Amending the 1987 Constitution to implement federalism— a system wherein regions will be self-governing under a federal government—will not solve widespread poverty, a lawmaker said Wednesday.
Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque issued the statement in light of the filing of Davao del Norte Pantaleon Alvarez’s House Resolution No. 1 that seeks to revise the 1987 Constitution through Constitutional Convention (ConCon) composed of regionally elected and appointed delegates. In his proposal, Alvarez claimed that federalism “will make the form of government more responsive to the needs of the nation.”
But Roque said only three regions have enough resources to stand on their own — the National Capital Region (NCR), Region 3 and Region 4.
“I don’t see how this Charter Change would benefit the poor. There is poverty, so government resources should be used for the benefit of the poor, regardless of the form of government. There is the problem of corruption, so corrupt officials should be ousted, regardless of the form of government,” Roque said in a news forum.
“They say we have had enough of Imperial Manila? Under federalism, only the NCR, Region 3 and Region 4 will survive. In that situation, the rest of the regions will rely on the subsidy from the federal (central) government. And where would the federal government get that subsidy? The NCR. So, that would be a contradiction of that we are trying to achieve here because you will burden the NCR,” he added.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda however countered that Charter change should be done to install federalism and address the Muslim and New People’s Army insurgencies.
With the insurgency and corruption spanning decades, Salceda said Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and even domestic investments have stagnated and limited job opportunities.
“We don’t have enough investments because these insurgencies indicate political instability and lack of [effective]governance. With Charter change, we can have federalism and address these two problems; attract good investments that result in more labor demand,” Salceda, an economist, pointed out.
But for Roque, there are available and less expensive mechanisms to empower the local government units under the existing Presidential form of government.
He cited his proposal granting the Palawan provincial government a 40 percent share in the Malampaya natural gas plant revenues, as well as increasing the Internal Revenue Allotment for local governments.
“Let’s not spend P6 billion for a plebiscite [on whether the people are in favor of Charter Change]and another P3 billion for the Con-Con. Why not spend that instead on a national feeding program?” Roque said.
“This is a wastage of our scarce resources,” he added.