Malacañang on Wednesday admonished Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia for saying it would take years before most of the country’s regions are ready for federalism, and said the shift to a new form of government would have no adverse effects on the economy.
“We have already discussed and clarified the matter with National Economic and Development Authority Director-General and Secretary Ernesto Pernia. The shift to federalism, we reiterate, would have no adverse effect on the Philippine economy,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.
“The role of the national government would be to continue to implement Build, Build, Build projects and would hence be concentrated on policymaking,” he added.
Pernia, in an earlier television interview, warned the economic gains could be disrupted if the country shifts to a federal form of government, as President Rodrigo Duterte wants.
“It’s unlikely that the regions will be ready and our concern, my concern is that we are moving now to connect the regions, to bring the lagging regions into the mainstream economy and that momentum of infrastructure improvement in the regions is going to be disrupted so it’s not going to be good for federalism,” Pernia said.
He said only five of the proposed 18 federated regions—National Capital Region, Cebu, Central Luzon, and Southern Tagalog—have the political and economic infrastructure that would allow them to adopt federalism.
Roque dismissed Pernia’s claims.
“Our budget would remain the same, as identified national projects would be devolved and transferred to the internal revenue allotment [IRA] of local government units,” he said.
He added that such projects include preservation of barangay roads and bridges, water supply services, barangay health centers and daycare centers, and solid waste disposal systems of municipalities, among others.
Roque said Pernia’s concerns about the possible harmful effects of federalism have no basis.
“It was only a matter of clarifying that federal form of government does not require a bigger budget, which might result in a higher deficit,” ended Roque.
Duterte has been pushing for federalism as a way to spur economic growth in the provinces, and to distribute wealth and power, which have been centered on Manila.