In the Philippines, Forum event describes “the oil” of multi-level systems!

Philippines_2018_01

Forum event details Multi-level systems of government – Structural features and Intergovernmental relations to Con Comm

The Forum of Federations in collaboration with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Centre for Federalism and Constitutional Reform (CFCR) and the Asia Foundation held an intervention on intergovernmental relations on the 11-12 May, in Manila, Philippines.

The event was held in support of the work of the Consultative Committee (Con Comm) which is appointed to review Philippines’ 1987 Constitution. This review seeks to address the ethnic and territorial tensions that exist within the archipelago. The event was attended by the members of Con Comm, its support staff as well as senior leaders from the DILG, leading academics and leaders from civil society.

A topic often neglected in constitutional design and one that was explored in depth at the recent event ‘Multi-level systems of government structural features and Intergovernmental relations’ is to consider how the different government levels will interact in order to bring about a functioning democracy.

The event was a timely message to Con Comm and other officials that intergovernmental relations (IGR) cannot in modern day society be left to spontaneous and sporadic developments and meetings. IGR must be planned; structured and pursued with the intent to ensure the different organs of government are interconnected; that common policies are pursued; and that fora are created to meet on a regular basis and with a clear agenda.

The participants to the workshop were very alive to the importance of IGR. The questions and discussions were in-depth; driven by a need to inform the constitution-writing process; and keen to learn from international experiences.

Con Comm members found it very useful to have experts from various countries available to respond first hand to the experiences of their country. The panel discussions enabled experts and Con Comm commissioners to comment on each other and also for the participants to engage.

Representing the Forum was Forum President Rupak Chattopadhyay who detailed Canada’s approach to IGR. Also present were experts from Australia, India, Nepal, Spain and South Africa.

In an interview during the event, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) spokesperson Jonathan Malaya stressed the need to institutionalize IGR to address issues such as duplication of powers, lack of concentration, poor services, and wastage of public funds.

“Intergovernmental relations, whether it is a federal system or a devolved system in the Philippines, would be very crucial to improve the level of public service to our people,” Malaya said.

Malaya stated the DILG is committed in its push for federalism with the brand dubbed as “bayanihan” federalism.
“Under this cooperative federalism, we don’t focus on exclusive powers but focus instead on shared powers between the national and regional governments,” Malaya said.

The event sought demonstrates the importance of IGR mechanisms whether under the guise of decentralised reform efforts or a constitution shift towards federalism. Institutions and processes, which instil effective IGR practices, are essential to policy reforms, they are pivotal in diffusing regional tensions, and the allocation of powers and resources required to match service delivery to local preferences and needs – best achieved through intergovernmental dialogue and institutions.

The event was a great success and well attended by around 60, including Con Comm members and others who indicated the enormous benefit of the intervention. The event is part of a programme support by the Asia Foundation and the Australian Government. The Australian Government and the Asia Foundation Partnership in the Philippines is funding studies that are intended to contribute to the current public discussion on reform of central-local relations (including federalism).

Photos from the event