PUERTO PRINCESA, Palawan: The island province of Palawan fully supports Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s call for a shift to a federal system of government from the current highly centralized unitary form as a lasting solution to the nation’s many problems.
Duterte was pleasantly surprised to discover that Palawan strongly supports his federalism advocacy.
Speaking during the Federalism Summit hosted by Palawan Gov. Jose Ch. Alvarez, he said a federal form of government would ensure that Palawan will get its fair share of Malampaya gas field revenues, because “Palawan gets the revenues, retains its just share and remits the balance to the national coffers.”
“The reverse is true in the current system, where the (Malampaya) revenues go to the national government, and then, it is the national government that gives us in the provinces crumbs from the table of plenty.”
“What’s disheartening is to discover that the money end(s) up in the pockets of corrupt officials,” Duterte said.
According to the mayor, federalism is the country’s fallback position if Congress fails to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law or if the BBL is declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
“Otherwise, we go back to war in Mindanao. More precious lives, both of combatants and innocent civilians, will be wasted not only in Mindanao but all over the country as well, because terrorism, more than open combat, is the new norm of rebellion all over the world,” Duterte said.
Palawan, according to Alvarez, has long felt that it is not included in plans and programs of the national government.
“I even have to ask the weather bureau to include us in their weather forecasts,” he said in his opening statement at the forum, which was attended by leaders of various sectors from all over the province, including Puerto Princesa Bishop Pedro Arrigo.
Palawan is embroiled in a dispute with the national government over its revenue share from the Malampaya offshore gas fields.
The local government claims that of the estimated P73 billion it should get from Malampaya, only P3 billion was released during the Arroyo administration.
Speaking before Palawan State University students in a separate forum, Duterte again noted the failure of the national government to release Palawan’s share from Malampaya funds.
“Can you imagine what P73 billion could do to you? It would give you quality education and modern equipment, such as computers for all students. It will make PSU (Palawan State University) a world-class school. The funds would help ensure a brighter future for you,” the Davao City mayor said.
Palawan is the last stop in the second leg of Duterte’s “Listening Tour,” which started in Cebu City on January 29.
He has visited San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; and Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija.
The first leg took him to Butuan City in Agusan del Sur on January 22, then to Zamboanga City.
The scheduled visit to Pagadian City was aborted because of bad weather.