In celebration of the 15th Development Policy Research Month (DPRM), the NEDA Region 5 conducted a forum on Strengthening Decentralization for Regional Development on September 26, 2017 at NEDA Region 5, Legazpi City. The forum highlighted two topics: (a) the proposed amendments of the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991; and (b) a proposed federal structure for the Philippines. Planning officers of provinces and cities in Bicol, private sector representatives of the Bicol Regional Development Council, and NEDA Region 5 personnel attended the half-day forum.
Atty. Arnaldo E. Escober, Jr., the assistant regional director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Region 5, presented the proposed amendments of the LGC. He cited specific provisions that are proposed to be amended, including the issues and rationale for amending them. His presentation was culled from the LGC review conducted by Dr. Rosario Manasan of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies. The proposed amendments, as provided in Dr. Manasan’s review, will be discussed during a national consultation workshop to be held on October 6, 2017.
Dir. Benjamin F. Santiago, regional director of the Department of Tourism Region 5 and the Albay provincial convenor of the Federalismo Alyansa ng Bicol, shared a proposed structure of the Philippine government under a federal system. He presented the general features of the model being espoused by the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) as of March 2017. The model proposes 11 federal states, where Bicol is one federal state composed of five provinces excluding Masbate, which is proposed to be included in the Central Visayas state together with Cebu and the other Central Visayas provinces.
Some of the insights and issues that spawned during the open forum were: (a) the need to ensure complementation of the proposed amendments of the LGC with the transition towards federalism; (b) the significance and benefits of fiscal decentralization to regional development; (c) the administrative and socio-economic risks of shifting to a federal form of government without careful study and sound basis; and (d) the timeline of legal procedures leading to the revision of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and the amendment of the LGC of 1991.
The forum enhanced the participants’ understanding of the concepts and issues surrounding federalism and decentralization. At the end of the forum, it was emphasized that while debates on federalism may continue, the road to AmBisyon Natin 2040 must be sustained under changing conditions that require flexibility in strategies.
ALB Bellen – DRD NEDA 5