Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Thursday vowed to facilitate discussions on Charter change at the House of Representatives but said she doubts if the proposed shift to a federal form of government would take place during her term as Speaker.
“It might not... be completed in my remaining time in office, especially [since] there will still be a plebiscite,” Arroyo said in a TV interview. “But I hope to move it forward as far as I can during my time as Speaker. And so I hope that those who follow after will pick up from where we left off in this Congress,” she said.
At the same time, the former president played down speculation that she would become the prime minister under a federal system, saying the federal constitution submitted by the consultative commission to the President and Congress advocates a presidential system of government.
“So there is no Prime Minister to speak of,” she said.
Arroyo also said she opposed term extensions for elected officials as well as the cancellation of May 2019 elections—which her predecessor, Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, had pushed.
Meanwhile, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said a shift to a federal form of government would fortify the competitiveness of local government units and create a better environment for investors.
During the 6th Regional Competitiveness Summit held at the Philippine International Convention Center, Lopez agreed with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III that a review of the financial implications of shifting to a federal system is imperative.
“Nobody can dispute that. In the end, that will still be considered. But from our end, we are are looking more at the functions that will be devolve, those that will go the federal states and those that will be
left for the federal government. I’m looking at the [operability] rather than the risks and costs,” he said.
He said once the shift is approved, LGUs would be in a better position to attract more investments and decide the kind of incentives they can offer, such as lower property taxes or corporate taxes.
Foreign investors, he said, did not seem concerned about the political issues surrounding the shift to federalism.
Influential business groups led by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed concern about the shift, and agreed with Dominguez that the financial impact of the move should be thoroughly examined and discussed.
A member of the consultative committee, Edmund Tayao, said Thursday the shift to a federal form of government would pump prime the economy, comparing the shift to moving to a new house.
The move would entail additional expenses at the start, but would generally improve the stature and condition of the occupants.
“Just because you have additional expense when changing the form of government doesn’t mean that additional expense will be there forever. Additional costs in federalizing the country is an investment that would boost the country’s economic activity later on,” Tayao said.
Tayao, one of the resource persons during a Department of the Interior and Local Government-organized media forum in Tacloban City, was reacting to criticisms from the country’s economic managers that federalism could derail economic growth.
Tayao said Ethiopia and Kenya have been performing well economically since they federalized.
Ethiopia adopted a federal system in 1995 and has since experienced a 10.2 percent rise in its gross domestic product, an improvement from its 3.2-percent growth in 2014, the year before it shifted to federalism.
Kenya’s economy, on the other hand, shot up in 2010, the year it federalized, but experienced a slowdown in 2017 because of a drought. Thereafter, growth has recovered and stabilized, he said.