By Genalyn Kabiling
The proposed shift to federalism may not guarantee instant progress in the country but would promote equal distribution of wealth among regions, President Duterte said Tuesday.
The President made a pitch for federalism even as he acknowledged it would take time to convince the people to support the initiative.
“There’s a time for everything. I’ve been going around I suppose that you cannot convince everybody at one time that federalism is good for the country,” the President said during a tête-à-tête with chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo in Malacañang aired live on government television last Tuesday.
“It might help. It cannot guarantee prosperity kaagad, but it might help distribute the wealth of the nation amongst the local units who contribute to the national upkeep,” he added.
Duterte said the federalism proposal has been “gaining ground” in the provinces since they have lagged behind Metro Manila in terms of growth.
“Historically ang Maynila lang talaga ang pinakamaganda kasi ibinubuhos ‘yung pera dito because it’s a capital region, [Historically, Manila is the best place because all the money is poured here as it’s the capital region],” he said.
Despite facing opposition from some groups, Duterte said he was committed to push for amendments to the constitution to pave the way for federalism.
“Isang beses lang ako dumaan dito, ayaw mag-iwan ng istorya na hindi maganda. Eh tutal Presidente na lang rin ako, eh ‘di lahat na [I will pass here once and I don’t want to leave any bad story behind. Since I’m already the President, why don’t we go all out],” he said.
The President recently directed authorities to get public feedback on the draft federal constitution prepared by a consultative committee. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President was satisfied with the work of the committee but still wanted to consider the comments of the people and improve the draft before transmitting it to Congress.
The President’s decision came after some economic managers expressed apprehension over the fiscal provision of the charter. Some have warned that the federalism would entail a huge operational cost and plunge the country in deeper budget deficit.
Under the draft charter, the federal republic will have 18 regions, including regions for the Bangsamoro, the Cordillera, and Negros Islands. These regions will have certain exclusive powers and get a 50-50 share in the national wealth.