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‘More fun in PH’ feels more like a joke to ‘balikbayan’ entrepreneur

/ 07:37 PM November 01, 2012

“INDEED IT feels great to be a Filipino these days,” thus Inquirer reporter TJ Burgonio quotes President Aquino in the news report “Feels great to be Filipino” (Inquirer, 10/27/12).

“You can make progress while following the rules. You need not look for patrons to uplift your life. In the new Philippines, we’ll realize our dreams. If they choose to stay there in New Zealand or Australia, or anywhere else in world, with heads up high, our countrymen can proudly say, ‘Yes, I’m a Filipino and my country is reaping changes’.”

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Well, I am an overseas Filipino worker, and my personal experience belies this. I write this letter in the middle of a tedious wait for government to govern in a manner befitting these declarations. Oct. 29 marks the second full month, to the day, that my application to open a retail drugstore in Pampanga awaits issuance of a license to operate.

How does one deal with having to wait all of 42 days for a 30-minute site inspection by the Philippine health department’s Food and Drug Administration? And to be told to wait another month for the license? With frustration, how else!

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For lack of influential patrons, being physically outside the country, and especially convinced that positive change can be achieved in partnership with my government, I have earnestly been going by the book, and continuing to do so, in an attempt to uplift my life and the lives of those around me. I am sadly not succeeding.

Still, maybe I will, by mustering patience and perseverance far beyond the ordinary.

In the meantime, and for all this time that processing (read: bureaucratic red tape) is taking place, our pharmacist-to-be, a mother of two young children, has been rendered jobless by a Department of Health requirement that she resign from her previous employer before she can join another. This is the same government that solicits foreign investments so it can produce jobs.

How does one reconcile ground realities with these presidential pronouncements? Does one attempt at all?

The Philippines “lags in the implementation of regulatory reforms that would make it easier for local entrepreneurs to conduct their businesses,” so says the World Bank report “Doing Business 2013,” as cited in Michelle Remo’s article titled “PH ranking in ‘ease of doing business’ slips” (Inquirer, 10/24/12).  Of 185 countries, the Philippines ranks 161st in the area of starting a business; 138th overall in ease-in-doing-business, below all other Southeast Asian countries, with the exception of Laos.

Now that is more reflective of reality.

“It’s time,” I had thought to myself about coming home to the Philippines for good. And I try to think I thought rightly, indeed, in spite of this whale of a bureaucracy that’s supposed to support, not suppress.

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Everyone now reads and hears that it’s more fun in the Philippines. There must be a big joke somewhere that I fail to see.

Somehow it feels like it’s on me.

—MICHAEL EDQUIBAN

[email protected]

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TAGS: balikbayan, bureaucracy, Government, letters, red tape
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