LIGAO CITY: Rep. Fernando Gonzalez of the Third District of Albay has said he would support the country’s shift from a unitary to a federal form of government being pushed by incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.
Gonzalez, who will be on his third and last term as congressman after getting an overwhelming number of votes for his reelection bid in the May 9 polls, told the Philippine News Agency over the weekend that he has been in favor of federalism ever since.
The Bicol Region, and practically all areas outside the National Capital Region that covers the “imperial” Manila, will be its grand beneficiaries, as federalism will pave the way for the equal distribution of government resources, instead of the lion’s share going to the latter, he said.
Federalism is a system that will break the country into autonomous regions, leaving the central government focused only on the national interest, like defense as well as foreign policy—meaning, sovereignty is constitutionally shared between a central governing authority and constituent political units called regions.
The autonomous regions, divided further into local government units (LGUs), on the other hand will, have primary responsibility over nurturing their industries, environment and natural resources, public works, public safety, education, public health care and social welfare, among other basic services, while having more power over their finances, jurisdictional laws and development plans.
Under the present system, LGUs can only collect real estate tax and business permit fees, while in federalism, local units can retain more of their income, and are required to turn over only a portion to the regional or state government to which they belong.
Thus, local governments and state governments can channel their own funds toward their own development, instead of the bulk of the money going to the national government.
They can spend the money on programs and other expenditures they see fit without waiting for national government approval, according to Gonzalez.
Nonetheless, he said, certain powers can still be shared between the central government and the regions.
This way, the countryside’s potentials for development would be maximized without waiting for policy and funding from the central government, said Gonzalez who lamented the current system where regions and LGUs are at the mercy of the national administration.
In a federal government, he said, regions decide for themselves in addressing their own unique problems, situations, geographic, cultural, social and economic contexts, as it allows them to solve their own problems instead of distant Manila deciding for them.
The Albay solon said he supported all advocacies for federalism, one of them by former Senator and Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr.
Pimentel is the father of the Local Government Code of 1991 that now provides for the decentralization of functions from the national government where LGUs were given more powers, authority, responsibilities and resources.