With economic opportunities concentrated in Metro Manila and its surrounding provinces, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that the adoption of federalism was necessary to ensure that the country’s economic development could be felt by the country’s population living far from the nation’s capital.
“Philippine society has two faces. One is the face of progress, economic development, peace and order. The other is the face of poverty, conflict, and of having been left behind,” he said.
Under the current system of government, the Mindanao-born senator said economic development has been concentrated in Metro Manila and the regions near it.
Pimentel explained that the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog together account for a whopping 62% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
According to Pimentel, poverty rates were lower in areas with higher GDP. Metro Manila, for example, has a poverty incidence rate of 3.9%; Bulacan, 4.5%; Laguna and Rizal, 5.4%, respectively; and Cavite 6.8%.
At that opposite side of the spectrum are the high poverty incidence rates in Visayas and Mindanao, such as Bukidnon, which has a poverty incidence rate of 53.6%, Sulu at 54.9%, Northern Samar at 56.2%, Maguindanao at 57.2%, and Lanao del Sur at 71.9%.
Pimentel said these are all above the national average of 21.6%.
Based on the locations of the rich and poor provinces, Pimentel said, there is an obvious relationship between distance from Metro Manila and poverty incidence.
“The closer the place is to the center of power, the better the chance of that place to economically progress,” said Pimentel, who added that federalism would better involve the regions in national decision-making and accelerate their economic growth.
Pimentel said that structural change, not leadership change, was the long-term solution to addressing poverty in the provinces.
“We do not believe that mere changes in the personalities of our leaders can fix our nation’s problems. We believe that we need to change structures and systems to address the root causes of our nation’s problems.”
According to Pimentel, since its formation in 1982, PDP Laban has proposed the adoption of the federal system of government to fix the inter-generational problems of poverty and inequality. Adopting federalism would provide more economic opportunities in the provinces as it would ensure that capital, talent, and infrastructure would be brought to every part of the country, not just the already rich regions where the law and order situation is also better.