DAVAO CITY—Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign for federalism struck a high note among the people of Palawan, a province long embroiled in a dispute with the national government over its share of the controversial Malampaya Fund.
Duterte, whose nationwide “listening tour” is now interpreted as his launching pad for a presidential campaign in 2016, said only under a federal form of government can Palawan finally get its just share of the controversial Malampaya Fund.
Billions of pesos of funds from government royalties in the proceeds of gas extraction in Malampaya had been wasted on ghost projects perpetrated by wheeler-dealer Janet Lim-Napoles and her cohorts in government.
“What makes your blood boil is to hear afterward that the money only went to the pockets of the corrupt,” said Duterte in a federalism forum hosted by Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez.
Duterte said a federal form of government would ensure that Palawan gets its fair share of Malampaya revenues.
“(Only under a federal form of government) can Palawan get the revenues, retain its just share, and remit the balance to the national coffers,” said Duterte.
“It’s the reverse of the present situation when revenues go to the national government first, and then, they give the provinces crumbs from the table of plenty,” he said.
Palawan has been at odds with the national government for its share of Malampaya Fund.
Alvarez, in a statement, said of the estimated P73 billion it should get from the funds, only P3 billion was released during the Arroyo administration.
Reports said much of the fund has been dissipated in massive corruption.
Duterte made the same pitch, lamenting the government’s failure to release Palawan’s share in the Malampaya Fund.
“Can you imagine what P73 billion could do to you? It would give you quality education and modern equipment such as computers for all the students to use, making PSU [Palawan State University] world-class and ensuring a brighter future for our youth,” Duterte said at another forum with PSU students.
He said federalism also offers a better solution to the demand of the Moro people for self-determination in Mindanao.
Officials pushing for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should consider federalism as a fallback position as it appears now that the BBL faces rough sailing in Congress, said Duterte.
“Otherwise, we will continue to have war in Mindanao, and the loss of precious lives, both of combatants and innocent civilians, will destroy not only Mindanao but the rest of the country as well, since terrorism, more than open combat, is the new norm of rebellion all over the world,” said Duterte. Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao