Tacloban City―Eastern Visayas would benefit more under a federal form of government, a party-list leader said Sunday.
Jude Acidre, first nominee of Tingog Sinirangan, sees federalism bringing more funds from the national government for the region’s development.
“Eastern Visayas’ population of four million more or less represents 4 percent of our country’s population of 110 million. If we were to peg our fair share of the nation’s wealth on the basis of our population, we should have at least 4 percent of our country’s spending,” Acidre said.
However, he said that an initial assessment of the national budget “shows that the region receives less than 2 percent of the annual government expenditures.”
The party-list leader said that with the passage of federal form of government, it would pave the way for “internal self-determination, allowing the regions, long neglected under a highly centralized form of government―a more equitable share in the nation’s resources and a stronger stake in its self-government.”
As an advocate for regional development, Acidre said the current unitary form of government only gave the region “less than half of what the people of Eastern Visayas are entitled to receive.”
This limited budget would mean less money “for healthcare, education, infrastructure and other social services necessary for our region’s population,” he said.
Acidre said “political challenges” have played an important role on how the country’s budgetary resources are distributed.
“Take for example the differences in the political behavior of the people of the three Visayas regions. Western Visayas is home to the landed sugar barons, providing them the resources needed to actively participate not only in local, but even in national politics. That is why a considerable number of the first generation of Visayas politicians to make it to national politics were from Western Visayas.
“Remember the Federal Republic of Negros that once declared itself as a US [United States] protectorate? Central Visayas, on the other hand, was a region of traders. Locally, they divided themselves into opposing political factions, but they were more than willing to go beyond local political rivalries to pose as a united front in national politics,” Acidre said.
Eastern Visayas, the poorest of the three Visayas regions, “remained shackled to its feudal arrangements, where the landowners placed all the tenants under his patronage, and who in return, willingly or unwillingly pledge him their political fealty, a fertile ground for ruling political dynasties,” he added.
Acidre also pointed out the region’s lack of representation in the Senate, noting that since 1961, no senators have been elected from Eastern Visayas.
“Our region has not been represented in the budget deliberations since then, putting us in a totally disadvantageous situation in a system where simply put, representation equals political power,” he said.
The overly centralized grip of the national government in Manila over local governments “has created the imbalanced distribution of power and wealth since the birth of our Republic,” Acidre added.
As the region is composed of Samar, which is the third largest island, and Leyte, the fifth largest island in the country, this alone should be an indication that Eastern Visayas “deserves more than the internal revenue allotment that it receives annually,” he said.
As Eastern Visayas “possess vital agricultural resources,” this should be coupled a “right fiscal policies that would make the region more competitive” through federalism, Acidre said.
Eastern Samar is known as country’s second largest source of yellowfin tuna, while Northern Samar is considered one of the biggest sources of abaca, and the region is the country’s third largest producer of coconuts.
“Leyte is home to one of the largest geothermal energy resource in Asia ― a cheap and cleaner alternative source of power. The country’s first industrial economic zone is in Isabel, Leyte, which processes more than half of the country’s copper output. Samar has an immense, yet largely untapped, tourism potential, while Leyte is strategically located halfway to Mindanao and Luzon,” Acidere said.
He then urged those who opposed federalism to “go beyond predictions.”