MANILA — The League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) has thrown its support behind federalism but said the 81 existing provinces should be converted into “independent states.”
The proposal was a departure from models combining provinces into 5 to 13 regions or states under a federal Philippines.
“We strongly advocate status quo wherein all 81 provinces should remain as the autonomous sub-national level or independent ‘states’ under the general supervision of the duly-elected president of the federal government,” the LPP said in a resolution.
Political science professor Edmund Tayao, a member of President Rodrigo Duterte’s consultative committee, reminded the group that “amalgamation” is “one fundamental purpose of federalism.”
Groups pushing for federalism argue that a shift is the next “logical step” after decentralization distributing more power and resources in the regions.
“The current fragmented local governments does not only prevent local economic development as there's simply no economies of scale,” Tayao said, “but also that it is the foundation of the current dominant character of political dynasties in the country.”
“We have to find the right formula and process of forming regional governments so that we arrive at the appropriate size and significantly improve on the absorptive capacity of local governments,” he told ABS-CBN News.
In the resolution, the LPP said provinces backed federalism “but are also deeply concerned of the many ramifications of a sudden shift in the system and structure of government.”
The group warned this could lead to “rushed or hasty policy decisions that may run counter to the very objectives we want to achieve” under federalism.
Tayao’s group, which is headed by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, is set to draft a proposed federal constitution in time for Duterte’s State of the Nation Address in July.
Its output will be recommendatory to Congress where efforts are underway to revise the charter through a constituent assembly.
Tayao cautioned against postponing the 2019 elections, a option being pushed by some legislators.
“Opting for no election will just prevent any serious consideration and public discussion of fundamental political reforms,” he said.
“The narrative will just be fixed on allegations of ulterior motives, which have always been the proven reliable instrument by the elites to prevent constitutional reform ever since.”
Oriental Mindoro Vice Gov. Humerlito Dolor on Thursday said deferring the midterm elections would allow local officials to “rally the people to understand” the push for federalism.
“If we will not talk about a no-election (scenario), all politicians now in the local level will be very busy aligning and realigning for the elections next year. It is the truth,” he told Tayao’s group during a meeting with the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP).