Unitary system chokes regional growth; federalism is our only hope – DILG

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The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) laments stunted growth in the regions brought about by the bureaucracy in the central government.

“The regions have an overwhelming supply of natural resources, but because of the system choking regional development, people in the provinces are unable to experience the progress that Metro Manila brags about,” says DILG Assistant Secretary Jonathan E. Malaya, citing as an example the Caraga region.

According to Malaya, while the Duterte administration has allocated more funds to Mindanao under the Build, Build, Build program, the inefficiency of the unitary system continues to hamper Caraga from catching up with the more progressive regions.

Sitting on the lower back of the Philippine archipelago, Region 13 paints a beautiful landscape of natural resources waiting to be harnessed under the watchful eye of its regional government.

“Caraga boasts of potentials in fishery, agro-forestry, mineral, and ecotourism, but the current system of governance continues to choke this potential and allows poverty to remain rampant,” says Malaya.

Over the years, Caraga experienced erratic growth rates with no stable leveling in the trend, being highly dependent on the performance of its mining industries. Last year, the economic output of the region dipped to 4.3% from its 8.1% expansion in 2016.

This barely hangs onto the tail-end of the 4.3%-7.8% range targeted annual average gross domestic product (GDP) growth in its Regional Development Plan 2017-2022.

Based on the 2015 report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Caraga region has a 43.9% poverty incidence among the population, a far cry from its target of 20.3% by 2022.

“If we continue with the current setup, regions will only grow at a snail’s pace. So our only hope is to federalize. Once we decentralize, the regions will be able to mend their problems and rehabilitate towards development,” says Malaya.

Under federalism, the regional government will be able to upgrade and expand its seaports, airports, roads, agricultural lands, among others.

If that happens, the DILG Assistant Secretary says Caraga Region may well become one of the country’s centers of fishery, agro-forestry, mineral, and ecotourism – the primary goal stated in its regional development plan.

“With these growth drivers in focus, Caraga’s economic growth will find more stability, generating more and decent employment for the locals,” he says.

The DILG thus invites the people in Region 13 to come to its roadshow for federalism in Butuan City next week.

Activities will include a media forum and some media guestings on September 5 and a Pederalismoserye town hall meeting with basic sectors and federalism convention/rally the following day.

“We should all take the time to learn more about the new constitution that the President is trying to push forward and DILG’s roadshow is an opportunity the people of Caraga should not miss,” says Malaya.

The DILG has so far been to Dumaguete, Baguio, Legazpi, Bicol, and Tacloban to explain federalism to the locals.