Palace: Duterte ‘exploring’ options on federalism

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Rodrigo Duterte

PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte is “exploring all options” on his proposed shift to a federal form of government amid concerns even in his own circle over its impact on the economy, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said Monday, Aug. 13.

Mr. Roque briefed Malacañang reporters on the heels of Sunday’s joint statement by business groups urging careful consideration of Mr. Duterte’s proposed shift to federalism, a leading theme of his 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Duterte’s own economic managers, led by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, had earlier flagged the costs and risks in the planned shift to a federal system.

“Well, this is a kind of discussion that we welcome as far as Charter Change is concerned. We want this kind of discussion. We want people to think deeply about the ramifications. And we welcome all sorts of inputs from all members of society,” Mr. Roque said.

He added that Mr. Duterte is “aware” of concerns articulated by his economic team. “He is now aware…and he has said that it is not insurmountable….Hindi naman po complete na balakid iyan para sa Charter Change (That is not a complete obstacle to Charter Change).”

“I know that he (Mr. Duterte) has (discussed this matter with his economic team),” Mr. Roque said. “Yes, he has listened attentively to what they were saying. But he wants solutions. He’s looking for solutions.”

“The President has been listening. He still wants it, because he is the foremost proponent of Charter Change towards federalism. But of course, he wants it done in a manner that will not put the country in trouble. That’s why he is exploring now all options and has ordered that everyone should study it. He is asking members of the Congress to look into the matter very seriously because ultimately, it’s Congress that will submit to the people the proposals,” he said.

Mr. Roque also said the Palace is “hoping that the legislatures who will tackle Charter Change will also consider the position of the business community.”

Also on Monday, another business leader added his voice to concerns already expressed in the business community and even in government about the impact of a federal system.

“If companies are burdened with differing regulations and rules in all the regions they do commerce in, the ease of doing business in the country would certainly drop and take potential investments along with it,” European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines president Guenter Taus said by e-mail when sought for comment on this issue as also flagged by business groups in a statement on Sunday.

“Thus, we urge Congress to consider the benefits of a harmonized taxation system and uniform rules and regulations for business.”

He added that the expertise of Local Government Units to carry out taxation and regulation-related tasks should be further developed before they can prove their eligibility to be designated as federal states.

Mr. Taus added that “a clear delineation of administrative and fiscal powers between the national and federal units is needed to avoid duplication of responsibilities.” — Arjay L. Balinbin