By Arwen Pascua

MANILA — The slew of achievements in the first year of the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB) of the national and Bangsamoro governments is a testimony to President Duterte’s commitment to ensuring that genuine autonomy benefits grassroots communities and spells just and lasting peace in Mindanao, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Thursday night.

Dominguez said the progress made by the IGRB, an innovative mechanism under the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), is made even more remarkable as this was accomplished amid the myriad challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic that gripped the nation in 2020.

He said, however, that much work still needs to be done by the IGRB and the other intergovernmental relations ((IGR) boards as there remains “a continuing challenge to undertake creative solutions toward moral, democratic, deliberative and responsive governance.”

“Nonetheless, we remain determined in accomplishing our targets and reaping the dividends of peace because of the way we have worked in synergy in the pursuit of our common goal,” Dominguez said during the presentation of the IGRB’s first-year accomplishment report to President Duterte and Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

In presenting the report to the President, Dominguez said the document “is a testimony to your commitment to make genuine autonomy an achievement that benefits the grassroots communities as much as it is a triumph of just and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

Dominguez, who co-chairs the IGRB with BARMM Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal, said the ratification of the BOL two years ago by an overwhelming majority of the Bangsamoro people was a “historic” initiative and a high point in the Duterte administration’s quest to bring peace and prosperity to the people in Mindanao.

He said both sides in the IGRB acted “with haste, but with prudence,” to “resolve points of divergence and reconcile differences to keep the transition of the BARMM moving at the fastest possible pace.”

The Terms of Reference (TOR) that would govern the conduct of the IGRB meetings, for instance, was issued when the body was first convened on December 16, 2019.

After its first meeting in Davao City in December 2019, the IGRB virtually convened five more times last year despite the pandemic and was able to set in motion four IGR mechanisms necessary for the effective implementation of the BOL.

These IGR mechanisms are the Fiscal Policy Board, the Joint Body for Zones of Joint Cooperation, the Infrastructure Development Board, and the Energy Board.

“With the unrelenting dedication and strong partnership among the IGRB members, what could have been obstacles in the first year of the complex transition process were threshed out successfully,” Dominguez said.

“The report demonstrates that much progress has been made in putting in place not only innovative institutions of autonomy, but also a service-oriented, people-centric, and transformative civic culture,” he added.

The IGRB was among the innovative features under the BOL, given that intergovernmental relations mechanisms were absent in previous proposed organic laws on the creation of the Bangsamoro autonomous region.

“We are here today because of the leadership, vision, and determination of President Duterte and Chief Minister Ebrahim as well as the mutual trust and respect shown by everyone in the IGRB,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez thanked Iqbal, whom he described as his “good partner” in the IGRB, and the officials of BARMM “for the openness, goodwill, and enthusiasm they demonstrated over the past year.”

Iqbal, for his part, thanked Dominguez and the President for their unwavering support to the BARMM and the IGRB.

“This success (of the IGRB) will not be achieved without the unwavering support of the Duterte Administration to the establishment of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. It is all the more significant because we present it to a President who hails from Mindanao, and who fully understands the history of the Bangsamoro struggle,” Iqbal said.

“We are thankful that he recognizes the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination, and is himself determined to ensure the success of the Bangsamoro peace process,” Iqbal added. (AI/MTVN)

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