MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives and the Senate are set to spend the whole week reconciling several contentious and conflicting provisions of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
From Monday, July 9 to Friday, July 13, a total of 29 legislators will gather at the Ballroom A of Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria for the bicameral conference committee meetings on the BBL.
The BBL, if passed into law, will create a new and more powerful Bangsamoro region to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
In exchange, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has committed to decommission its troops and end its decades-long armed struggle. The MILF would then create a new political party and participate in governing the Bangsamoro.
But the BBL bicam debates will be long and exhaustive, with lawmakers expected to burn their eyebrows as they tackle the significant differences between House Bill (HB) No. 6475 and Senate Bill (SB) No. 1717. (READ: Difficult work ahead to reconcile Senate, House versions of BBL)
Among the significant amendments in HB 6475 and SB 1717 is the lowering of the Bangsamoro region's annual block grant or its share of the national internal revenue from the proposed 6% or P72 billion to 5% or P59 billion.
The Senate version also removed the Bangsamoro’s power over all other areas not on the list.
The House version, meanwhile, allows only one plebiscite to be held for cities and provinces sharing a common border with the Bangsamoro to join the region. The BTC originally wanted a plebisicite to be held every 25 years.
The Senate also seeks to ban political dynasties in the Bangsamoro, prohibiting party representatives to run for office if he or she is related up to the 2nd civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to another party or district representative in the same parliament.
The BBL versions to be tackled by the bicam have already been criticized for being a watered down versions of the original one proposed by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).
Members of the MILF and civil groups from the Marawi City and Lanao del Sur want the deleted provisions of the BBL restored. (READ: Final version of BBL holds fate of Mindanao peace process)
The pressure is now on for the bicam members, who must be able to reconcile both the House and Senate versions before President Rodrigo Duterte’s 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the afternoon of July 23.
The President is expected to sign the BBL into law the morning before he delivers his 3rd SONA.
The complete list of bicam members on the BBL are as follows: