Sunday, April 3, 2016

Federalism, Explanation of Benefits

   What exactly is the ‘federalism’ that has been proposed by politicians but not clearly explained?  “Leading examples of such a political system, or federation, include Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Switzerland or the United States…it is often perceived as an optimal solution for states comprising different cultural or ethnic communities.”  

   The states of the US already had their own governments when the U.S. civil war ended and the US Constitution was written. The US Constitution "did not need to define or explain federalism.”  The Philippine constitution, however, would have to undergo a “charter change” to effectively transition to a Federal government.  Every time charter change was proposed, it was opposed by politicians and protesters saying that it would be used to perpetuate the current leadership in power.  The opposite is true.  History proves that the leadership has remained in the same families anyway, even without the charter change.  Charter change was the only thing that could effectively pass the anti-dynasty law, which would limit the families of politicians from acquiring government positions.   

   Why is Federalism “an optimal solution” and why does the Philippines qualify?  The Philippines has provinces with extremely diverse religions, cultural or ethnic communities, different languages even, and separated by sea or mountainous terrain making it difficult and expensive for the national government to manage efficiently.  

DSWD on buried rice
   Federalism gives the provincial government the power to solve their own problems using their own tax collection without the absolute control currently exercised by the national government.  The messed up distribution of the food and 500 fishing boats donated to the Yolanda victims would not have happened if the Tacloban local government had the authority to distribute the donations.  Instead, the donations were locked up in warehouses and allowed to rot by DSWD.  "The wooden boats are now stockpiled at the vicinity of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENRO) at the Government Center. In 2014, DMCI turned over the boats to DILG."  It's human nature, politicians can’t be expected to sympathize with calamity victims of another region or province.  Worse, they could use their power to deprive assistance to a region they perceive as political or personal enemy.

   “To try to have a national solution to all problems…you end up with solutions that are more effective in some provinces, and less effective in others.  To allow states to create solutions to their own problems, using policies and laws that work best in their province, means that each province can come up with its own solution, making government more efficient.”  Fishing regions don’t share the problems experienced by mountain dwellers.  Metro Manila provides better education than remote provinces because the Department of Education can’t oversee the needs of the entire archipelago so that the children in remote provinces have school rooms in dire disrepair or no school at all.  The current system leaves all the money in the hands of the central government awaiting any genius who can come up with a 'pork barrel graft', or wasteful spending of budget like the uninhabited rows and rows or condominium buildings along the coastal road initially called Pabahay ni Cory in the 80's, the AFP/PNP housing project, or the mismanaged unwanted housing like the 'Bayan ni Juan' relocation project.   

   “One of the first proponents of federalism in the Philippines is University of the Philippines professor Jose Abueva who argued that a federal form of government is necessary to more efficiently cater to the needs of the country despite its diversity... Aside from Abueva, Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. is a prominent supporter of federalism who, since 2001, has advocated for federalism…Federalism will also hasten economic development since resource and financial mobilization is upon each states' or provinces' discretion without significant constraint from the central government.”

   Who oppose Federalism and why?  Politicians from the central government use national laws to exploit the natural resources and mines of provinces. 

   The people of the Cordillera region have not benefited from the mines in their mountains.  “On March 3, 1995, Republic Act 7492 otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act was passed into law. As a law liberalizing the mining industry… At present and due to the liberalization of the mining industry in the country, mining companies continue to target the Cordillera region for the extraction of gold, copper, silver and other minerals…”  The president of the Philippines in 1995 was Fidel Ramos.  

   On July 6, 2012, to preserve the existing mining monopoly, President Benigno Aquino III superseded Republic Act 7492 with Executive Order No.79 which says "No new mineral agreements shall be entered into until a legislation ... shall have taken effect."
   The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), a partnership and free trade agreement between Japan and the Philippines was signed in on September 9, 2006 by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  In effect, JPEPA gave Japan the right to fish in our seas, while our small boat fishermen do not have the capacity to fish in Sea of Japan.

See also:
The Iron Lady   
Reshaping the Philippines  
The Ladies of the Palace

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