Monday, December 12, 2005

The Philippines and Federalism

Devolution and decentralization
Decision-making proves to be painfully tedious when all would emanate from a cenral office. More often than not, the central government is less than responsive to the plees of some of their constituents. The politically-economically insignificant, far-flung areas of the country tends to be ignored except every three years - elections. The too-complicated hierarchy encourages surreptitious fund acquisition by local leaders. Development takes place at a snail's-pace as economic profits and development projects are monopolized by the center.
This is so in the case of the Philippines. The Imperial Manila has evolved into this battleground of taipans, politicos, and the elites. Lagging way behind are the local cities/provinces, whose natural resources are all but non-existent, something which the Manila Club can take credit of.
Eluding pessimism and sarcasm, there are efforts to empower the local government, for instance the 1991 Local Government Code. But since its conception, it has yet to have impactful amendments to respond to the needs of the 21st century Philippines. Thus, adoptiong a federal system may well be the solution to the problems of the country.

Federal Philippines: Challenges
Weak local governments
Most have been witnessed to the distressingly inept stratagems adopted by local politicians.
A poverty-stricken and corruption-ridden region, whose fundamental issues of welfare and security is barely addressed by the indifferent rent-seeking leaders, could not be expected to develop reliable judicial, executive, and legislative systems relatively independent from the central government.
A weak local government now, would mean a weak federal state.
Dynastic Politics
Political contestation IS more turbulent outside the metropolitan Manila. Elections proved to be more chaotic in the provinces, as the feuding clans batle for event the lowest of the government positions - barangay captain. Granting autonomy may only perpetuate the grand fund acquisitions of local lords.
As what is happening now, local politics is dominated be the elite families who have monopolized economic and political power for practically the whole century. If they be given more powers through decentralization, then there are fears that they can well perpetuate their hold in the political sphere.
The Income Gap
The proposed federal states vary greatly in terms of development and economy. There are very developed provinces, like Cebu, Iloilo, among others, but there are also disappointingly poor provinces, say Batanes or Samar. Giving relative autonomy would mean that the federal state would rely on its resources, on its own capabilities. As the different provinces possess different capabilities, there are concerns that the gap between provinces would further widen.While competition is said to increase efficiency, the different state capabilities may merely increase socio-political chasms.

Prescriptions: Fortifying the Federal Philippines
In order to decrease the hurdle the hindrances offered by the current system, what the government must focus on, if they desire to adopt a federal system, are:
1. Provide Social Welfare
2. Eliminate Corruption
3. End the Dynastic Politics
4. Empower Local Institutions
5. Create a Strong Central Government

If no reforms are done before fully implementing this grand idea of a federal government, then the achievement to what the federal system promises is placed in doubt. It is argues to unite the states, to empower thelocal government, to make government more responsive, to recognize diversity. If the federal system, given the present conditions in the Philippines, fails, then the exact opposite is what they would have -a divided Philippines, weak governments, and states in constant conflict and rivalry.


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