This is the full speech of Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles during the Department of Interior and Local Government’s National Federalism Summit on Friday, February 8 at the Manila Hotel Fiesta Pavilion.

My fellow workers in government and our partners in change, a pleasant afternoon to you all. On behalf of the President, allow me to thank all of you for your enlightening input on one of the major reform thrusts of the Administration: the shift to federalism.

Allow me to begin by giving some good news and not-so-good news; the good news is that the economic team has reported that our economy once again grew in 2018. The year-end figure of 6.2%, to quote the economic team, “cements the Philippines’ standing as one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia.”

Now for the not-so-good news; data the past few years has shown that even if the Philippines has enjoyed continuous, unabated growth, not all areas in the country have benefited or contributed to this growth.

Yes, the country’s economy has grown 6% or more for the past eight years, and it is expected to grow even more in the next decade; the question, however, is if we have seen the same level of economic growth in our regions. According the the data, the answer is no. Kawawa po ang probinsya.

From 2010 to 2015, only four regions in the country had average annual GDP growth rates equal to or higher than NCR, which posted an average annual GDP growth rate in that time span of 6.5%––a number that mirrors the country’s average annual growth rate.

The other 12 regions, however, are not as fortunate. In Luzon, only Region III outperformed NCR; in the Visayas, only Region VII; in Mindanao, regions XI and Caraga were the only two regions that had economies that grew faster than Metro Manila.

In addition to this, it bears stressing that only NCR and Region IV-A have a single-digit poverty incidence out of the 17 regions of the country. Likewise, these two regions contribute to at least half of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and national internal revenue taxes for the past decade.

These statistics just show that the 15 other regions have been mired in underdevelopment for many decades now.

When you consider that Metro Manila accounts for close to 40% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) while having 12% of the Philippine population, I think it is time for the us to consider adopting a different approach to ensure that the 88% of Filipinos living outside the National Capital Region (NCR) also reap the benefits of economic growth. That includes my home, the President’s home, Mindanao.

What is clear, based on the data I just shared, is that under the present unitary system of government, and with the failure of genuine decentralization, we have encountered the following issues:

One, there is overconcentration of powers and resources in the Central Government; Two, there is grave and serious imbalance in economic development among regions; and three, there is an intensification of secessionist movements due to the absence of genuine autonomy and self-governance.

Although decentralization has helped provide for some local autonomy, the present unitary system has not helped significantly improve the economic fates in the regions.

In this regard, the President believes we have to undertake structural and institutional reforms through Federalism in order to address and resolve these problems.

Decentralization under the current system is not enough. Our Constitution and our laws supposedly allow for greater local autonomy so that local government units have more freedom to adopt programs that will benefit them. But for over three decades, little has changed since I first left Davao for Metro Manila for high school, college, and law school; naiiwan ang mga probinsya ng Maynila.

Given this, we really should seriously consider federalism so that we can empower our regions, not just politically, but financially. With more economic resources, our regions will be able to invest more in the programs necessary to open up economic opportunities in these areas. Makikinabang ang probinsyano sa pederalismo.

Federalism is nothing new. It is actually the highest form of decentralization, which has been advocated by no less than the 1987 Constitution. As such, any legitimate effort towards this end should not come as a surprise since Federalism is the logical destination of our 27-year journey with decentralization.

We believe that such reforms can only be actualized through a constitutional revision, that is, a review and revision of the 1987 Constitution. On this front, I congratulate the Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Constitution led by Chief Justice Reynato Puno for producing the draft Bayanihan Federal Constitution.

But we cannot stop there. I urge the Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism and Constitutional Reform led by the DILG to continue its public awareness campaign and to harmonize the draft federal constitution with the comments and inputs of the various sectors so that we can have a harmonized draft federal constitution to submit to the next Congress.

We also urge the supporters of federalism to get more allies via the ballot; support the candidates who have clearly shown their support for the President and his proposal to shift to federalism.

Thank you to all the organizations here present for helping the government spread the benefits of federalism. Let’s continue our advocacy for a better Philippines, let’s continue working together for real change, the change that can be achieved via Federalism.

Maraming salamat po, at mabuhay po kayong lahat.

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