SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez has reiterated his full support to the shift to federalism as this would be more responsive to the changing needs of the people and bring peace to Mindanao instead of the present unitary system of government.
In his remarks read by lawyer Vincent Noel Aureus, Alvarez, chief legislative officer of the Office of the Speaker during the multisectoral “Forum on Federalism 101: The Philippine Context last week Alvarez said the unitary system has failed to solve the decades-old problems of poverty and insurgency, especially in the countryside
“Many have tried but failed to solve the riddle of underdevelopment and elusive peace in the Philippines, particularly the glaring inequalities between Metro Manila, the seat of power, and the far-flung provinces that have persistently lagged behind. This has led us to re-examine our present structure,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said federalism will empower local governments and communities and thus respond in a more timely and effective way to the people’s concerns. It will also help bring peace in Mindanao.
“Federalism shall empower our local governments and communities. Most of all, a federal setup could finally let us enjoy the dividends of peace in Mindanao. Respect for political autonomy and diversity are some of the fundamental issues of that conflict,” he said.
“If we shift to a federal form of government, genuine self-governance for Filipinos with distinct cultures and historical traditions will have a space that a unitary set-up cannot accommodate,” Alvarez added.
Alvarez said that while federalism is not a “magic pill” for all the problems of the Philippines, it can definitely bring about the reforms that the country needs at this time.
The forum was organized by the House committee on people’s participation in partnership with the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
DILG Assistant Secretary for Plans and Programs Epimaco Densing III, for his part, said that economic growth has failed to benefit the majority of the people, especially those in the far-flung areas under the present unitary system, which has been the country’s setup for 50 years now.
Densing said the advantages of a federal system include the efficient delivery of services to the people, bringing government closer to the people, division of powers and responsibilities between the national government and regional governments, and promoting competition.
“Federalism would give way to regions to compete with each other since each region could have a different system from the other, depending on the regional governor’s order,” he said.
Densing said the DILG has already commissioned the Local Government Development Foundation to undertake a study on the issue and has been conducting consultations with the local chief executives on the proposed shift to federalism.
Densing added that among the criteria being considered by the DILG in the creation of sub-states are geographical location, cultural diversity, and revenue generation capability.