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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, April 6, 2018
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‘Politicians will prevail’


The creation of a Negros Island federated region is possible, it is more a political rather than an economic question, Professor Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, said yesterday.

It is important that, aside from lobbying for the reunification of Negros Occidental and Oriental, the island’s representatives in Congress make sure it is part of the agenda when deliberations begin in Congress, said Casiple, who spoke on the impact of federalism on local governments at a provincial orientation initiated by the Department of Interior and Local Government at the Capitol in Bacolod City.

“If the people of Negros Island want it, I don’t think the people of the other regions will prevent you from doing so,” Casiple said.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. and Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo met on March 24 on a planned lobby for their provinces to be reunited as one federal state, with the dissolution of the shortlived Negros Island Region.

“You have to clearly make it known to the whole Philippines that you are united…you should not only lobby (for a federated region), you should make a stand,” Casiple said.

The Consultative Committee (Con-Com), created by President Rodrigo Duterte to review the 1987 Constitution, has decided to propose a federal-presidential system, that will be composed federated regions, not states to be headed by regional governors, Casiple said.

The single criteria for the creation of a federated region, which is theconsensus in the study committee, is that it should have a single, or two to three growth areas, he added.

This is a requirement for the economic development of the federated region, otherwise there is no basis for saying it can exist on its own, Casiple added.

“Bacolod is definitely a growth area ,” he said.

However, the concept of a chartered city as growth center of the whole federated region will have to be clarified by the ConCom, he added.

There are at least 15 proposals on how many federated regions should be created with the lowest at three – Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and the highest at 81 with all provinces becoming single federated regions, Casiple said.

There is no fixed proposal but for purposes of ensuring that the shift to federalism is concrete, the ConCom has adopted the Pimentel proposal for 11 federated region states for the country, he said.

“But even we understand that it’s an open question,” he added.

“We don’t have, in a sense, a final proposal because at the end of the day, what came out of our studies is it is a political decision. We may have all the arguments for creating a certain region, but at the end of the day the politicians in that region will prevail in negotiating with the national bodies, Casiple said.

He said federalism is important because it will allow people in the provinces to decide their own destiny.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said he wants a ConCom working draft on the shift to federalism submitted to him on the first week of July in time for his State of the Nation Address, Casiple said.

After his SONA, the president will then submit the working draft to Congress to be deliberated on either in a constituent assembly or a constitutional convention, he said.

Duterte wants a final output by the end of the year so a plebiscite can be held along with the May 2019 midterm elections, Casiple added.

The main factor in the push to federalism is the president’s political will, he said.*CPG


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