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Federalism Would Be More Responsive to the Changing Needs of the People – ALVAREZ

 

House Speaker Bebot Alvarez has reiterated his full support for the shift to federalism as this would be more responsive to the changing needs of the people than the current unitary system and would bring peace to Mindanao.

In his remarks read by Atty. Vincent Noel Aureus, Chief Legislative Officer of the Office of the Speaker, during the multi-sectoral “Forum on Federalism 101: The Philippine Context” organized this week by the House committee on people’s participation in partnership with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), 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.

The Speaker 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 set-up 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,” according to Alvarez.

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

For her part, Rep. Florida Robes (Lone District, San Jose del Monte City), vice chairperson of the House committee on people’s participation, also called for support for federalism, saying it will bring about much-needed reforms in the country.

“Buksan po natin ang ating mga isip at ang ating mga puso sa mga ganitong adhikain na puwedeng magbigay ng tunay na pagbabago sa ating rehiyon, bayan, at lungsod,” Robes said.

Robes also urged a common messaging in the campaign for federalism so the people will be well-informed and enlightened about the issue. She noted the inconsistencies among various groups advocating the shift from unitary to a federal system.

Robes said that they are willing to listen to more suggestions and comments of the people regarding federalism.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Assistant Secretary for Plans and Programs Epimaco Densing III stressed the objective of the move towards federalism.

“Ang layunin po ng federalismo ay mapaganda at maiangat ang buhay ng bawat Filipino,” Densing said at the forum.

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 set-up for 50 years now, according to Densing.

Densing said the advantages of a federal system are 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.

“We in the DILG commissioned the Local Government Development Foundation na gumawa ng pag-aaral kung ano ang tamang pagsasama-sama ng mga local government units (LGUs) para ilagay sa isang regional government. Kasama na rin po diyan ang pakikipag-konsulta namin sa ating mga local chief executives, mga gobernador, mayor, mga konsehal,” Densing said.

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.

“Ang nakikita po naming basehan ay kailangan po ay geographical location. The second criteria in lumping the LGUs together or putting up the regional government is based on cultural diversity. Ang pangatlong criteria is the revenue-generation capability of the LGUs,” Densing said.

The present system of government is lopsided in favor of the rich, according to Densing.

“Ang mayayaman ay lalong yumayaman” he said.

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