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Is Federalism Dead? Updates and Alternatives for Decentralizing Governance in the Philippines

Posted: 2019-10-30

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The Asian Institute of Management Rizalino S. Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness (AIM RSN PCC) in partnership with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) Philippines, conducted a public forum titled, “Is Federalism Dead? Updates and Alternatives for Decentralizing Governance in the Philippines” last October 29, 2019 at Makati Diamond Residences, Makati City. This forum aimed to update the public about the current efforts of the government in shifting to a federal form of government or to further decentralize governance through constitutional changes.

The forum was formally opened by Ms. Tonette de Jesus, Senior Programme Manager of KAS Philippines. In her opening remarks, she hoped that the forum can enlighten the public regarding the government’s plans on whether the shift to a federal form of government will still push through or if there will be any political reforms targeted towards decentralization.

Speakers from the government and academic institutions discussed and reacted on the prospects of federalism in the Philippines. The morning session was kicked off by Dr. Romulo Miral, Jr., the Director-General of the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department of the House of Representatives. He started his presentation by delineating the major constraint to achieving zero poverty and inclusive growth, which is the inadequate and unequal provision of key public goods. He then provided a brief overview of federalism (and differentiated it with decentralization), its pros and cons, and how it can possibly address such perennial problem given certain conditions. Dr. Miral’s presentation was followed by the presentation of Dr. Raul Fabella, Honorary Professor at the AIM. His presentation centered on the debates surrounding the question: “Is Federalism the solution?” He reiterated the need for more empirical studies about federalism to substantiate the claims on whether federalism can solve some of the Philippines’ pressing issues, notably, corruption. Dr. Karl Jandoc, an Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines (UP), followed Dr. Fabella’s presentation. He provided a gist of their recently concluded empirical study on federalism and inclusiveness. Among the 107 federal countries that were included in their study, income inequality is said to decline until about 50 years, followed by an increase afterwards. After the three presentations, an open forum followed which was moderated by Atty. Anthony Abad.

The afternoon session was opened by Usec. Jonathan Malaya of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). He presented updates on the government’s plans regarding the shift to federalism. The CORE or Constitutional Reform was the updated or rebranded federalism program under the current administration. The CORE has a new task force called “Bayanihan” whose main aim is to create and relay to the general public the consolidated government position on federalism. They are currently consolidating all the federalism drafts in the House. USec. Malaya’s presentation was then followed by reactions from Dr. Maria Ela Atienza and Dr. Marie Fe Villamejor-Mendoza of UP. Dr. Atienza highlighted the complexity of the claim that federalism can be the solution to country’s problems. She emphasized the importance of public consultations and incremental approach on constitutional reforms. Dr. Mendoza supplemented the arguments of Dr. Atienza. She said that incremental reforms are pivotal to ensure that the shift to federalism will be more responsive to the demands and needs for shared powers, resources, and accountability. An open forum, moderated by Atty. Abad, followed their presentations.

The program was officially closed by Dr. Jamil Paolo S. Francisco, the Executive Director of the Policy Center and Associate Dean of AIM.





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