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Were they done?

/ 01:39 AM January 08, 2015

Last week I released a To-do list that I’d like to see President Aquino focus on. I did the same thing last year, in a two-part column. I decided to look at how much of last year’s list was addressed.

I started off by saying: “Top of the list is one I’ve hammered at endlessly: a single-minded focus on job creation, from which everything else flows. And a focus not just in words but in solid commitment, in solid achievement. There are many things that become part of that action: a better, more affordable education for all; a health system that everyone can access; infrastructure that meets all requirements; a court system that is swift, fair and puts society first; a bureaucracy that is simple, computerized and requires no bribes; a Congress that swiftly passes needed laws in a thoughtful manner; and so on. But you see, what it all funnels into if done correctly is: It creates jobs.”

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First on the list of specifics was to actively support amending the Constitution to remove the restrictions on foreign investment. That support didn’t come. But we did get K-to-12 and more money for health (from sin taxes). Computerization is in fits and starts, while the court system has seen minimal improvement.

Next was to “get the poor, poor people devastated by calamities last year into proper houses and given decent jobs.” Well, according to several reports, only less than 1 percent of the families displaced by Supertyphoon “Yolanda/Haiyan” are living in permanent shelters a year after its onslaught.

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Latest official figures (as of August 2014) show that the government still has a number of key infrastructures to rehabilitate and reconstruct in Yolanda-affected areas. These include 116 kilometers of national roads, 305 km of farm-to-market roads, 22 national bridges, 13,406 km of conductors and power lines, 1,868 hectares of communal irrigation systems, 58 water facilities, and 132 public markets. Why the President didn’t ask for emergency powers to rush recovery, I’ll never understand. Nor will, I’m sure, the poor people still in tents.

Third on my list was infrastructure. It must be built, and built fast. Well, you’ll not be too surprised that it wasn’t. The only areas where some progress did occur were in getting some public-private partnership (PPP) projects started and in paving roads throughout the country. The latter is being done, but only 47-percent achievement so far.

There will be only five projects completed by June 2016. These are: the Daang Hari-South Luzon Expressway link road, the Naia Expressway Phase 2, the automatic fare collection system, and the two phases of PPP for school infrastructure projects.

Then there was the one I’ve harped on forever: the creation of a Department of Information and Communications Technology. Congress remained committed, but the President still failed to recognize its importance. The measure is still pending on first reading in both chambers of Congress.

Fifth was for the Supreme Court to declare the Reproductive Health Law constitutional. This was achieved, although with some unfortunate watering down by the high court.

Then, I listed the finalization of the Bangsamoro peace deal. The comprehensive peace agreement was signed last March. The bill that will create the Bangsamoro and replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has been transmitted to Congress. So, to some extent, it is out of President Aquino’s hands.

Further on the high court I said: “Seventh is that the Supreme Court will recognize it is the servant of society, and must decide in ways that are best for society, not on what some pedantic interpretation of the law or even the Constitution suggests. The split in decisions says this can be done. And that the courts will act with much greater dispatch and demonstrated fairness.” This fundamental shift in philosophy hasn’t occurred. I fear it will never be.

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Eighth was to pay the court-ordered $371 million for Naia 3. I raised this in my Dec. 11 column (“Pay your bills”), with no reaction from the government. The government continues to ignore the courts. I wonder if we simple human beings can ignore court judgments, too.

On the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, progress happened, at least in the Senate where its version was approved on third and final reading. Its counterpart bill in the House of Representatives has yet to be presented to the plenary. It’s a law proposed as early as 1992. It’s still not a law.

Last was to address the weaknesses still extant in the Global Competitiveness survey of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Real improvement has been attained, but some areas need more focused attention. The Philippines moved up by seven notches to 52nd of 144 economies in the survey’s 2014-2015 edition, from 59th of 148 in 2013-2014. Since 2010, the Philippines has risen in the global ranking by 33 places, “the largest over that period among all countries studied,” according to the WEF. It would’ve ranked higher if not for its dismal performance in terms of infrastructure (land, sea and airports) and labor market efficiency, where the laws are archaic.

Notwithstanding the improvement in the Philippines’ global competitiveness ranking, it remains well behind Singapore (second), Malaysia (20th), Thailand (31st) and Indonesia (34th) in Asean. It is unlikely that the Philippines will be able to catch up with them even if it were to continue advancing in the next two-three years. But the good news is that it stays ahead of Vietnam (68th), Laos (93rd), Cambodia (95th) and Myanmar or Burma (134th).

A 10-point wish list with far too little achievement. It doesn’t give much hope for this year’s list, does it? Maybe my list is just out of kilter with the President’s. I wonder, then, what his was, and did he achieve it. And what is his list for 2015.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, computerization, congress, Haiyan, President Aquino
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