The establishment of intergovernmental relations (IGR) mechanisms is an innovative feature of the BOL. Article VI mandates the creation of various IGR bodies such as the National Government-Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Body, the Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum, Fiscal Policy Board, Joint Body for Zones of Joint Cooperation, Infrastructure Development Board, Energy Board and Sustainable Development Board. Notably, these offices clearly demonstrate that the Bangsamoro government has an elevated status over other local governments in terms of its relationship with the central government.

The concept of IGR is traditionally associated with federal systems. But many scholars maintain that IGR mechanisms can and do play a key function in unitary systems with embedded decentralization arrangements such as the Philippines. In fact, Article X of the 1987 Constitution prescribes mechanisms that have some IGR features (See Sections 13 and 14). Moreover, the Local Government Code of 1991 also has a specific section on IGR (See Chapter III in Book I).

IGR is explained in academic literature as “the processes and institutions through which governments within a political system interact.” (Phillimore, John. 2013. Understanding Intergovernmental Relations: Key Features and Trends. Australian Journal of Public Administration. 72 (3): pp. 228-238)

Moreover, IGR mechanisms “seeks the achievement of common goals through alignment and cohesion across all levels of government”. (Chakunda Vincent and Ogochukwu Nzewi, 2018, ‘Intergovernmental relations in federal and unitary nations: A framework for analysis’, International Affairs and Global Strategy, Vol.60.)

The organization of the IGR bodies under the BOL will be extremely challenging. For one thing, the traditional uneven power relations between the central government and the regional government, as well as the presence of national government agencies in most matters of governance, will be huge obstacles in ensuring mutual respect is part and parcel of the BARMM’s IGR bodies.

Furthermore, there are institutional challenges within the BOL itself that must be managed in relation to the establishment of the IGR bodies. The most challenging of which is the provision on the power of supervision of the President over the Bangsamoro government and the local government units within the BARMM. The ambiguous relationship between the regional government and the local governments under the BOL is also a major issue that needs to be addressed. Clearly, demarcating the role and contribution of each level of government in the organization and operationalization of the IGR bodies is a tremendous task ahead.

As previously mentioned, IGR is commonly referred to as the lifeblood of a federal system. And just like in the Bangsamoro, IGR is still an unfamiliar concept for Filipinos. Hence, even in the context of President Rodrigo Duterte’s federalism initiative, how to define IGR in the broader national context and plot its implementation will not be easy. It will not be a surprise therefore, if federalism proponents keenly observe how the IGR prescription in the BOL is implemented.

Indeed, IGR could be the game-changer for the BARMM. Potentially, the monopoly of the central government in decision-making can be replaced by mutual respect and interdependence. Assuring that there will no longer be a unilateral imposition of public policies by one level of government over the other. Moreover, there can be genuine collaboration amongst stakeholders. At least for some development mandates, the Bangsamoro community can be assured of a coherent approach by the BARMM from planning to execution.

MILESTONES

Establishment of IGR during the Transition Period

Given the diverse mandates of the BTA as the BARMM government, Transitory authority and interim Parliament, how it relates to the national government and the LGUs during the transition period so that it can effectively fulfill its mandates must be put in place. This IGR system during the transition period may need to be established in coordination with the BTA pursuant to a national administrative order.

Creation of Intergovernmental Relations Body

Art. VI Sec. 2. Intergovernmental Relations Mechanism. – There is hereby created a National Government – Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Body, hereinafter referred to as “Intergovernmental Relations Body,” to coordinate and resolve issues on intergovernmental relations through regular consultation and continuing negotiation in a non-adversarial manner. The Intergovernmental Relations Body shall exhaust all means to resolve issues brought before it. Unresolved issues shall be elevated to the President through the Chief Minister. The National Government and the Bangsamoro Government shall each appoint representatives to the Intergovernmental Relations Body. The Intergovernmental Relations Body shall be supported by a joint secretariat. (Bangsamoro Organic Law)

Reconstitution of Local Government Units

Art. 15 Sec. 4 Reconstitution of Local Government Units. – Based on the plebiscite results, LGUs that joined the BARMM have to be territorially reconfigured into constituent units and their administrative status and that of national government agencies operating therein have to be determined. New LGUs may be established, merged or abolished, and the creation of districts for parliamentary elections has to be considered.

Regional Local Government Code

Art 6 Sec. 10.Bangsamoro Government and its Constituent Local Government Units. – The authority of the Bangsamoro Government to regulate the affairs of its constituent local government units shall be guaranteed in accordance with this Organic Law and a Bangsamoro local government code to be enacted by the Parliament. The privileges already enjoyed by local government units under R.A.7160, and other existing laws shall not be diminished.

EMERGING QUESTIONS

1

How can IGR be best designed and implemented within a unitary system of government?

2

How best to structure the relations between the regional government and constituent LGUs in the light of the national local government code?

3

What can be guiding principles for stakeholders in implementing this new governance mechanism?

4

What should be the initial or preparatory steps towards attaining productive and efficient IGR?


SUGGESTED READINGS