It has been reported that there is growing support for federalism among various local government units (LGUs) all over the country. Is this also true in Mariveles?
Mariveles, Bataan Mayor Ace Jello Concepcion: When President Duterte started (to campaign for federalism), you can really feel the people’s support for it. Up to now, we support the President. Of course, there are shortcomings but these are mostly a result of frustration.
But when it comes to federalism, my own stand is, until after the national government produces, showcases, and presents a clear structure of what form of federalism it intends for the whole country, doon pa lang ho siguro ako makakapag-decide [that is the only time i will decide] on whether I will support it or not. Right now, there are many forms of federalism. Hindi ho natin alam kung alin ho ba talaga doon iyong kongkreto na gustong mangyari [We still don’t know what form the government concretely wants to happen]. But once, everything has been consolidated and presented properly, then I think the local leaders will have an easier time about deciding on what their stand will be.
Are you waiting for the national government, for the Lower House and for the Senate to be more concrete in their federalism policy and direction?
Yes, they are the ones charged to do that, because they are the ones who have the power, constitutionally speaking. But, it follows that for them to come up with a concrete federalism plan, they have to go down; consult the people.
Some LGUs have gone ahead and opened discussions with constituents on federalism. What can you say about this?
There is a danger of mind-conditioning. What if the final structure is very different from what they presented? That will be a problem. It might bring more instability. For me, the better way to go is for the people tasked to do that to go down; for them to know what is happening on the ground.
We actually have a consultative meeting on federalism in August for the province of Bataan. It is sponsored by the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government). The invite is for mayors and the barangay captains.
Do the people of Mariveles support federalism?
I think there is support because it’s new to the layman. And we believe that federalism will benefit Region III the most, because we have the resources. We have everything here. We have the rice granaries. We have the industrial estates. Actually, Region III can stand alone, with the addition of Aurora. We can make it, but only, with the right kind of federalism.
As a mayor do you think that federalism is feasible in the Philippines?
Personally speaking, even when I was a Political Science student at the University of the Philippines studying political dynamics of different states, even back then, I already believed that things could be better if the Philippines would federalize. It is because we are an archipelago. It’s very hard for a central government to directly manage an archipelagic state with different cultures. I think federalism is feasible and appropriate for the Philippines.
What mechanisms of federalism do you find appropriate for the Philippines?
It will be easy for a federal state to manage its own, to craft policies and even laws that will be appropriate, sufficient, and even beneficial to its constituents.
Under the present set up, most of our policies are crafted by people on top, without knowing what’s happening on the ground.
Barangay officials are the most affected under a centralized structure. For example, RA 9003, our Solid Waste Management Act. All the burden is actually on the shoulders of the barangay officials. But what is the budget of a barangay? They don’t even have the means to purchase a dump truck. So, for the longest time, it is the LGU who does the work of the barangay on solid waste management. This is a good example of a policy formulated on top then executed on the ground, but the one tasked to implement it does not have the capacity to do it.
The municipality and the city is only tasked to collect residual waste. Waste segregation is not the task of the LGU. But it is the LGU that does this. Read the law. It is stated clearly there.
Are there institutional efforts on the part of your local government to make the people understand federalism?
For now, because we want to avoid misunderstanding as to the final form of federalism that will be presented, we are not yet going all out with our constituents. But once we have finished consultations, we will gradually introduce federalism.
Are the youth of Mariveles in favor or not in favor of federalism?
It’s hard to read the youth because they easily change their minds. But in the last election, if we tag federalism and the President together, the youth is for federalism. They voted for the President.
As a lawyer, what federalism structure would you recommend for Mariveles? Can you describe a Mariveles under federalism?
Under a federal system, it’s either each city or municipality for its own or the province or as a region. For me, I think it would be better if the federalism is based on province or region. Like what I said earlier, if we are going on a stand-alone region, we can do it. If we go by province, I believe, with the leadership of the governor, the needs of all the cities and municipalities can be balanced. G