOL provides a lot of opportunities to increase the budget for BARMM, we expect to see more programs and infrastructure projects in the region," Pernia said.
Pernia said an estimated 70 billion pesos (roughly 1.3 billion U.S. dollars) for the fiscal year of 2019 alone will be provided by the national government, as an assistance to the region.
Pernia underscored the planned major infrastructure projects in the region amounting to 22.15 billion pesos (roughly 418.68 million U.S. dollars) for the Fiscal Year 2019 alone and 40.85 billion (roughly 772.1 million U.S. dollars for 2017 to 2022, based on the Public Investment Program, as of September 2018.
"Connectivity and social infrastructure should be the primary concern of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and the new leaders of the BARMM to address pressing issues, most importantly access to basic services," Pernia added.
Pernia said that with the new Bangsamoro government vested with powers over political and fiscal matters, the public financial management and delivery of services in the region would improve.
The BOL is the result of decades-long, on-and-off peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest Muslim military group, that started in 1996. The military claims the MILF has an estimated 11,000 fighters. However, the MILF claims they have 30,000 to 40,000 fighters.
The government and the MILF signed in 2014 the final Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro peace agreement.