MANILA The Duterte administration will continue the campaign for federalism, members of the Cabinet assured the public on Tuesday, expressing optimism that the federalist shift remains a "solution" for the country to progress.
In a press briefing a day after the fourth State of the Nation Address of the President, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo AAo said the DILG, the lead agency of the Interagency Task Force on Federalism (IATF), will still work on the President's dream of a federal Philippines.
According to the DILG chief, the President still considers federalism a priority even as the planned shift from the unitary to federal form of government was not mentioned in his SONA.
"Though the President did not mention it yesterday, in one of his (Duterte) talks in Mindanao, he mentioned he is still for federalism. Ultimately, this is the solution for our country," he told reporters at the Philippine Information Agency building in Quezon City.
"The question is when are we ready? So, we will continue this because we have an Inter-Agency Task Force for Federalism and Constitutional Reforms," he added.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles also assured Filipinos that funds allocated for the administration's federalism campaign will not be spent to futile undertakings as he remains hopeful that federalism still have a chance under the 18th Congress.
"I think it will also be one of the topics to be discussed in the committee on Constitutional amendments both in the House of Representatives including in the Senate," Nograles said.
"I will not be surprised if, under the leadership of (House) Speaker (Alan Peter) Cayetano, it will push through in the House of Representatives and hopefully at the Senate, he added.
However, should the shift to federalism gets a dimmer chance in Congress, AAo said the government will then focus on changing certain provisions of the 1987 Constitution instead. The constitutional amendment is a proposal previously suggested to Congress by Duterte himself.
"If the federalism will not prosper, then at least [we do] constitutional reforms. We all know that our Constitution has a lot of lapses, we have to accept that many of our problems are also because of these lapses in the Constitution," he said.
"We should open our eyes that there are things that needed to be amended," AAo added.
A federal form of government is one of the President's campaign vows since the 2016 presidential elections. For the Chief Executive, federalism would break the power centralization in Metro Manila, allowing other areas in the country to prosper and develop.
It can be recalled that the Chief Executive ordered the creation of the 22-man Consultative Committee which drafted a proposed federal constitution. Through Memorandum Circular 53, Duterte also ordered the creation of the IATF on Federalism and Constitutional Reforms, directing all concerned agencies to conduct a public information drive and advocacy campaign to raise public awareness on the matter.
AAo currently chairs the said IATF. The DILG chief earlier said they will work "double time" to inform the people of the merits of federalism.
MalacaAang, meanwhile, earlier said federalism remains in President's thought, expressing optimism that Congress will pass measures in the Congress for its realization before the end of his term in 2022.
Duterte has been promoting the shift to a federal form of government to address the country's economic issues, power unevenness, and armed conflicts in Mindanao, among others. (PR)
Source: Philippines News Agency