MANILA - Malacañang on Monday stressed that President Rodrigo Duterte still wants to shepherd the Philippines towards federalism, even as his own economic managers and several business groups have apprehensions.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte “has been listening” to the concerns of his economic team about the draft charter of the Palace-backed consultative committee and has given orders to ensure that the shift to federalism will not hurt the economy.
“He still wants it because he is the foremost proponent of charter change towards federalism. But of course he wants it done in a manner that will not put the country in trouble,” Roque said in a press briefing.
“He is exploring now all options and ordered that everyone should study it. He’s asking members of Congress to look into the matter very seriously because ultimately it’s Congress that will submit to the people its proposal.”
Finance chief Carlos Dominguez, budget chief Benjamin Diokno, socioeconomic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia, and even defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana have all expressed reservations over the draft charter and the shift to federalism.
Dominguez earlier told lawmakers that he was "absolutely" against the proposed federal charter from a Palace-backed committee due to unclear provisions on revenue and expenditure assignments.
Citing fiscal provisions of the draft charter, Dominguez said the country risked bloating the budget deficit, which could lead to a credit rating downgrade.
He also warned of massive layoffs in the national government and reduction of funds for the “Build Build Build” program if the draft is adopted.
Dominguez’s remarks has prompted law dean Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, a member of the consultative committee, to question whether the President still wants federalism.
Roque said Duterte finds the disagreements within the administration about federalism “not insurmountable.” He said this debate should in fact spur more inputs from all stakeholders.
The spokesman added Duterte has talked to his economic managers about the matter.
“He has listened attentively to what they were saying, but he wants solutions,” Roque said.