MinDA’s Alonto bats for federalism
The chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority or MinDA recently called on local government officials to support “the eventual systemic shift of Mindanao to federalism. which will lead to a federal form of government in the Philippines.”
MinDA Secretary Datu HJ. Abul Khayr Alonto made the call at the recent 10th Philippine Councilors League National Congress here. He said Mindanao’s shift to federalism will enable the island-region to help in nation building.
“As the centerpiece of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign, federalism becomes the soul of his administration and the backbone of his vision for a truly united, progressive, and economically developed Philippines,” he said.
Alonto, as the event’s guest speaker, added that Mindanao is currently experiencing “an unprecedented economic improvement,” coupled with significant investment interests from both local and international businesses that heightened during the Duterte presidency.
“This is the most opportune time and we intend to bolster the push for federalism by laying the foundations of a self-reliant, self-sufficient and progressive Mindanao, so that our experience could cascade to the rest of the country,” he said.
In January, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe pledged $8.7 billion worth of business opportunities and private investments in the Philippines during his state visit in Davao City. Abe brought with him more than 20 key Japanese government officials and private sector representatives at a forum aimed to showcase Mindanao as the next investment destination in the Philippines.
Several interests in the implementation of Mindanao power and energy projects were also secured during a forum organized by the Japanese Government and MinDA in February this year, Alonto noted.
In February, a delegation from Mindanao joined the Philippine three-country mission to the United Arab Emirates to present business incentives and explore investment prospects to key business organizations in the Middle East. About 70 Emirati businessmen met with the mission and expressed interest in investing in the Philippines and Mindanao.
The trade mission also gathered more than 15 “serious” business inquiries ranging from specifics of putting up businesses to conducting trading with Philippine counterparts. A Dubai-based company expressed interest in establishing a processing plant to produce coco peat in Mindanao.
Alonto explained that beyond the concept of decentralization, federalism entails the strengthening of local government units by providing substantial political power to the locality.
“Federalism is about bringing the government down to the people where they can call it their own,” he said. “With federalism in place, the participation of the local government in the decision-making process is ensured.”
He said local government units may craft programs “that are more responsive to their needs” as they assume larger roles in shaping the direction of the federal government.
“Through federalism, Mindanao’s vision as the gateway to our Asean neighbors and the rest of the world will soon become a reality as we work on strengthening the connectivity in this part of the country.”
Initiatives to strengthen connectivity within Mindanao will be complemented with concrete socioeconomic development programs that are attuned to the needs of the local communities, he added.
Through its Mindanao Development Corridors program, MinDA aims to fully integrate Mindanao with the implementation of a more efficient public transport system, the development of state-of-the-art trans-shipment hub, the establishment of the Trans Mindanao High-Speed Railway System, and the creation of agro-industrial cooperatives free economic zones, among others.
Alonto said in a federal system, relationships are guided by the core principles of subsidiarity and parity of esteem, ensuring that every constituent unit or federal state will get a fair share of responsibility.
“Unlike in a unitary system, where everything is dictated by the national government, a federal republic will facilitate highly diversified units as means to transform synergy towards unity and reconciliation,” he added.
The Secretary said federalism is also a means for the people of Mindanao to finally exercise their right to self-determination and address persisting social issues such as injustice, divisiveness, peace, and poverty.
“Our vision for Mindanao is to be at the forefront of economic development of the country, and I truly believe that we can maximize our full potentials should we slowly shift towards federalism,” he added.