The Center for Strategic Planning and Policy Studies (CSPPS) of CPAf organized its first policy seminar for 2017, entitled “Federalism, Local Governance, and the Agriculture Sector in the Philippines” last February 13 at CPAf. The event was co-sponsored by the Sekiguchi Global Research Association (SGRA). Representatives from different academic and research institutions, and various local government units attended the said activity.
Highlights of the program were the lectures of Dr. Danilo Reyes, retired professor of the National College of Public Administration and Governance of UP Diliman (UP NCPAG); Dr. Joffre Balce, secretary of the Association of Good Government; and Dr. Eliseo Ponce, former visiting senior research fellow of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) and former director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research of the Department of Agriculture (DA-BAR).
Dr. Reyes talked about “Federalism and Local Governance,” which discusses the decentralization of the government and the devolution of powers to the local government units (LGUs) through the Local Government Code. These powers include the basic services provided by the government to the people, including agricultural extension. He also added that the devolution of power may pose challenges to the LGUs, such as in allocating their funds to finance the needed basic services. Federalism has been a major topic in the country as President Rodrigo Duterte advocated it even during his campaign for the 2016 national elections.
Moreover, Dr. Balce discussed the “Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Strategies Revisited: A Georgist Perspective.” He shared the difficulty on finding ways to sustainably help the areas in the Visayas region, which were hit by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, to get back on their feet. To deal with this problem, the Georgist perspective was presented as a strategy for reconstruction and rehabilitation. Dr. Balce explained that the Georgist policy requires “the suspension of all income, consumption, and transaction-based taxes.” He further suggested to convert the Visayas East Coast ports into free ports, and to strictly comply and enforce the land use plan.
In his topic “The State of the Philippine Agriculture,” Dr. Ponce pointed out that little has changed in the agriculture sector in the last 30 years. He mentioned that the cost of food in the Philippines is still one of the highest in the ASEAN region. He further noted that the agricultural producer’s income is low, the agricultural sector’s competitiveness is weak, and the poverty incidence in the rural areas is high. These are all attributed to poor governance, poor planning, poor investment strategy, and poor accountability. He also discussed the Key Agriculture Reform Agenda of the Duterte Administration, which include the modernization of the Philippine Agriculture bureaucracy and the institutionalization of the system-wide quality planning in the Department of Agriculture.
After the three lectures, Dr. Ferdinand Maquito, Philippine chief representative of SGRA, facilitated the round table discussion. Raised in the discussion were issues on the duplication of programs provided by the national agencies and the LGUs; and the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) share of cities and municipalities and its connection to taxation. It was suggested that a comprehensive study should be made prior to the implementation of federalism in the country. (by Nico Jayson C. Anastacio)