Top Ten (1)
Early on in this administration, I came up with what I thought should be the top 10 things the Duterte administration should do that would really make a difference in the way we live. I’d like to look at them now while there’s still time to achieve what’s not yet finished, in the hope they will be.
1) First on my list was peace with the Moros and the NDF/NPA. After four decades of fighting and after five presidents who couldn’t achieve it, now was the time. An agreement with the Muslims has been achieved, with the autonomy demanded granted. But the communists remain elusive. In part because they are not one coherent group, in part because the fodder for them isn’t (a discredited) ideology, but lack of anything else to do for young men. Giving young people jobs will reduce this problem. Beyond that, it’s proving intractable with an elderly leadership stuck in a world that no longer exists—except in North Korea, a known model of success!
2) The Constitution has been in need of change for a long time. Designed at a time of upheaval, it now has notable flaws. The principal one for us is the economic restrictions. They have no role to play in a country that wants to employ its people and be an active partner in the world. They need to be deleted. On the political side, a shift to a parliamentary structure would better suit the culture of the Filipino. Donald Trump has certainly highlighted the flaws of a presidential system. In a parliamentary system, peers choose the leader, who must perform if he/she is to remain in power. Whether to go federal or not needs far more discussion. But if the shift is agreed to, there should be only four states (Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, BARMM), not an unmanageable 17. The Constitution is important enough to need discussion and resolution within this administration.
3) Solving the drug problem is a worldwide problem and sadly destroys too many lives. Wiping it out by making it a crime and throwing people in jail hasn’t worked anywhere, including here. It has only overfilled jails. I would consider legalizing and controlling the less dangerous drugs while continuing to be ruthless on those drugs that do great harm. Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001, and it’s working. An article published by Time in August 2018, “Want to Win the War on Drugs? Portugal Might Have the Answer,” noted that in Portugal, “the drug-induced death rate has plummeted to five times lower than the E.U. average and stands at one-fiftieth of the United States’.” Surely that makes it worth looking into.
4) Agriculture, I’ve raised innumerable times, and no doubt will again until it’s in the preeminent position it should be, and has to be. The production of food efficiently and cheaply must be of highest priority. The failures in developing agriculture are well known: lack of infrastructure, farm-to-market roads, irrigation. Inefficient processes are all still extant. Add to that lack of mechanization, insufficient use of fertilizer, poor seed selection, and so on. But there’s also the problem of too many middlemen doing little but capturing the bulk of the profits because the logistics is not there. Then there’s CARP, one of those nice ideas that hasn’t worked. The five hectares allowed have been divided and divided to where the average plot size is only about two to three hectares. Farmers earn too little from such a small plot.
The Philippines should not only be supplying all the food Filipinos need, but also be a major supplier to the world. It has the fertile land, it has the climate to be able to produce crops competitively. One thing the Duterte administration has done that deserves high credit is the freedom to buy rice at competitive prices. The hugely costly (P140.5 billion in debt as of end-2018 we’ve still yet to pay with our taxes) and hugely inefficient NFA no longer controls the market.
5) Up there with agriculture is information technology. The world is going digital at a rate that is almost frightening, a rate accelerated by COVID-19. Everything we do today is digitized. So I consider the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), as with the Department of Agriculture, the most important departments in government today. Paper has to go as an electronic world takes over. The preeminence the Philippines has attained with call centers can be expanded into more sophisticated services and production of the hardware, and make the country a leader as we have the skills. But not much, it seems, is being done to take advantage of this. Let’s hope it soon will be. A key subsector for the DICT to concentrate on with some urgency is digitizing all government services into a holistic system, not different departments introducing different systems such as what’s happening now. Mind you, the Anti-Red Tape Act has stepped in on the processes of government transactions with considerable success. Processes are being simplified, streamlined, and sped up to a point where you’ll actually be able to transact business needs with government simply.
The other five next week.
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