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It’s up to you

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I’m going to continue on the campaign trail because now is a good time to push reform, and we sure need reform. Here’s why: Over the past 40 years I’ve watched the Philippines sink from the top (the second best to Japan) to near the bottom in Asia. People talk about it, but no one seems to really care enough to reverse this sad decline. The one factor I know is not the cause is the people, who have more than proved their abilities.

It’s not the geography either. The Philippines has fertile soil and favorable weather (mostly), and is endowed with a wealth of natural resources. So what is it? I put leadership as the top factor. It’s admittedly a simplistic assessment because there are many factors I can think of, but leadership is what determines them all. The others follow from it.

The two Koreas are a perfect example of this. The same people, the same land mass, but vastly, vastly different in a chasm that is almost unimaginable. After the Korean War, Park Chung-hee took the South down the path of an open economy and integrated it to the world. Kim Il-sung closed the North off to everyone, including his own people. The result: the world’s 15th largest economy that has today a GDP of $1.16 trillion and a GDP per capita of $23,750 versus one that is stifled at a GDP of $30 billion and a GDP per capita of around $1,300. Leadership.

Let me now give you an example of what it does at home. The Philippine forest cover is at 7-7.5 million hectares, down by more than half of the forest cover 40-plus years ago because of selfish greed. But that selfish greed can only exist because the leadership didn’t contain it. Governors and mayors could have controlled it, but they didn’t. And the national leaders haven’t cracked down on them. Weak leadership has led to a country with no forests. New Zealand has magnificent forests, yet is a major exporter of wood. It plants when it cuts. Not hard to do, but it requires not being selfishly greedy. Not maximizing cash today for loss tomorrow.

Well, that selfish greed has been a hallmark of Philippine leadership. That selfish greed has been the cause of the Philippine decline. If it isn’t, then you tell me what is.

I can say that the educational system can assume some of the blame because it has not sufficiently instilled good societal values, but who sets that system? The leaders. I can say lack of infrastructure has deterred investment, but who decides to build that? The leaders. I can say political stability and continuity of policies, but who determines those? The leaders. I can go on and on, but you get the point. Almost everything ends up at the feet of the leaders. Who we choose to run this country is crucial to how the country grows, or doesn’t.

So we have a chance to change it on May 13, a chance to move the Philippines back to the top of that heap. But not if we elect people for their name, not their performance. No successful corporation ever hires managers without first ensuring they have the experience, expertise, and talent for the job. Electing people who have no justification to even apply for the job is a recipe for disaster, and an assurance that the failure of the Philippines to stay at the top will continue.

Politicians will have to promise the earth, moon and stars to win. And then, being politicians, do nothing about it later—unless we hold them to their promises, and shame them into action. The President wants to reform society by addressing corruption. I, in my arrogance, want to reform society by addressing apathy. There’s too much of a willingness to accept it because it’s there, it’s done, it’s the tradition. Why rock the boat? Well, the boat is grounded in the shoals and the way to free it is to rock it, to break the indifference.

It’s up to you who read this to do something. If you convince just six others and they convince six more and they pass this on to maybe four or five more, perhaps intelligent voting can occur. Maybe we can get leaders who really care for their country, not only themselves. And have the experience and expertise to do a competent, professional job, not just fill a seat for their own aggrandizement and ego-boosting.

The President wants to reform society? Here’s another chance for him to take a leadership role. He can break political traditions, he’s got the huge popular support to do so, and he should continue his radical approach by supporting only those worthy to serve the nation. We should, too.

I care for this country. Do you? Then act. If you don’t, there’ll be no change; if you do, there might be. It’s up to you.

* * *

Accidents happen in all facets of life, in mining, particularly, because of the nature of the business. There is little danger working in a call center, there is working in a mine. The DMCI-Holdings-owned Semirara Mining Corp. (SMC) had a mine wall collapse, killing five miners; five others are still missing. Without being asked, SMC, as reported by this paper a few days ago, immediately gave P1 million to each family, plus livelihood and educational assistance. Philex had a mine spill after excessive rains. The government fined it P1 billion. Philex paid. There was no loss of life, but some damage to the environment.

These are examples of responsible mining management. There are some who will claim the accidents were caused by management negligence. But that will have to be proved. The mining firms could have fought it in court for ages, but they didn’t. Instead, they acknowledged their responsibility. I give them credit for that, and you should, too, if you look at it fairly and dispassionately. These are examples of why mining should not be stopped, but should be required to act responsibly.


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