Bicol is a treasure chest of the country’s power supply and will flourish once the regional government has more budget and stake in the harnessing and distribution of its energy, according to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“Bicol as a federated region will have more power and funds to initiate projects that would develop the geothermal energy it sends out to the different parts of Luzon,” says DILG Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya during the Pederalismoserye town hall meeting with basic sectors in Legazpi.
Malaya says that it is a paradox that while Bicol has Mt. Mayon which is a major source of the country’s geothermal energy, the region currently experiences power outages and blackouts.
This, according to him, is because the energy is first sold to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and then resold to the Luzon grid, including Bicol.
Under a federal system, Malaya says that local governments will have more freedom to enter into joint ventures with the private sector in order to generate more revenues for the region.
The regional government, on the other hand, will no longer have to go through the long and tedious process of approval from the national government, he says.
Currently, all LGUs have to submit public-private partnership proposals to the central government for the review and approval of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)’s meticulous eye.
Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) consultant Atty. Bartolome Roa Rayco says that Bicolanos will strongly support federalism if it will reduce the price of electricity in the region.
“We have higher rates than Meralco. We are paying more for the transmission cost, but should have special transmission rates para maka-attract kami ng mga investors,” he says.
“It’s true that because of the problems in electricity, ayaw pumasok ng mga investors sa Bicol,” adds Rosemarie Quinto Rey, President of the Albay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
This can be addressed, according to Malaya, when the federated region is able to craft its own policies on investments.
According to former deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar, regional governments have the capacity to enact incentives and rules and regulations for the business sector.
“Right now, the priority destination of power supply goes to Metro Manila and the bigger cities. But under a federal setup, Bicol region will have more share in the decisions about the distribution of cheaper and consistent power to barangays and communities,” says Institute of Political and Electoral Reform (IPER) Executive Director Ramon Casiple.
Fixing the gaps with charter reform
Addressing the fears of people that a new constitution will undo the good features of the current unitary system, Malaya says that federalism will also adopt the well-implemented provisions in the 1987 Constitution while fixing the gaps with constitutional reform.
“Let’s maintain the good features of the existing system and improve on it under a federalized government,” says Malaya.
Malaya says that the federal way of thinking gives the region a share in the decision-making process in the national policies.
Federalism will also fix the problems of corruption in government because under a federal setup, each region will have its own judiciary system.
“Kung ako tatanungin niyo, masasabi ko na bulok ang justice system kaya pag bago na ang constitution, mayroon ng sariling judicial system ang rehiyon,” says Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman Dante Jimenez.
In a string of events that took off from the successful launch in Dumaguete then in Baguio, the DILG pushed its third Federalism roadshow in Legazpi on July 6, 2018.
The Pederalismoserye town hall meeting with basic sectors was a dialogue conducted with the different sectoral leaders at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Session Hall.
Speaking during the event were DILG Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya, Executive Director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform (IPER) Ramon Casiple anf former Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Gary Olivar.
Meanwhile local speakers were Governor of Camarines Sur Jonah Pimentel, Albay Province Vice Governor Harold Ong Imperial, Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, Masbate’s former Governor Vicente Revil and Department of Tourism Regional Director Benjie Santiago.
This was followed by a convention / rally populated by a crowd of more than 4,500 to the overflow of the Albay Astrodome in Legazpi City.
During the rally, DILG Undersecretary Martin Diño said that the Department will also advocate for federalism at the barangay and community level.
Consultations were likewise conducted by the Consultative Committee alongside the roadshow.
“We will next bring the roadshow to Tacloban and hope that the people there will be ready to listen to President Duterte’s campaign for change,” said Malaya.
Federalism is one of the Duterte administration’s flagship campaign seen to solve inequality, political and economic monopolies, and inefficiency in governance.
This week Concom approved and signed the proposed model for constitutional reform. An official copy of the draft is yet to be released to the public.