By James Veloso

THE BATTLE against illegal drugs is about to be won. But the war against poverty is still to be fought.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s intensified efforts to curb the illegal drugs trade have brought remarkable results.

According to the government tally: 670,000 drug personalities surrendered, 2,000 suspects killed in various operations by the authorities or summarily executed by unknown assailants and P3.85 billion worth of illegal drugs seized as of August 22.

But his most important challenge – the “eradication” (as the President himself called it) of big business oligarchs that have been sucking the country’s economy dry – has yet to be started.

Oligarchy is the biggest “killer” of our economy and people even when media tell us that the biggest threat to our existence is illegal drugs.

Syndicate

This select “syndicate” of big business conglomerates has long lorded over the Philippine economic and political spectrum, causing untold misery to millions of Filipinos who are forced to endure high prices of utilities and shoddy service.

While illegal drugs have victimized over 1.3 million Filipinos (based on statistics from the Dangerous Drugs Board), oligarchs and their predatory pricing of products has drowned about 100 million Filipinos in poverty.

Monsters in Suits

The President himself has declared that he will destroy the big business oligarchs whom he described as “monsters.”

During an environmental summit in Davao City last August 3, Duterte slammed oligarchs who use their money and power to advance their own interests.

“I am fighting a monster. I am just two months old [into the presidency] but believe me, I will destroy their clutches sa ating bayan,” the President said.

Big words but will the President win this war against the oligarchs in the same fashion he has in his war against illegal drugs.

Signals from the justice system and the media front do not inspire hope.

Last week the government antitrust body, the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), warned that the buyout by telecom giants PLDT-Smart and Globe of San Miguel Corporation’s telecom arm is bad for consumers.

PCC is doing a review of the buyout by PLDT and Globe of San Miguel Corporation’s Vega Telecom but recent media reports indicated that the Court of Appeals has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the move.

These three business giants, MVP (PLDT-Smart), Ayala (Globe) and Cojuangco (SMC), will not shoot back with live bullets like the drug pushers but bags of ___ to make things happen for them.

This might explain why CA ordered the PCC to stop its review, favoring the two petitioners who asked the courts to stop the government from exercising its mandate of protecting consumers.

But a month on after making those tirades against big business abuses, only “small-time” casino operator Roberto Ongpin, whom the President named specifically, has seemed to feel the full-blown effects of Duterte’s tirades.

Forbes List

The fact that big business tycoons and oligarchs continue to lord it over the country is nowhere more evident than in the recently-released list of “Richest Filipinos” by Forbes magazine last month.

Shopping and real estate magnate Henry Sy once again topped the list, with a net worth of US$13.7 billion.

Sy was followed by John Gokongwei of JG Summit, the Aboitiz family, tobacco magnate Lucio Tan, George Ty of GT Capital Holdings, Jolibee’s Tony Tan Caktiong, Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Enrique Razon, and David Consunji.

Lion’s Share

These big business magnates have managed to capture a lion’s share of the Philippines’ economic boom under the Aquino administration, according to critics.

A report from IBON Foundation last July 2016 disclosed that under President Benigno Aquino III, the 40 richest Filipinos grew from 14 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 to 24 percent in 2015.

The gross revenue of the Philippines’ top 100 corporations – most of them under the wings of the Philippines’ richest – also rose from 59 percent of the GDP in 2010 to 69 percent in 2014, according to the think tank.

“That the net income of the 25 richest Filipinos ($44.1 billion) is equivalent to the combined income of the country’s poorest 76 million Filipinos shows the grossly inequitable distribution of wealth,” IBON stressed in its report.

Ruled by Oligarchs

The fact that a select few control nearly half of the Philippines’ economy is enough to deem the country an actual “oligarchy,” according to most economic and political experts.

In fact, while Filipinos have long believed that they are living under a democracy, in practice, they are actually ruled by business oligarchs who had been “victimizing” Filipinos through their profiteering, BizNews Asia’s Nick Legaspi wrote in June 2011.

Oligarchy, as defined by most experts and lexicons, is described as a power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people.

Wikipedia notes that these people “could be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, corporate, or military control.”

It’s a situation that fits the Philippines well, Legaspi said in his article entitled “Filipinos to remain at the mercy of oligarchs.”

Legaspi even cited seven companies in particular that effectively dominated the Philippine economy: San Miguel Corp. (SMC), Ayala Corp., First Pacific Company, SM Investments Corp., JG Summit, DM Consunji and Aboitiz Equity Ventures.

These conglomerates, according to Legaspi, have tended to create “little corners of their own” in the Philippines’ business sector and “hardly get out of their own spheres of industries, apparently realizing that if they resort to competition, they will fall.”

“In general, we see no competition among the oligarchs because of the role of the oligarchs is chasing after profits,” Legaspi quoted political science professor Benito Lim. “There is no crossing of swords resulting in big competition except for the PLDT-Globe dispute.”

High electricity rates

No better example could be given of this monopolistic tendency of Philippine oligarchs than in the Philippines’ power sector.

For years, the electricity industry in the Philippines has been dominated by big conglomerates such as the San Miguel Corporation and Aboitiz Power (power generation) and First Pacific’s Meralco (power distribution).

A 2013 report from Rappler cited SMC as the country’s biggest power producer, accounting for 22 percent of the total sold to the grid (2,545 MW sold in 2011). Aboitiz Power comes in second (2,350 MW), and the Lopez group third (2,150 MW).

However, in terms of capacity of all existing power plants, Aboitiz remains the biggest power producer, according to Rappler.

This is based on "installed" capacity of 3,426 MW, accounting for 21% of total power sold to the grid. Aboitiz Power also runs several independent power players (IPP) that sell to state-run National Power Corporation (Napocor).

Meanwhile, in terms of power distribution, Meralco holds nearly half of the Philippines’ power-distribution network, accounting for 55 percent of electricity sales nationwide, 75 percent in the Luzon area alone.

Power Sector Monopoly

Loopholes in Philippine laws have also given way to “cross-ownership” between distribution utilities and generation companies – ergo, the whole process, from generation to distribution, is controlled by a single company.

A 2015 report by economist Bienvenido Oplas pointed out that Meralco, while primarily acting as an electricity distributor, has also entered into the power-generation sector through its subsidiary, Meralco PowerGen Corporation (MGen).

MGen is now in the process of building two power plants in Quezon, targeting a portfolio of 3,000 MW by 2020. Aboitiz, on the other hand, also operates three distribution companies – Visayas Electric Co., Subic Enerzone Lima Enerzone, and the Davao Light and Power Company.

This monopolization of the power sector, among other reasons, has largely resulted in the Philippines’ having the most expensive electricity rates in Asia.

Among 14 cities in Southeast Asia (plus Australia and New Zealand), Manila has the third highest electricity rate, according to a 2013 paper published by Singapore’s Lantau Group.

It is of no surprise that many industries left the country, relocating their business to countries offering much lower cost of power.

And many of them investing in Asia have skipped our country for the same reason.

“We cannot expect manufacturing and industrialization to grow in the Philippines given our cost of power,” experts said.

Political Clout

When you have economic clout, then you can also exert political clout, as most experts have agreed. And in the Philippines, these oligarchs have used their massive resources to resist government legislation aimed at containing corporate greed.

It’s the exact reason why all previous attempts to amend the 1987 Constitution have failed according to former Senator Manny Villar.

“They’re happy with the present setup now and they will not allow the Constitution to be tampered with,” he said in Legaspi’s article.

“We always look at foreign investments but we don't look at the local, the small entrepreneurs, who are unable to borrow, unable to access credit because our banking system is controlled by five or six families and they are happy investing in ROPs [government debt papers] or lending to big industries,” the senator related. “Right now that is our banking system - it's a cartel and it's getting fewer and bigger through consolidation.”

And with these groups also effectively controlling Philippine media (for example, First Pacific, through its Philippine counterpart Metro Pacific Investments Corp., holds full control of TV5, Phil. Star and Business World, as well as sizable shares in various newspapers across the country), they are in a capable position to sway public opinion – and people’s choice of leaders.

“The trouble is that all these are done under the cover of democracy,” Philippine Star columnist Carmen Pedrosa lamented in 2010.

“We delude ourselves that we are democratic and we have elections to prove that. There will be few who will accept that if we were to think it through, elections merely vote in or vote out leaders from the same small pool of oligarchs or would-be oligarchs.”

“Anger Vote”

But as the Filipino saying goes, “napupuno din ang salop.” That’s exactly what catapulted Duterte to an unexpected victory last May.

His election was propelled by an “anger vote” – a vote of people finally fed up by massive corruption in government, resulting in widespread poverty.

This corruption is caused by oligarchs who have their people in sensitive government posts to do their bidding.

The ball is now on the President’s hands to replicate his successful campaign against illegal drugs and use his mandate to free the people from the clutches of “big business.”

If the President wants inclusive growth in the economy, it is imperative he has to “kill” the country’s oligarchs albeit not literally.

By the way, the top Filipino oligarch is said to be an Indonesian. How he conquered that throne is another story.

By Roger Bantiles

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte could not have chosen a better man when he appointed Sec. Manny Pinol to the agriculture portfolio and tasked him to save the country’s farmers from the quagmire of poverty that had plagued them since time immemorial.

But Agriculture Secretary Pinol needs every support he could get to succeed in his mission to make the lives of famers better and make the agriculture sector one of most effective engines of our economy.

Lest Pinol forgets, farm workers along with our fishermen are among the most neglected sectors in our society yet the country needs their produce to keep our population from starvation.

In short, our country’s very existence depends on our farmers and fishermen, thus it is imperative that the government in return must take good care of them and ensure that adequate support and help are accorded to them.

Unfortunately, the past administrations failed to take a serious hard look on their plight prompting some farmers to liken their situation to Lazarus who needed a miracle to get back to life.

“Agriculture is practically dead in the country,” they said, adding that the industry’s ‘demise’ was hastened by the lack of support by the past governments.

MIRACLE NEEDED

The agriculture sector needs a miracle and farmers hope that Pinol will deliver. “It looks like Pinol knows the problem and is starting at the right foot,” they said.

Farmers said they have to be competitive in pricing their produce, but this requires massive government support.

Agriculture in other countries is highly subsidized. Farmers in China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam get government support including free use of irrigation facilities.

As a result, farmers in those countries are able to live comfortably and ensure food sufficiency by making their farms more productive than their Filipino counterparts.

HIGH PRODUCTION COSTS

In stark contrast, Filipino rice farmers pay P2,536 per hectare, per cropping season as irrigation fees while farmers in other Asian countries get them free.

Beyond free irrigation fees, government support to farming in our neighbor countries include free seeds, seedlings, farm equipment use, cost of money in capitalization, land use, research, development, training, education and agricultural extension.

They also spend a lot on transportation, storage and processing, marketing information and support, terminal markets, organizing of cooperatives and even mobilizing embassies, consulates, trade and commercial attaches to help find foreign markets.

FARMERS’ DREAM FOR SUBSIDIES

At present, subsidies to these production costs are just dreams for our local farmers.

Absent these subsidies, our farmers are reduced to poverty, many of them harvesting for their own consumption.

Worse, even harvest for their own consumption won’t guarantee that it would see through for them till the next harvest season.

Survival of our farmers is a product of creativity. Farmers must produce crops as much as possible without having to pay cash.

Harvest sharing among those participants in the process of producing crops is most common practice.

INTEGRATION

From land preparation to acquisition of seeds weeding, to fertilizers, pesticides, threshing to hauling are all settled on harvest, with parties taking their agreed share.

This scheme is integration in farming parlance. Survival has forced farmers to become good integrators. And they have mastered this art.

While integration or a system of harvest sharing and credits has allowed farmers to plant and harvest, it has also buried them in debt, many unable to unburden until their farms are taken by creditors.

RICE SUFFICIENCY

Activists for the protection of farmers’ interests, though, claim Philippines rice farms can produce better than other countries in Asia.

Farmers claim they can be competitive and surely achieve food self sufficiency for the country.

In 2013, the country reached 96 percent self sufficiency level in rice. In that year, “the Philippines had its highest rice production in history at 18.44 metric tons,” said a report of the Department of Agriculture.

After that record harvest, things turned around to bad, given extreme weather conditions like floods and El Nino heat wave affecting most of the rural areas.

The deterioration of economic conditions was worse in the rural areas, this sector making up 27.9 percent of the country’s poor.

DIGONG'S PROMISES

President Duterte has promised to relieve farmers from paying irrigation fees. “This is a step in the right direction,” said some farmers after hearing the President instructing the DA to give free irrigation services to farmers.

They said that the President’s direction gives them hope that the national government is starting to notice their needs.

“But the challenge to make us active participants in the economic development of the country needs more than free irrigation,” they added.

The challenge is how to economically empower farmers that their disposable income increases and enable them to become buyers of goods that factories produce.

BAD POLICIES

However, some of the current policies of the government discourage farming and in making our farms productive, depriving millions of Filipinos the ability to participate in the cycle of production and consumption of goods and commerce.

As it is, government policies favor importation even of food, from rice to garlic.

These policies come amid absence of subsidies to farm production, to lack of infrastructure (roads and storage facilities), and lip service to credit and marketing assistance.

Credit extension to farmers is a promise honored in breach. Farmers are forced to sell their produce even when price of their goods are at bottom low. Price of farm produce is subject to laws of supply and demand.

FARMERS’ PROBLEMS

Farmers do not have that resource to wait for that period when supply is low and demand is high to make better margins. This situation is being exploited by traders who manipulate and dictate the prices of palay and rice.

A scheme like bridge financing, funded by the government would solve this. Until now the government has not step in and provide this scheme.

Poverty in the countryside baffles economists, wondering how the Philippines can achieve economic growth and move to advanced economy status without having to correct the inequities in the rural areas.

All advanced countries, now industrialized have very strong rural and farm economies.

HOPEFUL

This happens for two reasons, first for food self sufficiency that addresses national security and second for vibrant movement of goods produced by factories and industries.

Farmers groups, however, are hopeful that President Duterte will address the issue of corruption in government, saying that these anti-farm policies of the government is more of a product of a corrupt government intent in protecting traders, usurers.

The absence of credit facilities to farmers favors the business of traders and usurers who tie down the ability of farmers to decide when and how to price and move their produce.

It is imperative that farmers are in a position for better control in the movement of the produce to allow them better margins and create higher disposable income.

SLEEPING GIANT

The farmer sector is a sleeping giant as final consumers of goods and services. Give this sector the economic muscle and surely the national economy will fly.

But first put in place the system that favors their economic emancipation, unchained from decades of government deliberate support to merciless traders and usurers.

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE

First the government should discourage importation, and not be tied down to global free trade.

The government should impose tariffs on goods that can be, and are produced locally.

Free trade is killing our farmers as foreign products come cheaper because they are highly subsidized in their country of origin.

Construction of roads and post harvest facilities should be seriously pursued.

Subsidized cost if not free seeds, seedlings, fertilizers, pesticides and other farm inputs, access to loans for working capital, support in the marketing of farm products in both local and foreign trades, also free access to research and training, education and other support facilities.

If and when the government takes serious steps in achieving the foregoing, the government will be creating a market for manufacturing and industrialization.

President Digong was elected with the biggest margin ever, because he personified hope that poverty issues will gets their correct attention.

OpinYon is certain, as before, in 2014, Pres. Digong will not disappoint the 16 million who voted for him and the more than 100 million Filipinos.

(ED’s Note: OpinYon in 2014 was the first media organization to seriously launch Digong’s campaign for President in Manila with Atty. Sal S. Panelo, OpinYon’s Ombudsman, and now the President’s Chief Legal Counsel.

OpinYon then as now believes Pres. Digong will deliver on his promise to uplift the lives of the marginalized sectors of our society.

By James Veloso

PRESIDENT Rodrigo “Digong” Roa Duterte is an “anger President”.

His landslide win came from Filipinos angry at the system and at a dysfunctional government. He is a product of an “angry vote” by people who had lost hope on PNoy’s paralyzed leadership.

Duterte sparked hope on people looking for a miracle. In one issue of OpinYon, we wrote of him as the Solution Man (OpinYon Vo.—No.--) and sixteen million Filipinos likewise believed that he can turn around the society that was suffering from social decay.

He is a product of a strong and deep passion for change from a weary citizenry thus making his challenge even more difficult.


CONVINCING PROMISES

He made convincing promises and made people dream. He mastered the art of making people dream the impossible and believe in him.

He did these by being different from the traditional political leaders the Filipinos got very weary and wary of.

He cursed everyone and anyone, projecting the image of a rebel to a “rotten” system.

Even the Pope and the Catholic faith were not spared from his expletives.

He vowed to protect the poor and the powerless and is even willing to die if necessary just to emancipate them from poverty.

He pledged to kill the “untouchable criminals” in our society, especially the drug lords and the corrupt government officials.


SONGS OF HOPE

For a citizenry long suffering from inept government that was practically in paralysis, Duterte’s words were songs of hope, even when he was cursing and threatening.

He was the equalizer every Filipino was praying for to bring relief to his suffering.

Now sworn to office as the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines, his problem, nay his biggest challenge is how to fulfill his promise of making the country a heaven for the Filipinos.

The way to heaven is paved with traps if not treacheries and, like PNoy, Duterte will rise and fall on how people reckon with day to day life, from food, jobs, peace and order, mass transport system, government bureaucracy and all other issues that made the poor and the oppressed pin their hope on him.


DUTERTE MAGIC

It seems, however, that the Duterte magic is really working especially on his campaign against crimes and illegal drugs.

Since May 9 to June 20, at least 59 drug suspects were killed in a series of drug raids conducted by the Philippine National Police around the country, with 23 more killed since June 30.

And that does not include the wholesale surrender of drug users and pushers who voluntarily gave up for fear of being hunted and liquidated by anti-drugs cops.


UNEASY

In the wake of sudden spike in the number of dead suspected drug dealers Duterte has promised to moderate his anti-drugs campaign, declaring in his inaugural speech his “uncompromising” adherence to due process and the rule of law.

But many are still uneasy that Duterte’s policies of giving bounties for the capture of drug lords and drug suspects might trigger a full scale drug war among rival gangs and law enforcers similar to those in Latin American countries.

The campaign against illegal drugs is so effective that authorities failed to foresee that there would be a problem of the lack of rehabilitation centers around the country.

At present, there are 45 residential treatment and rehabilitation facilities in the country, 18 of which are government-run while 27 are privately owned.


ENDING CORRUPTION

Alongside the drive vs. illegal drugs and criminality is Duterte’s promise to stop the widespread corruption, red tape and inefficiency in the government.

During the campaign, the tough-talking president announced his plans to cleanse traditional graft ridden offices like the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs and Land Transportation Office.

He also warned corrupt members of the judiciary who have the habit of issuing temporary restraining orders in exchange for a fee, a practice that he said had been contributing to the delay in the implementation of important government projects.

In his inauguration speech, he directed government agencies to reduce requirements and processing time for all public transactions especially those securing birth certificates, passports, licenses and the likes.

This early, it seems like Duterte is making good on many of his campaign promises even as he is reported to be determined to issue an executive order that would pave the way for the implementation of the much-delayed Freedom of Information (FOI).


CLASH OF THE CLASSES

While Duterte’s pro-people stance is gaining approval among many sectors some of his initiatives and policies appear to be headed to an eventual clash between the poor and the rich particularly the business owners and the workers especially those concerning the end of contract policy and salary raise of P100 daily.

Philippine Exporters Confederation president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. although supportive of many of Duterte’s programs has cautioned that such policies could do more harm to the economy than good.

“What we need is a foundation for a stable relationship between business owners and their workers “he said.

Yet a storm may be brewing between labor and business after leftist members of Duterte’s cabinet suggested policies that are deemed unacceptable by the business community such as the “endo” system, which he vowed to abolish in his term.

It is good that Labor secretary Silvestre Bello III refused to be swayed by emotions and was sensible enough not to scrap contractualization outright.

He noted that it would be impossible to regularize all employees after six months as required by the Labor Code, as some establishments need only extra hands on a seasonal or project basis.

Instead, Bello proposed an “80-20” where 80% of a company’s workforce will immediately be regularized. But, Ortiz-Luis has warned, it might only result in creating more loopholes in the system.

“When you force employers to regularize employees at tinanggalan mo ng flexibility, they will be minimalist. Pipiliin nila ang pinakamaliit ang number (of employees) that they have to (maintain) because they cannot afford to make everybody regular," Ortiz-Luis said in an interview.


PYRRHIC VICTORY

Also, Duterte’s push for a P100 across-the-board wage hike does not sit well with Ortiz-Luis, who has repeatedly pointed out that minimum wages are the biggest binding constraints to job creation and economic growth.

Ortiz warned that if the government insists on the P100 wage increase, it would only result in the proverbial Pyrrhic victory and would not bode well for the economy in the long run.

He pointed that with a wage hike like that, manufacturers and service providers would pass the extra costs to consumers which eventually would result to high prices of end products in the market.

Ortiz-Luis likewise explained that their research showed that only 16% of the country’s labor force belonged to the so-called formal economy and they’re the only ones who will benefit from the wage increase.

The rest or 84% of the labor force are not covered by labor laws because they are mostly small self-employed entrepreneurs and workers in the so-called underground economy.


BALANCING ACT

This early, Duterte is showing signs that he would be a great and decisive leader.

However he must do a careful balancing act so as not to antagonize any particular class of the society because he needs everybody’s help and cooperation to ensure his success as a leader of our country.

As he stated in his inaugural speech which he quoted from the late United States President Abraham Lincoln : “you cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong; you cannot help the poor by discouraging the rich; you cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer; you cannot further the brotherhood by inciting class hatred among men”.

By Roger Bantiles/OpinYon Mindanao

The miracle is working. The kick in investments going to Mindanao was most unexpected. P886.75 Billion in investment leads last month alone is more than a vote of confidence on our new President from the south.

When this mayor from a city in Mindanao ran and won to be become the 16th President of the Philippines, he promised to rid the streets of crime and stop corruption in government.

He also gave hope to people in the south, more importantly, Mindanao, that imperial Manila will find better attention and throw in more resources to the south.

This hope deepened when the new President said Mindanao will get its fair share in the development of the country under his watch.

For the first time in Philippine history, a president from Mindanao – President Rodrigo R. Duterte - has taken over the highest post in the land, the gift of the Filipino people, at noon of June 30, 2016.

With his election, the big island, the erstwhile Land of Promise, is at center stage, and in the long term, will no longer be the country’s backdoor, no longer a hotbed of conflict and trouble, but a region of peace and progress, socioeconomic development, viable infrastructure projects, trade and business.

The East ASEAN Growth Area, composed of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, is expected to register further growth with the opening of Mindanao, now in the radar of investors, as the new gateway to the Philippines.

Duterte’s assumption into the presidency has been met with much optimism and enthusiasm, boosting the morale of particularly Mindanaoans. There is a surge of investments in Mindanao and Davao; the overall stock market index is performing well, hitting its 8,000-highest mark on the day he was sworn in as the 16th President of the Philippines.

Filipinos approve of his leadership; the new president received an "excellent" net public trust rating of 84 percent during a June 2016-Social Weather Stations survey, the first such survey to be taken since he assumed the presidency.

Total amounts of investments in Mindanao are staggering; Investment leads surged in June, surpassing the figures for the first four months of 2016, according to data from the Board of Investments (BOI)–Southern Mindanao.

BOI-Southern Mindanao says the P886.75 billion investment leads last month, the highest in six years, showed an improved investors’ confidence for Mindanao after the victory of President Duterte. These include 12 to 13 big ticket projects by Chinese, Taiwanese, Indian, and European investors.

Judging by the amounts, the level of confidence is extremely high. Gil Dureza, an official of the BOI-Southern Mindanao, said the approved investments registered P11.785 billion in 2010; P91.42 billion in 2011; P25.04 billion in 2012; P109.401 billion in 2013; P69.358 billion in 2014; and P25.810 billion in 2015.

This is attributed to the way Duterte has projected that he would transform the economy, a signal to the global community to build up their level of confidence. Foreign investors are interested to invest in Mindanao because they approve of Duterte’s peace and order agenda and the 10-point economic plan. The Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. and Mindanao Development Authority are tapped to assist investors.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, a Mindanaoan, notes it was only this time that investments took a major leap with investors wanting to infuse more investments in the island like never before. He says they are now focusing on making a follow- through on the projects – and no longer with incentives – to ensure that the requirements of the investors are met. Investors are invited to locate in existing economic zones and industrial parks just like in Malita in Davao Occidental, Panabo in Davao del Norte, and Sta. Cruz in Davao del Sur.

Prospective targets of investments are Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects (P39 billion), manufacturing particularly petrochemicals and integrated steel (P742 billion); mass housing (P510 million); infrastructure particularly port development (P3 billion); power generation (P49 billion) and resource-based agriculture (P33 billion).

Dureza sees an urgent need to streamline procedures for investors in accordance with President Duterte’s policy of eliminating red tape in government and easing the procedures in doing business so as to encourage more investors to come and invest in the country.

Of the total investment leads in Mindanao, Davao City cornered P6.3 billion, Dureza reveals. Davao City is likewise the location of choice for the regional offices of foreign investors. This positions Davao into eventually becoming another growth pole providing counterbalance to Metro Manila and Metro Cebu.

The populist President Duterte now has every opportunity to replicate at the national level his achievements in transforming Davao City, now the Malacanang of the South – where he was longtime mayor of 23 years, one of the longest serving local executives – as a model of peace, development and security for every Filipino to enjoy.

One advantage of having a Malacañang in the South is that it will decongest bureaucratic processes as transactions that concern Mindanao and the Visayas may promptly and be directly acted upon in the region. In the can to be facilitated by the presidential office in the city would be the creation of a Mindanao-wide rail system to benefit a wide segment of the commuting public.

Duterte is credited for bringing peace and development to the erstwhile troubled city. He was the first mayor to give Muslim representation, appointing them to positions of responsibility to represent Muslim interests. Predominantly-Muslim Mindanao has taken a backseat and has lagged in development for so long. Up to this time, national government resources are concentrated in Metro Manila and in Luzon. Whatever wrongs may have been committed in the past can now be righted by a president from Mindanao. Duterte is a leader who understands well what is going on in Mindanao. He points out the need to negotiate with the Moro National Liberation Front and the New People’s Army.

Duterte dreams of having a unified Filipinos living in unity, peace and contentment in their own country. “My dream really is one day, all Filipinos would just say Filipinos and we do not at all mention if he’s left or right, he’s a Moro rebel or a Moro terrorist, and he can live in peace,” he says, adding that “I have six years to do it. I do not know how many concessions God can (give), but he made me a President, so I hope He helps me.”

Having a Malacañang in the South is a gesture by the new leadership to the Left and Muslim rebels that the new president is sincere in talking peace with them, and that the process of forging lasting peace with them will be expedited. Hopes are high that soon there would be a solution to the decades-old problems of Mindanao and that the regions’ ethnic groups and communities can unite to contribute to a lasting peace and progress.

The peace process, inequality and unequal distribution of wealth may be addressed by Duterte, in consonance with his goal of shifting to a federal form of government. Re-starting the peace process is vital for national and regional peace and stability. He has the golden opportunity to deliver peace to the south and to the Philippines, which he has promised to do and in which he is in the best position to deliver.

Federalism is based on democracy where the power to govern is divided between national and provincial or state governments. Most federal governments give the central government powers on foreign policy and national defense.

There are more than 25 countries in the world that have federal systems of government, representing 40 percent of the world populations. These include some of the largest and most complex democracies – the United States, India, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Switzerland, Australia, Columbia, South Africa and Canada.

Slowly, but inexorably, change is indeed coming in Luzon, Visayas and more so, in Mindanao. The historic victory of President Duterte has broken the traditional belief that only a candidate from Luzon can ever win the presidency. Duterte was also the first Mindanaoan to run for President. Twelve of the country's 15 presidents from 1898 to 2010 have come from Luzon. Only three are from the Visayas: Sergio Osmeña, Manuel Roxas, and Carlos Garcia. Duterte’s phenomenal win stems from the fact that he won imperial Metro Manila, an opposition bailiwick, and practically all regions and was chosen by an electorate belonging to all class status from A to E.

By Roger Bantiles

(This article was first published in OpinYon Mindanao on July 1, 2016)

Dabawenyos know that Rodrigo Roa Duterte is tough on corrupt officials, criminals, smugglers, drug lords and pushers, but they also know that he is soft-hearted withordinary citizens. This soft-heartedness is the driving force that propels Davao City’s various programs and services to promote, protect and enhance the life, liberty and property of the citizenry.

Duterte openly admits that he is a leftist and believes in socialism minus the armed struggle. He is also an extremely capable executive.

The city has a meager budget. It is fairly recent that the city government can spend P6.5 billion as annual budget. That’s P3,421 per person per year on every Dabawenyo who now total 1.9 million persons.

Compared to the 2016 P3-trillion budget of the national government, this is peanuts. The P3-trillion national budget entitles every Filipino and Filipina –numbering 104 million according to estimates – to P28,846 worth of services, programs and projects from the government.

What Davao City has is only 0.22% of what the national government has. Stated another way, for every P1,000 that the national government has at its disposal, Davao City has only P2.20.

Despite this scanty budget, Davao City operates and maintains a round-the-clock rapid response service for Dabawenyos. That’s through Emergency Response number 911 on mobile phones and landline.On call through this number are ambulances pre-positioned to reach any medical emergency within a quarter of an hour. With staff capable of administering first aid, the ambulance brings the patient to any hospital in the city, public or private, far and near.

Rapid response to other emergencies like fire and/ordisruption of peace and order is generated through the same number. The racket of fire trucks and police alarm is joined by the penetrating ambulance sound during fire. While firefighters douse the fire, ambulances stand ready to bring victims to hospitals and police cars guard against looting.

Alone, 911 is already impressive. Only New York and Canada favorably compare with Davao City in this regard. Davao’s is free, however, while you pay for the service in Canada and New York.

The City provides other programs and services. Consider:

- Educational Assistance: Aside from giving funds to public institutions of learning for teachers’ salaries and school facilities, the city provides scholarship assistance en masse to deserving students from poor families, subject to maintenance of academic standing.

- Medical Assistance: Funds are provided to poor patients to defray part of hospital expenses, regardless of whether the hospital is public or private.

- Hospital for the Poor: The Davao Medical Center (DMC) has been converted to Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) to serve this part of the Philippines. The City Government of Davao provides funds for SPMC. With its own funds and personnel, primary and secondary level of medical services are being provided in the municipal districts as well as directly in the barangaysthrough preventive (immunization, deworming), promotive (educative), basic curative and rehabilitative health care.

The Children’s Cancer and Blood Diseases Unitof the SPMC servesallof Mindanao. It is to this unit that the city government regularly turns over the fines collected from the violators of the smoking ban.On a personal note, Mayor Duterte also donated a house and lot to the civic group helping the Cancer Unit so that it can provide accommodation to the caregivers of the cancer patients free of charge.

- Burial assistance: Surviving relatives of thedeceased receive burial assistance. The very poor can avail of burial service for indigents. They can request for a vehicle to bring mourners to/from the cemetery.

- Employment in city government positions: All other qualifications being equal, one’s odds at getting the position are increased by other factors like being the sole breadwinner, differently-abled, a woman, or a member of the Indigenous People.

- Business permits and licenses are issued in 72 hours,or the staff responsible has to explain the delay to the citizen in the presence of the City Mayor.

- Food For Work: The City provides food as compensation for small-scale community public works to minimize the temptation to gamble the wage received by the workers. Communities undertaking bayanihan projects can also request for ice cream to give to children bystanders.

- Discount in supermarkets for all seniors for certain groceries. Free movies too. Supermarket and theater owners are reimbursed by the city government. This is on top of the 20% general discount given to senior citizens.

Davao City is a proto-Welfare State in this respect. Will President Rodrigo Roa Duterte replicate these when he sits in Malacañang? The answer seems to be a resounding YES.

Why? For one, there is a huge budget available at the national level. If Duterte can provide such sterling services and programs to Dabawenyos on a piddling budget, he can certainly excel himself and Davao City with a budget that is 500 times bigger.

Based on campaign commitments, the Duterte Administration will also provide free irrigation water to small farmers, reducethe price of basic commodities like rice, expand PhilHealth coverage, strengthen and expand the reach of the educational system, increase the salaries of teachers, policemen and soldiers, establish at least one medical center for kidney, lung and heart in Visayas and Mindanao. While we are at it, and though these are not contained in the list of campaign commitments, why not establish also a Cancer Institute, a Children’s Center and an Orthopedic Center in every island group?

Those who monitored the Presidential campaign will remember that the Duterte/Cayetano tandem committed to what can be described as an 8-point agenda focused on: 1. Solutions to crime, corruption and drugs, 2. Economic development, 3. Agriculture & fisheries, 4. OFWs & other workers, 5. Metro Manila transportation, 6. Education, 7. Health, and 8. Disasters & Climate Change. The number and items are bound to increase with the expected demands for socio-economic reforms from insurgent and secessionist forcesas their condition for signing the agreement to cease hostilities and finally conclude a just and honorable peace.

Without graft and corruption, with careful stewardship of public resources, the P3-Trillion 2016 national budget is agood beginning for a Welfare State.It willlikely prove to be grossly inadequate for programs and projects that are part and parcel of the peace agreement/s.

What’s your opinion? For comments and reactions, write toThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call mobile no. 0923 274 68 23.

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Saturday, 25 November 2017
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