Lawmakers ratify MinDA bill
Manila (28 January) -- Lawmakers ratified Tuesday the reconciled version of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Bill which seeks to accelerate growth in Mindanao by setting up a permanent development agency for the entire island.
The bill, which was certified as urgent by President Gloria Macapagal-Arryo was approved by the joint panel of the Senate and House representatives in a bicameral committee meeting last week.
The legislation seeks to strengthen and rename the existing Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo), which was formed in March 1992 through Executive Order 512 issued by the late President Corazon C. Aquino.
Both Houses have consolidated Senate Bill 3496 and House Bill 6958 and adopted MinDA bill as the final version in a bicameral meeting held at the Senate last 19 January.
The bicameral meeting was chaired by Senator Edgardo Angara and Cong. Felix Alfelor of Bicol, chairman of the House Committee on Government enterprises.
The meeting was also attended by conferees Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Cong. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro, Cong. Pedro Romualdo of Camiguin, and Cong. Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao.
"This is truly a landmark measure that will hopefully bring peace and development in Mindanao which has been lagging behind in terms of economic growth and human development in spite of its great contribution to the national economy," said Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, principal author of the bill and one of the key proponents who steered the passage of SB 3496 at the Senate.
The Senate earlier approved SB 3496 last December 15 2009 while Congress approved HB 6958 last 16 November 2009.
"The time for lip service to Mindanao should end and the time for affirmative action for Mindanao has to begin," said Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, noting that the ratification of the bill is a strong recognition of both houses on the long-felt need of Mindanao to be given the resources and powers to exert socio-economic development.
In Congress, the MinDA bill is principally authored by Deputy House Speaker Simeon Datumanong and Sultan Kudarat Representative Datu Pax Mangudadatu and co-authored by 37 congressmen from the Mindanao bloc.
Meanwhile, MEDA Bill sponsors at the Senate include Senators Miriam
Defensor-Santiago, Edgardo Angara, Manny Villar, Richard Gordon, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Lito Lapid, Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada, Ramon Revilla, Loren Legarda and Mar Roxas.
The MinDA Bill has been pushed in view of the need for Mindanao to catch up with the mainstream national development. Previous advocacies for the creation of the first Mindanao Development Authority (MDA) dates back to 1960.
If enacted, MinDA will be established "to address the need for a coordinative and integrative approach for the formulation and implementation of various inter-regional and/or Mindanao-wide development plans, programs and projects."
Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana, chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo), expressed hope that the bill will be signed into law the soonest, noting that the enactment of MinDA will be President Arroyo's legacy to Mindanao who enunciated earlier in her presidency that "we cannot attain our full national development without coming to terms with the problems in Mindanao."
"The ratification of the bill is indeed a clear manifestation of the commitment of the Senate and Congress to develop Mindanao and push the Mindanao agenda onto the national development priorities," said Leyretana.
The 8th Congress ratified the MEDA bill in 1991, but this was vetoed by Mrs. Aquino, who instead issued Executive Order 512 forming MEDCo, described as a mere ad hoc coordinating agency.
Leyretana said about 18 ad hoc bodies had been overseeing Mindanao development through the years, meaning they were replaced, absorbed by other agencies, or abolished altogether with a change in national leadership.
Various stakeholders from the business, religious, academe, youth sectors as well as industry leaders in Mindanao have long been rallying a strong call for a permanent mechanism that would ensure a strong voice for Mindanao in the national agenda.
These include the Mindanao Business Council, Bishops-Ulama Conference, League of Municipalities in the Philippines (LMP), Regional Development Councils of Caraga, IX and XII, Mindanao Studies Consortium Inc., Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Conference for Peace and Development (MIPCPD), SOCSKSARGEN Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc (SFFAI), Southern Philippine Deep Sea Fishing Association (SoPhil), Ulama League of the Philippines-Region XI; Sarangani-General Santos Local CIQS Coordinating Council (LQCC) among others. (MEDCO) [top]