Empowering The Filipino People: ...BUT WE’RE STILL FAR BEHIND

OUR sampling of media opinion and editorial commentary on President Aquino III's third SONA resulted in a general rating of OK. "'We Achieve Change': President: Reforms Erasing "Nightmares' Of Past Administration," reported the Manila Bulletin, 24 July; other favorable assessments:

• "Growth Is The Focus; P-Noy Proud of Success," Malaya, 24 July.

• "P-Noy: You Made Change Possible," The Philippine Star, 24 July

• "Nothing Is Impossible, If Filipinos United," Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 July

• "Address Gets Thumbs Up From Business," Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 July

On the other hand, there were negatives that merit the attention of P-Noy, his Cabinet, and speechwriters:

• "Misleading SONA," Manila Standard Today, 25 July

• "Aquino Used Old Crime Data," The Manila Times, 25 July

• "SONA Failed To Address Basic Issues," The Daily Tribune, 25 July

• "Selective SONA," Business Mirror, 25 July

What Do Some Experts Say?

Prof. (Dr.) Solita Collas Monsod, NEDA Director-General under President Cory, reports (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 July):

"The StatDev, (National Statistics Coordination Board website) is a statistical system to monitor the economic and social development goals in the Philippine Development Plan (2011-2016). So, StatDev 2011 contains data for 2011, covering the nine sectors focused on in the PDP. What the NSCB does is compare the actual 2011 data with baseline data, and with PDP targets in its companion volume, the PDP 2011-2016 Results Matrices.

"It looks like the 2011 grade, as far as the Social Contract is concerned and based on StatDev, would have to be "NEEDS IMPROVEMENT."

"As far as the macro-economy - the country's overall performance in terms of output, employment, and stability - is concerned, there were seven indicators monitored. And, what has to be at least one of the most important indicators, the growth rate in real terms of our GDP, showed "POOR PERFORMANCE." Why? Because the 2011 data showed a growth rate of 3.9 percent while the target was 7 to 8 percent. Two other indicators that showed "POOR PERFORMANCE" were the exports-to-GDP ratio, both nominal and real.

"Four macro-indicators showed "GOOD PERFORMANCE:" Two having to do with employment and two with stability. To illustrate, 1.156 million net new jobs were generated in 2011 versus the target of one million. Darned good performance, actually. The deficit-to-GDP ratio and the inflation rate were also ON TARGET.

Insofar as the agriculture sector was concerned, 35 indicators were assessed, of which 22 exhibited "POOR PERFORMANCE," 10 showed "GOOD PERFORMANCE," and 3 showed "AVERAGE PERFORMANCE." Alas, palay production was one of the "poor performers."

In his column, "Sustaining the State of the Econony" Prof. (Dr.) Cielito F. Habito (FVR's NEDA head) says (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 July):

"I wrote recently of the stark inequalities in our economy - which seem much more magnified here than elsewhere. There are signs that poverty is declining (with the Social Weather Stations' Q2 poverty/hunger figures having improved), but the richest among us have become far richer.

"There is much catching-up to do on infrastructure, wherein we lag behind miserably both relative to our neighbors and to our requirements. And while Government's revenue collections are rising, targets are still being missed even with higher-than-expected economic growth. Both the BIR and BOC have yet to show dramatic departures from historical trends. To be fair, this also requires much better tax compliance, especially on the part of our biggest individual and corporate taxpayers. Why aren't some prominent names in the recent Forbes billionaires' list near the top of the list of our top taxpayers?

"The legislative agenda must reflect needed measures to address these persistent weaknesses. Topping the list of laws P-Noy must push are those that would further strengthen transparency and accountability, with the long-languishing Freedom of Information bill being a particular imperative. This is critical to his professed crusade against graft and corruption.

"Bank secrecy laws also need to be aligned better with international norms, so that they can't be used to conceal questionable wealth. Laws that boost Government's revenue performance, especially so-called "sin taxes," and rationalizing tax incentives, must also receive top priority. Legislators should also revive the bill to restructure our revenue agencies to address age-old weaknesses in tax administration.

"Key to widening our economy's base of growth, and correcting highly-skewed income distribution is the enactment of a strong competition policy that outlaws unfair trade practices and prevents monopolistic maneuvers by large firms."

How The Philippines Rates In The World

It used to be that the Philippines rated highly in the world because of our people's achievements. For many years, after World War II ended in August 1945, when the Allies led by the US had defeated the Axis Powers, the Philippines basked in the aura of being among the victors in that great war. In the Pacific theater, it was highlighted by the heroic defense of Bataan/Corregidor, and the liberation of the Philippines with the nationwide Filipino guerrilla resistance movement providing admirable support to the Allied Forces.

Our peaceful, non-violent 1986 People Power Revolution, likewise, provided a shining beacon of human determination that inspired oppressed peoples elsewhere to rise against dictatorship and strongman rule.

Today, in terms of the 2011 UN Human Development Index report, the Philippines no longer enjoys such respect - being #112 of 187 member-nations rated. In 1995, the Philippines was elected Chair of the UN "Group of 77" (developing countries) in recognition of our overall performance as a national society; but since 2004, our country has fallen 39 slots lower in human development from #83 (out of 177), according to UNHDI parameters.

As of 2011, we are only #18 among "Medium Development" countries (out of 46), and are outperformed by the likes of Mongolia, El Salvador, Thailand, Fiji, Samoa, and Sri Lanka.

So, the Philippines cannot remain complacent or self-satisfied after one or two glowing SONAs. Much work, indeed, as Monsod and Habito have asserted, needs to be done by all.

Years ago, we recognized the intimate intertwining - nay, irreversible unity - of the Environment with Population and Sustainable Development, and the need to manage these three components of God's bounty as an integrated, converged and synergistic roadmap to a better future.

U-S-A For Malacañang And Congress

In hopes that the PNoy Administration moves faster forward, FVR conveys this UnSolicited Advice. (This is not P,Noy's dream alone, but also of many other leaders before him).

"I speak simply as Citizen Eddie - your friend, big brother, father, and grandfather. Experience teaches us that no man or woman, be he or she a President or multi-billionaire, can single-handedly bring progress to a nation. The job of nation-building demands that every citizen, no matter what his/her status in life is, must do his/her share.

"A national leader must define where he will bring the nation and show the people how to get there. He leads by setting the right examples for the citizenry to emulate. He leads by making the bold and correct decisions for the betterment of many, not the enrichment of the few. More than this, he must see to it that the people own up to that vision, and get inspired to contribute blood in attaining that common dream.

"As senior brother, I realize that the task of nation-building cannot be done by one person alone. In my 51 years of public service, I have striven to take the lead in many endeavors, and by the grace of God, achieved some success. I can honestly say that I could never have done it alone, but always performed and achieved with Unity of purpose, Solidarity in values, and Teamwork in nation-building together with fellow co-workers.

"Neither can the Government do it alone. But, when each of us come together in Unity, Solidarity, and Teamwork - with one goal in mind, and driven by the same vision - we all become a strong and mighty hand, able to make real for ourselves a quality of life for which we have always yearned, in an environment of enduring peace and sustainable development. The piece of brick which a mason, laborer, farmer, fisherman, soldier, businessman, or professional contributes to nation-building counts much in strengthening the pillars of an economically-strong and more secure nation. These building blocks put together are the sum total of the sustained and collective efforts of our people. Progress is present when each and every citizen feels safe in his home, in his work place and in the streets.



Please send any comments to fvr@rpdev.org. Copies of articles are available at www.rpdev.org.