Around 8,000 people representing different sectoral groups converged at the Lamberto Macias Sports Complex in Dumaguete City to push for a separate Negros Island Federated Region once the Philippines shifts to a federal system of government.
Leaders from both Negros provinces and Siquijor aired their positions to the members of the Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Constitution led by Comm. Art Aguilar in the first of a series of roadshows on federalism held in this city yesterday.
Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Remollo says that their experience under the short lived Negros Island Region has shown that there is merit to their proposal and that they will be lobbying strongly for their own federated region with policy makers.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Assistant Secretary and Spokesperson Jonathan E. Malaya says the first federalism roadshow was a success as various stakeholders actively participated during the consultations and gave their approval to the shift towards federalism.
“We are pleased with the huge crowd that came out to attend the consultations and the convention. This only goes to show that there is huge interest among our people in the change in the form of government," he says.
The roadshow consists of activities that seeks to involve more people in the debate on federalism — various consultations were made, including a townhall meeting wherein representatives of different sectors were given the chance to raise questions, concerns and recommendations to DILG and Consultative Committee’s pool of experts.
“We are doing this to show that every Filipino’s voice is important in the process of amending the Constitution,” says Malaya.
The DILG will hold the next Federalism Roadshow in Baguio City on June 26.
IPs, farmers, youth say yes to fed
Farmers, indigenous peoples, youth groups, senior citizens, members of LGBT, and a number of non-governmental organizations made their voices heard, which resulted to a clearer understanding on what’s in it for them under a federal form of government.
According to the IP Chieftain of Kanlaon City Ernesto P. Claro, federalism would surely help the tribal communities in the Philippines.
He expects that government programs for education, land and agriculture would improve and reach the marginalized sectors.
“Kung pareho sa katigulangan na gindakan namo, mas makaayo sa community, sa mga IP, sa lahat ng mga tao,” he said. (If we return to the federal system that our ancestors grew up with, then it would be better for the community, for the IPs and for everyone.)
Meanwhile, President of the Javellana State Farmers Association Manuelita Batung said that federalism would help streamline government programs for cash assistance and fertilizers for farmers to produce good yields.
“So ang pederalismo, dahil sa inaaddress nila yung needs ng grassroots, malaking bagay po yun para sa farmers katulad namin,” said Battung.
The voice of the youth would be louder under federal governance, according to SK Kagawad of Barangay Masulog Jomalyn Guzon.
Dumaguete Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo appealed to his constituents to support the cause of an empowered citizenry under federalism. "Our dream of an empowered people will be realized under a federal system of government," he said.
Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, meanwhile, expressed gratitude that history will be made in his province, as he pledged to give his 100% backing to the constitutional reform move of President Rodrigo Duterte.
3rd District of Negros Occidental Representative Albee Benitez, for his part, said that the House of Representatives is working non-stop for federalism.
Benitez, echoing Asec. Malaya’s call for urgency, said, “‘Wag po nating patagalin. Habang pinapatagal po natin, lalong humihirap ang ating bayan. Now is the time. We have a president who is trusted by majority of Filipinos, who is willing to share his power and resources to the local government. ‘Wag nating sayangin.”
“We need public support for federalism... because once the critics realize that the time has come to shift to federalism, then they have no choice but to listen to the people. So the timing is crucial, the timing is now,” said Malaya.