The Ateneo Policy Center, in partnership with the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP), conducted its fourth federalism roadshow titled “A Forum on the Economic, Social and Political Viability of Federalism in the Philippines” in the City Sports Club, Cebu City last October 27, 2018. The event was attended by at least 400 participants from the academe, the local media, and BCBP members from local chapters.
The first speaker, Consultative Committee Spokesperson Conrado “Ding” Generoso emphasized that a lot of our people remain poor because of a highly-centralized unitary government. He asserted that the new federal charter will push for reforms that will foster equal and empowered federated regions.
On the other hand, Ateneo Policy Center Senior Research Fellow Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, Ll.M. suggested that a possible alternative is decentralization through legislative reform as the scope and depth that the 1987 charter provides for such remains very deep. This includes amending existing laws to decentralize powers or enacting a new local autonomy act altogether that advocates for 1) a regional governance framework, 2) clear power sharing between the local and national government as well as amongst the different levels of local government, and 3) intergovernmental relations and mechanism for such.
Mr. Jerome Patrick D. Cruz, an economist at the Ateneo Policy Center, explained the fiscal implications of the proposed federal charter. He noted that federalism continues to hold its appeal because economic disparities exist within the country. However, in order to avoid disastrous effects to the economy, it is important that the following are present 1) clarity and accountability in expenditure assignment, 2) finance follows functions principle, and 3) fiscal equalization transfers should address disparities without weakening incentives for subnational governments to raise its own revenue sources.
During the open forum and discussion, three reactors were invited to share their views on the points raised by the speakers.
Atty. Tomas Riveral, representing the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, noted that the huge tax and cost implications the federal shift entails might burden the business sector significantly especially since the Philippine economy is experiencing the highest inflation rate in over a decade.
The second reactor, Deodatus Paulo Burgos of the University of San Carlos Supreme Student Council (2017-2018), proposed that proponents of federalism should take on a consultative and grassroots approach. He also underscored the need to strengthen the system first before shifting to federalism as the mandate of the Local Government Code remains unrealized.
Finally, Former Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr. maintained that advocates of federalism have not visibly shown that federalism will realize the aspirations of the country. He also noted how the House of Representatives denied the Consultative Committee fair treatment by crafting their own version a revised charter.