Press Release
July 21, 2008


OZAMIS CITY -- Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the clamor for a federal system of government is strong among the people of Mindanao because they believe it will put an end to the central government's neglect of their regions which, they said, explains why they are lagging behind Luzon in terms of economic development.

Addressing a forum on federalism at Naomi's Botanical Garden, Ozamis City, Pimentel blamed the overconcentration of powers in the national government for the misuse and maldistribution of the economic wealth of the nation. He said this has stymied the country's economic development and brought about "selective modernization" of favored areas to the detriment of the rest of the nation.

"The adoption of a federal system will address the concerns of the people of Mindanao and other areas of the country that their respective development efforts are being thwarted by the bias shown by Manila-based bureaucrats in favor of what is popularly called "imperial Manila," Pimentel said.

The forum in Ozamis City marked the start of a roadshow in Mindanao and the Visayas on federalism organized by political and civic leaders of Mindanao. The roadshow covers Iligan City (July 22), Cagayan de Oro (July 23), Cebu City (July 24) and Davao (July 26).

Misamis Occidental Governor Leo Ocampos, told the forum that the federalization of the republic is long-overdue, saying the creation of autonomous federal states will ensure judicious and optimum utilization of resources, foster competition among the people and spur economic growth.

Ocampos, national president of the League of Provinces, said the people's enthusiasm for a federal system was clearly shown by about 80 percent attendance of mayors, board members, barangay chairmen and other local officials in the province of Misamis Occidental and the cities of Oroquieta, Tangub and Ozamis. They wanted to hear the views of national leaders and political science experts on the reforms of the government structure.

Illustrating the ill effects of the existing overcentralized unitary system of government, Pimentel said for instance that the Visayas and Mindanao need more domestic and international airports.

"They won't get constructed unless the central government authorizes the whole thing. It has to do the plans, provide the funding, send engineers and designate the contractors. And so, more often than not, we won't see those facilities built in our lifetime," he said.

Pimentel said if local government officials in a Visayan and Mindanao province seek the construction of a highway or railroad in their areas, it will remain a dream unless the central government does everything that is needed to get it done from A to Z.

For decades now, he said politicians and ordinary folk in Mindanao have been pressing for the construction of a railroad network to speed up and lower the cost of transporting people and commodities.

"We are still talking about it. What we got recently was the anomalous contract to build the North Rail Project, from Caloocan to Malolos, a distance of 32 kilometers at the astronomical cost of P900 million per kilometer," the Mindanao lawmaker sarcastically remarked.

"The overarching powers of the central government have thus hobbled the fast modernization of the country. Also, they have spawned a thousand and one social, economic and political problems, ranging from mass poverty, familiar dislocations and armed insurgencies."

Pimentel and 15 other senators have filed Joint Resolution 10 seeking the establishment of a federal system to be composed of 11 federal states and the conversion of Metro Manila into a special administrative region.

Based on the proposal, the component federal states will exercise powers over matters not reserved to the federal or central government. The powers of the federal government may cover, among other things, foreign affairs, national defense, taxes, customs, immigration, basic educational curriculum, and justice.

He said other powers may be assigned by the Constitution to the federal states, including primacy in matters of development, environment, local taxes and police.

"The sharing of powers in a federal system will ensure that the federal states will have ample powers to develop their own social, economic and political potentials. With adequate powers vested in them, the federal states will be able to propel themselves to the height of modernization. As the federal states modernize, the political stability of the whole republic will inevitably be strengthened," Pimentel asserted.

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