GERMANY is willing to assist the Duterte administration in its move from a unitary to a federal form of government for the Philippines, German officials in Manila said on Tuesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte has been consistently pushing for the shift, saying it will facilitate better delivery of public funds and services to the areas outside the Philippine capital.
“We support the discussion in the Philippines. We are also in dialogue with the Philippine government,” Michael Hasper, deputy head of mission of the German Embassy in Manila, told The Manila Times’ editors and reporters in a roundtable interview on Tuesday.
The move toward federalism has been gaining momentum in the country as some quarters see it as the best means to address the longstanding ethno-religious conflicts in Mindanao.
Hasper said the Philippines can use Germany’s experience as a guide that could help Manila address the specific needs of the country and its people, although he and the new German Ambassador Gordon Kricke stressed that the nation must fashion its own form of federalism according to the specific circumstances and needs of its people.
Germany is a democratic, federal parliamentary republic, with federal legislative power vested in the Bundestag (parliament) and the Bundesrat (representative body of Länder, or regional states).
The Federal Republic of Germany is divided into 16 regional states, each with its own constitution, legislative body and government that can pass all kinds of laws except in defense, foreign affairs and finance which concerns the federal government.
The federal government consists of the Chancellor and ministers who are drawn from the members of the constitutional and legislative body, called Bundestag.
Ambassador Kricke said federalism is an instrument to foster political participation and democracy.
“Federalism is not only about distributing financial resources and competencies but also about enabling the population to participate, to have a stake in the public debate or to be more involved,” he said.
“That is certainly one of the reasons why it works so well and why it is so important to the Germans because they feel that they have a stronger influence on decision-making,” he added.
Just recently, a delegation of Filipino politicians and scholars traveled to Berlin to meet with members of the federal government and familiarize themselves with the system.
Headed by former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., one of the prime proponents of federalism, the group consisted of Rommel Alonto of the Department of Justice, Clarisse Aquino, legislative staff officer of Sen.
Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd, Caroline Lee, program officer of the Hans Seidel Foundation of the Philippines, Quezon Gov. David Suarez, Manuel Jaudian of the Phinma Educational Network and Development Academy of the Philippines President Antonio Kalaw Jr. among others.
Kricke said Philippine policymakers need not “copy and paste” Germany’s formula but must create a system that will perfectly fit the country.
“It is difficult to generalize the experience we have in Germany because we don’t have these scenarios [that you have]. Every country has to make its own decision – what it feels is best and what possible risks and advantages it might involve. But I would say, the feelings of people and citizens…is important,” he added.