With social and economic inequity rising in the Philippines, Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III told legislators from all over the world that the Philippine government was eyeing a major structural reform to ensure that all Filipinos enjoy the fruits of the country’s economic growth: the adoption of federalism.
Addressing participants of the 136th Interparliamentary Union Assembly, the Senate President said that the country’s “chosen weapon to fight the inter-generational problems of poverty, inequality, and the societal instability that result therefrom, is not merely policy change but structural change—structural change in the form of the adoption of the Federal System of Government.”
The senator from Mindanao, who gave a speech on the assembly’s theme, “On Redressing Inequalities: Delivering on Dignity and Well-Being for All,” explained that the Philippines, like the rest of the world, was also grappling with “the wealth gap.”
“Reports indicate that GDP and GNP Growth rates in the world have been rising. Yet, despite these rising rates, serious inequalities on income, economic opportunity and political inclusion still persist, threatening to jeopardize economic sustainability, reverse the progress on poverty, and affect world security,” lamented Pimentel.
“The Philippines,” stressed Pimentel, “is too familiar with this wealth gap, especially the gap which exists within the country. Last year, our economy again posted a strong 6.6% growth in GDP, following steady growth in the previous years—but it has yet to be truly felt by the majority of our citizens, especially the poor that still comprise a little more than ¼ of our population.”
Pimentel said that contributing to this problem was the fact that the Philippines is a unitary state, with more than 60% of its GDP generated in Metro Manila and the areas near the national capital.
Pimentel admitted that “the poorest and least developed areas of the Philippines are found in the far south of the capital, in the island called Mindanao.”
“In short, the richest areas in the Philippines are the capital and those closest to it. The poorest are those farthest from the capital.”
The election of President Rodrigo Duterte in May 2016, explained Pimentel, was the electorate’s response to this longstanding problem.
One of the major thrusts of Duterte, the first President from Mindanao, is the country’s adoption of federalism.
“We believe that by federalizing the Philippines, we immediately obtain the following benefits: we involve the regions in national decision making; we accelerate the economic development of the regions as the regions will be free to determine their over-all direction,” said Pimentel.
The 1990 Bar topnotcher revealed that under the proposed federalism plan of Duterte, the country will be divided into eleven regions, thereby resulting in “eleven centers of power.”
According to Pimentel, the shift to federalism would also encourage the preservation of the culture, language, and other practices and beliefs of our the country’s numerous ethno-linguistic groups.
While Pimentel emphasized that the adoption of a federal system of government would take time as this involves the revision of the Constitution, it would result in peace in Mindanao, “as some rebel groups therein have been clamoring for decades for some kind of autonomy rule.”
“Let us be open to challenging the status quo and make the attitudinal change of entertaining outside of the box solutions to inter-generational problems.”