Government News Analysis

Towards the Philippines Federacy

The relocation of the Department of Tourism (DOT), from Manila to Cebu (see: Tourism Department to go extramuros) is part of the new Philippine administration’s overall economic revitalisation policy which will grant greater economic autonomy to the regions. It is a political philosophy which President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte holds close to his heart and which he has been espousing for years, contending that the National Product will be vastly improved if the regions have the autonomy to run their own affairs and be masters of their own ships.

Duterte confidante and Vice Presidential running mate in the recent elections, Peter Cayetano, is a federalist fellow traveller. The Senate Majority Leader has been pursuing the regional approach to boost economic development in the provinces for much of his time in Congress. In 2014 he tabled a proposal to move the Departments of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform to Central Luzon, the countries rice bowl, and the DOT to the country’s tourism hub, Cebu. Both men want each of the 17 regions that make up the political structure of the Philippines to initiate their own strategies, reasoning that they are in a better position as they know their areas, their resources, their needs and their people.

For the same reasons, Cayetano would also like to see the National Anti-Poverty Commission move to Mindanao, which is home to some of the poorest provinces and municipalities in the country.

“Metro Manila will continue to be the political and financial capital of the Philippines but this should not mean economic activity should be concentrated in the capital region,” he told his fellow lawmakers, adding that creating work in the regions would also alleviate the inflow of rural migrants to the capital. Two years ago there were 19,137 Filipinos per square kilometer living in Manila, against a national average of 300 per km2.

Cayetano, whom Duterte wants as his Foreign Secretary, will return to the Senate when it convenes on 25 July. Although his legislative term is up to 2019, he will likely step down in 12 months when the one-year bar for losing electoral candidates is lifted, and take the Foreign portfolio.