POSTSCRIPT / October 11, 2015 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Marcos ties stagnation to lack of policy, plans

ONE national candidate to watch is Sen. Bongbong Marcos (NP). While he is running for vice president in the 2016 elections, he often projects presidential in his public discourse.

In a media interview last Wednesday in Quezon City, for instance, Marcos kept discussing wider national concerns that the usual aspirant for the role of a presidential “spare tire” may normally not bother to address.

Listening to him, one would think the 58-year-old son and namesake of the martial law president Ferdinand E. Marcos were running for president as his mother Imelda has been wanting him to do.

The Ilocano senator traces many problems plaguing the country to the lack of well-thought out policies and programs. Many a time he sounds like a critic of President Noynoy Aquino and his anointed presidential candidate Mar Roxas (LP) who promises to follow his patron’s path.

Samples of Marcos’ responses (compressed for brevity) to media questions:

Public education: Kailangan na mabago ang policy at priority tungkol sa edukasyon. In the past, we talked of a 98-percent literacy rate… The beginnings of the OFW was because our workers were very well-trained. Now we do not have an overall national policy focused on certain types of education most useful to our countrymen.

Lalo na ngayon, globalization na ang labanan, competition is in the global market. We have to bring our people to that level, not only the OFWs, but even the locals because the product of their work must be of equal quality or better than that of our foreign competition.

Reduction of taxes: The government has become overly aggressive in its taxation policy. Pati iyong mga sektor na ayon sa batas ay tax-exempt for their formation tina-tax pa rin. Maliwanag sa batas na itong mga sektor — halimbawa cooperatives, low-cost housing — ay tax-exempt. We are encouraging the cooperative movement, as well as the developers to build low-cost and socialized housing, but the BIR imbes na sabihin tax exempt kayo, sinasabi patunayan ninyo na exempt kayo.

This has gotten in the way of investments, and businesses do not know what to expect. Nabalita na sa appropriated funds, may P800 billion na hindi nagamit. Bakit tayo pataas ng pataas ang tax tapos hindi naman gagamitin? We must change to a more cohesive, a more rational tax policy. The policy we have has no central concept, no principle, no rationale behind it except to collect. Do we want to attract foreign investment? Do we want to build up IT? Do we want to encourage power generation? Our fiscal policy will be part of that.

Agriculture, tourism, power: We have not seen an agricultural policy in the last few years. Walang naitutulong sa ating mga magsasaka, walang nakikitang pagbabago at pagpaganda ng agrikultura, at ito pa naman ang pinagbabasehan ng ating ekonomiya. The irrigable area today in 2015 is smaller than the irrigable area in 1986. Alam naman natin pagdating sa agrikultura, ang unang-una na dapat natin tignan ay ang patubig. Kaya hindi natin maabot-abot ang self-sufficiency.

That is so, because, again, we do not have an agricultural policy. There is no plan on how to make our farmers and agricultural sector competitive, especially with the upcoming ASEAN Integration. We always hear them say every year that this time we are going to achieve self-sufficiency. Less than a month later, they will say, we are going to import more rice. The unfortunate thing is 60 to 70 percent of the people living in poverty are in the agricultural sector.

The other big program is in tourism. Ang ganda-ganda ng Pilipinas, ang bait-bait ng mga Pilipino. It is an industry that we can immediately do very well in. But again, the infrastructure that is going to help that has not been available. The aspiration is that tourist arrivals will reach 10 million a year. We are stuck at 4.3 million.

Those were the two main projects that I had in Ilocos Norte. The third one, which has caught attention is wind power. That is something that we should think about, kasi ang Mindanao may brownout na, ang Visayas may brownout na, kahit na rito sa Luzon nagkakaroon na rin ng brownout. Sinasabi ng foreign investors, papasok sana kami sa Pilipinas pero ang problema ang mahal mahal ng kuryente ninyo, nag ba-brownout pa. There has been no policy, no plan, on how to upgrade power generation and distribution.

Politics distorts vision: I read sa survey the other day ang No. 1 issue ngayon sa tao ay drugs. Why has this happened? The police are not supported enough, not monitored enough. Dapat natin silang tulungan pa at bigyan ng gabay.

Balikan natin iyong mga basics, mga utilities, our telecommunication. To us who are in Metro Manila, I will just say one word — traffic. The estimate is that we are losing P2.4 billion every day because of the bad traffic. Why this? Wala na namang plano. Walang plano para sa Mass Transit System, which is the answer to the problem. In other countries, pag sumakay ka ng kanilang tren, iba-ibang klase. Kahit iyong mga mayayaman doon sila sumasakay dahil that is the most efficient way.

These are the problems that have started to arise because we have no policy and no plan to address them properly. We have suffered from a lack of leadership, from a lack of vision.

All we do is play politics, we are not thinking about the betterment of our people, about building the nation. We cannot succeed if the merits of a proposed program, project, or development do not count for anything… if it is only “ito ba ay kapartido ko o hindi, ito ba ay kalaban ko o hindi?”

That is the fundamental change that we have to bring to the country. Politics has its place, but once the election is over it is the country that wants our service — not our party. That is something that we seem to have forgotten, something our leadership must now again remember.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 11, 2015)

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