The issue of intergovernmental relations takes center stage Tuesday in Manila as a wide spectrum of political leaders, policymakers, government agencies and civil society gathers to discuss how best to operationalize with the newly-established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) one of the major features of its organic act.


The Australian Government-supported national conference on intergovernmental relations (IGR) at the Mayuree Grand Ballroom of the Dusit Thani Manila in Makati City on October 1 is expected to stimulate discussions on the design of IGR mechanisms in the country to improve local autonomy with the IGR body under the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) as a template and take-off point on the possibility of developing practice of IGR and even new IGR mechanisms in the country.


This IGR Body is supposed to be a formal body with representatives from the national government and the regional government. The IGR Body acts as the clearing house to thresh out issues regarding the transition and the BOL implementation. But the IGR Body is not only for the transition period rather it is supposed to be main formal interface for cooperation and coordination for the two levels of government. 


The IGR Body has not yet been constituted by the national government even as the BTA thru its Chief Minister already constituted his IGR team. However, early this month the President announced that a Cabinet level coordinating body for BARMM is being established and presumably this is the IGR Body since draft Executive Orders have been circulating thru submissions of relevant agencies concerned in particular the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).


On its own initiative the Department of Finance likewise set up an inter-agency Technical Working Group to interface with the BARMM government, particularly its budget and finance ministry. Initial meetings of the TWG with the relevant BARMM agencies have taken place. 


Aside from the IGR Body, the national government can also utilize as implementation mechanism the powers of general supervision over autonomous regions of the President to see to it that laws be faithfully executed (i.e. in American legal and constitutional parlance the so called “take care clause”).


The President has met a number of times with BARMM officials led by the Interim Chief Minister. But on an institutional footing wherein there is an active day to day or regular interface this has not happened. The general supervision of the President over autonomous regions has been delegated to the DILG during the administration of then President Gloria Arroyo and that it is why the DILG announced recently that it will exercise judicious supervision and will do a roadmap for the transition in governance from ARMM to BARMM.


It is expected that these mechanisms particularly the IGR Body of the national government will be in place to help and guide the transition from ARMM to BARMM as it is expected that next year will be the start of new structures in BARMM to be in place.


Tuesday’s conference will be divided into three panel discussions. The first panel will look into the critical role of IGR in implementing negotiated political settlements. It will explore IGR from international, national and Bangsamoro perspectives, particularly in implementing autonomous arrangements based on peace agreements.


The second panel will examine the place of IGR alongside the Philippine Constitution and the BOL, the prospects of decentralization and proposals for federalism and charter change in the Philippines. Speakers in this panel will discuss how to manage the dynamics between the constitution, national laws, organic law and regional laws towards an effective IGR mechanism.


The third panel will dive into opportunities and challenges in structuring IGR with the Bangsamoro, including good practices in IGR and concrete steps in terms of structuring, capacity-building and process that must be put in place for a successful IGR mechanism.


Experts and officials confirmed to speak in the panel discussions include UK House of Lords member and former Scottish First Minister Lord Jack McConnell, Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito Galvez, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, Department of National Defense (DND) Undersecretary Cesar B. Yano, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary Herman Jumilla, MILF negotiator and Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Member Robert Maulana Marohombsar Alonto, Ateneo Policy Center Fellow Michael Henry Yusingco, Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms (IPER) Executive Director Ramon Casiple, BTA Member Jose Lorena, International IDEA Constitution Building Advisor for Asia Pacific Amanda Cats-Baril, BTA Minority Floor Leader Laisa Masuhud Alamia, and IAG Development Consulting Inc. (IDCI) Chief Operations Officer Ishak Mastura.


Maria Lourdes Tiquia, Amparo Pamela Fabe and Mohammad Al-Amin Julkipli will moderate the panel discussions.