LGUs told: Prepare for federal set-up

MANILA — Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno has told local government executives in the country to prepare for the transition to a federal form of government, which President Duterte and his allies in Congress are pushing for.

In a speech on Thursday at the Local Government Congress in Manila, Sueno said local government units (LGUs) will be getting expanded powers in a federal setup, which would lead to further devolution and decentralization.

“Let us continue this journey of good local governance, of decentralization and local autonomy and look forward to new challenges under a federal system of government,” Sueno said at the congress marking the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991.

Sueno said the country’s provinces, cities and towns will have more power to govern their areas and more control over their resources and revenues under a federal form of government. He said the country’s LGUs would soon be engaged in competition with each other in terms of attracting investors to further enhance local development and expand social services.

Sueno said that once the federal system of government sets in, what will be left of the Department of the Interior and Local Government functions will be “homeland protection.”

Sueno recalled that before the enactment of the Local Government Code in 1991, “mayors and governors actually had to beg Malacañang for funds, and I experienced it,” said Sueno, who served as mayor of Koronadal City in South Cotabato during the last years of martial law.

During the Congress, League of Provinces of the Philippines president and Ilocos Sur governor Ryan Singson presented “a roadmap to genuine local government autonomy through federalism,” including fiscal reforms and infrastructure development needed.

Sen. Loren Legarda, the congress’ guest speaker, reminded LGU executives and legislators about laws affecting local governments that have not been or are hardly being implemented or availed of.

One is a 1989 law, RA 6716, which requires the creation of rainwater collectors in barangays for reuse in irrigating or cleaning streets. She said another law, RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, would be successful in reducing the need for landfills if only LGUs lead in garbage segregation, recycling and composting of organic waste.

Legarda said that RA 9729 or the Climate Change Act of 2009 provides funding to local governments who would want to reduce disaster risks by undertaking mapping of resources and mapping of hazards.

The senator said RA 10174, which she authored and approved in 2012, created a People’s Survival Fund worth P1 billion a year that mandates LGUs and local organizations to implement climate change adaptation projects. She said the fund has accumulated to P2 billion but no LGU has availed itself of the fund yet.

She said other laws she authored, RA 9501, or the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, and RA 9509 or the Barangay Livelihood and Skills Training Act of 2008 could be invoked by poor towns in seeking national government assistance in developing their “one town, one product” enterprises and funding for their livelihood and training centers.

Sueno and Legarda led the awarding of 306 provincial, city and municipal governments with the 2016 Seal of Local Good Governance, which would entitle them to receive cash incentives for their local projects.