DILG: Proposed regional dev’t authority ‘not a political unit’

Mara Cepeda

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DILG: Proposed regional dev’t authority ‘not a political unit’
But Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel says the proposal would 'complicate' the process of implementing projects in the regions

MANILA, Philippines – Amid strong opposition from House members, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) clarified on Tuesday, February 4, that the proposed Regional Development Authority (RDA) would not be a new political unit.  

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, chairman of the and Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism and Constitutional Reform, defended the IATF’s proposed constitutional amendment before the House committee on constitutional amendments on Tuesday.

“Let me just clarify, Mr Chairman, that we are not proposing a political unit in the Regional Development Authority. In fact, we will maintain the existing composition of the RDC (Regional Development Council) when it becomes an RDA,” Malaya said during the hearing. 

“We will also maintain the powers of the RDA, but just add to the authority of RDA and give them authority to implement projects and give them funding so that their projects are no longer subject to discretion by higher authority,” he added.  

The RDC is currently the highest policy-making body in every region in the country. It is composed of provincial governors, city and municipal mayors, presidents of leagues of mayors in the region, regional directors of different government agencies, and representatives from the private sector and non-governmental organizations. 

The IATF has proposed that the RDC be turned into the RDA, which would have powers and funds to implement regional projects and programs without national government approval.

But lawmakers remained opposed to giving more powers to the RDC, arguing that by giving it implementation powers, a new political entity would be created.  

Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel, who is also Surigao del Sur 2nd District Representative, said the proposal would “complicate” the implementation of projects across the country

“Do you mean to tell me there would be another layer of bureaucratic red tape? Meaning there will be duplication? Who will implement now? Will it be the [Regional Development] Authority or will it be the implementing agencies?” asked Pimentel in a mix of Filipino and English.

He added that there is always a political aspect in the proposed RDA, which is composed of elected officials who may be at odds with congressional representatives who want to propose projects for their districts.

“What if let’s say I am a representative of this district. I have several projects. I want to be endorsed by [the] RDA. Unfortunately, the chairman is my political rival. We know how politics works…. He will say, “I’ll disapprove all of these proposals,” Pimentel said.

Isabela 1st District Representative Antonio “Tonypet” Albano, House constitutional amendments panel senior vice chair,  agreed, likening the proposed RDA to “creating another political layer” in the process of approving projects. 

Stronger regional planning sorely needed

Malaya then proposed changing the word “authority” in the proposed Regional Development Authority to something more neutral like “agency.” 

He reiterated that the RDA would not be an additional political body, as its members would not chosen by the people in separate elections.  

“Let me just emphasize, Mr Chair  that we are not creating a new political entity. If this is a new political entity, there should be elections for it. There’s none. This is just strengthening the only regional body that we have right now,” Malaya said in a mix of Filipin and English.

He then explained that changing the RDC into the RDA would improve the country’s regional development planning, which he said was sorely lacking in the Philippines.  

“Napag-iiwanan po talaga ang (We really are getting left behind in terms of) regional empowerment and regional planning, which we feel is a policy gap in our governance system. And I hope Congress will seriously consider our proposal,” Malaya said.

The House constitutional amendments panel is tacking the IATF’s proposed constitutional amendments, including stronger provisions against political turncoatism and political dynasties. – Rappler.com 

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.