Perform, Reform, Transform for the New Year

“I want the declaration of Martial Law to be the sole prerogative of the President…” – Pres. Du30
(The Manila Times, 24 December 2016)

The mere mention by Pres. Du30 of the possibility of martial law last Christmas Eve before an audience of Nanay (mother) volunteers in Pampanga sent frightening shivers among hundreds of their “Kabalens” (provincemates) but also, real fear among many mothers throughout the whole country.

This past week, FVR felt this emerging sense of unhappiness about a future return to Marcos-style dictatorial governance because of the many queries to him by all kinds of people, including veterans, AFP retirees and senior citizens about Pres. Digong’s hints of martial law, and his desire to remove the safeguards thereto in the 1987 Constitution.

Pres. Digong has been quoted as having said, “If I declare martial law because there’s an invasion now or a war, I cannot proceed on and on…  I’ll have to go Congress, I’ll have to go to the Supreme Court. What if the Supreme Court says something else, Congress says ‘yes’…. Where do I position myself?  So, I need to change all that….” Duterte also argued that Congressional and judicial review would defeat the purpose of declaring martial law.

At the beginning of the New Year 2017, we do hope that our leaders – instead of the bringing back of the dark memories of authoritarianism – should deal more with the brighter future that the Filipino people could enjoy under the Pres. Du30 administration.  For instance, what about his 10-point economic program in terms of action taken in his first six months?

PERFORMING STRUCTURAL CHANGES.  It is unfortunate that most Filipinos easily forget certain valuable lessons from our history of hardship, struggle and sacrifice.  We tend to squander our goodwill and solidarity in threatening – in quarreling and pulling each other down, even during good times.

Our leaders, most especially, must PERFORM to achieve structural changes, and concurrently strive to consolidate the Philippine national team.  Reflecting on the booms-and-busts, and the highs-and-lows in our collective national performance, our people seem to have repeatedly faltered. After gleaming triumphs, we tend to fall short again and again.

If we content ourselves with flawed policies, incompetent bureaucrats and self-serving dynasties at this time of new opportunity, expectedly, we may fail again.

No other but our current leaders must initiate structural reforms to help steer us away from the cycle of boom and bust in which we often find ourselves.  Our leaders must also be able to mobilize our people so that they perform according to the call of duty, to responsible citizenship, and to teamwork in nation-building.

While leaders and concerned citizens are aware of the need to implement critical reforms, it is apparent that there is still considerable foot-dragging and complacency.  Many important issues are not being properly addresses – if at all.

REFORMS DEPEND ON GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY.   The following death-dealing issues remain unresolved – like “ticking bombs” – that threaten our better future.

  • Mass poverty due to overpopulation in urban communities, rising prices, and the deepening rich-poor gap;
  • Environmental abuse resulting in reduced potable water, less food production, degraded natural resources, agrarian conflicts and massive flooding;
  • Propensity for official corruption and red tape leading to higher costs;
  • Unlevel playing field favoring dynasties, monopolists, and oligarchs; and
  • Absence of durable peace especially in Mindanao.

These realities require taking actions that enhance, not diminish, our democracy; curb corruption and cronyism; undertake poverty alleviation and social reform; and insure justice is delivered without delay to the long-suffering and powerless.

Good citizenship, of course, is not measured by heroic acts alone.  A nation needs not only team leaders, but concerned citizens as well who pay their taxes, obey the laws, vote wisely during elections, help others in need, raise quality families and, above all, cherish our beloved Philippines.

As to fighting graft and corruption, the Administration’s campaign is now beginning to score.  But Government leaders admit there is much more they need to do.  The few reforms that have been achieved should become the platform – a launching pad – for deeper, more basic reforms we Filipinos need to actualize our country’s capabilities, because many problems remain, and goals unattained.  The most grievous of these is the lack of inclusive growth.

The Philippines is classified as a “middle-income” country.  But because income inequality among us is much higher than it is in most of our neighbor-states, we have more of the poor – as observers might expect.

REFORMS WE NEED MOST

INFRASTRUCTURE. Public spending – mainly on roads – accounted for a large part of our GDP growth. But we can’t keep investments confined to just one favored sector. Other public utilities and connectivity projects also need a boost.

AGRICULTURE. The keys to transforming agriculture are better irrigation, higher productivity and synergized agro-industry. And these will not happen unless we tap the full potential of the rural masses.

MANUFACTURING.  As is well-known, manufacturing generates quality jobs. But, historically, Philippine manufacturing has been constrained by poor infrastructure, ill-conceived protectionist policies, large-scale smuggling, bureaucratic corruption, and populist public policies.

MINING. Familiar to most leaders are mining issues. The Government’s efforts to reach a compromise between environmental protection and efficiency in extracting minerals need further refinement.

TOURISM. The Philippines has attracted additional foreign tourists since the Duterte Government took office. We’re sure many more travelers would want to enjoy our attractive destinations, but poor infrastructure seems to be the bottleneck.

ANTI-SMUGGLING.  Not just the cheapie goods from China, but luxury vehicles and fertilizers, rice and petroleum come into the country under suspicious circumstances – in such quantities that they represent a good part of our yearly supplies.

Certainly, the world will not be standing still while we feckless Filipinos scramble to improve our lot.  We need to be proactive in dealing with global game-changers that could affect our economy, one way or the other.

REAL REFORMS NEED BEST PRACTICES.  Nation-building works best when the barriers of ignorance, indifference and helplessness are removed; when both planners and operators are well-informed; when national strategies match the creativity of local communities; and when resources both from public and private sectors are allocated to their best use, with zero waste.

We see the Asia-Pacific region as the hemisphere still with the greatest risk of conflict due to overlapping claims in the South China Sea/East China/West Philippine Sea and across many land borders.

It appears that the only lasting solution to resolve these perennial territorial disputes is for all our countries to be embedded in a dense network of economic, political, and security relationships – in a one Asia-Pacific mega-regional community that cooperates harmoniously and is sustainably connected for peace and development.  “Community” must become the wave of our future – for Southeast Asia – for Northeast Asia – for the whole of the Asia-Pacific, and the world!

We realize that the work of building partnership structures may not be completed in one generation.  But just as old men who plant trees whose cool shade they may never sit under – so must incumbents help strengthen the foundations upon which those who succeed them will erect communal structures for a better global future.

TRUE TRANSFORMATION – WORKING FOR A BETTER FUTURE.  Since we Filipinos became a nation over a hundred years ago, we have struggled to live in freedom, and to win for ourselves spiritual well-being, material prosperity, and a place of respect in the community of nations.  The vision we all share is that of Jose Rizal’s – who dreamt of a free, peaceful, and prosperous Philippines.

This vision is also shared by the generations of Filipinos – living and dead – who fought for freedom, democracy, and development – whether as public servants or civilians.

As the captain of our Philippine Ship of State, Pres. Duterte must likewise be in as the front position, aiming for true transformation and pushing for our common vision of a better future for Filipinos.  He must set out a series of national goals that will mobilize our people’s civic spirit.  He must lead us all toward an overriding national purpose, which is the vision of a higher quality of life for our people, and a position of dignity — and even admiration — in the family of nations.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLVE.  In the new year, many opportunities beckon but there is really only one choice to be made to assure a better Filipino future – to PERFORM, REFORM, and TRANSFORM.

Pres. Digong, VP Leni, SenPres Koko Pimentel, Spkr Bebot, Chief Sereno, plus the cabinet, lawmakers, executives, judiciary, AFP/PNP, other public servants and the entire citizenry – LET’S JUST DOH IT!  AS ONE COMPETITIVE PHILIPPINE TEAM!!

KAYA NATIN ITO!!!

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

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