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Federalism round table discussion opening remarks

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

I would like to applaud the participants in this round table discussion
for federalism for accepting our invitation and lending their considerable
talents to this endeavor on this lovely afternoon. On behalf of the Institute
for Government and Law Reform, thank you very much for coming and
welcome to UP!
Let me start with a simple thought experiment. How big do you think
the Philippines is? In geography we learn that we have a land area of around
three hundred forty thousand square kilometers, but is that how big we are?
Our internal waters between islands count as sovereign territory, shouldnt
that area be included?
In fact, if you put the country into a map of the continental United
States, the Philippines, whose land area is about the size of the state of New
Mexico, actually stretches from Texas to North Dakota. If you put us into a
map of Europe, Sulu to Batanes would stretch from Italy to Denmark. The
illusion of being a small country has been brought about by textbooks
espousing maps that use the misleading Mercator projection.
This huge expanse of territory, with considerable stretches of sea in
between scattered mountainous islands, has produced a cornucopia of
cultures, peoples, traditions and languages. Our people are diverse, and the
struggle of governing a diverse nation has troubled the leaders of this
country ever since our first attempts at self-determination.
Today the Philippine state is still centered on an administrative
bureaucracy centered on the National Capital Region. Authority emanates
from the capital city, but enforcing this authority presents a set of problems
that has hounded kingdoms and empires since time immemorial.
It is not without some irony that we discuss the virtues and risks of
federalism here, today, right smack in the middle of Imperial Manila. That
term has served to be a rallying point for those unsatisfied with a perceived
imbalance in government attention between the provinces and the NCR.
They contend that development is constrained by an unwarranted bias
towards Manila and the regions surrounding it, and the further you get away
from the capital, the more you are neglected.
The man of the hour is of course our President, Rodrigo Duterte. His
presidential campaign had pushed the debate over our current form of
government from something that had been on the backburner for several
years into a key election issue. The Presidents view was anchored on the

idea that federalism is ultimately the solution for a lasting peace in

Mindanao. Our view takes into account the whole picture what does a
federal system, with Philippine characteristics, look like?
The direction of Philippine administrative history has been towards
greater local autonomy and the devolution of government functions to the
local governments units. Taking a federal style of government may thus be
seen as merely at a logical continuation of the path that we had been taking
as a nation, most recently exemplified by the Local Government Code,
authored by our presidents party-mate, Senator Nene Pimentel.
Now today, at this round table discussion, we are given a unique
chance influencing the decisions of government on the issue of federalism. I
am confident that the deliberations would provide unique insight, and the
success of these consultations from such a diverse intellectual crowd would
bring about thoughtful change in society. I wish for the success of this
undertaking, not only for the IGLR or UP or the government, but for the
Filipino people.
Thank you.