BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO
From their leaders, Filipinos have low-to-average expectations. We know why. Their leaders have been frustrating them from time immemorial. Worse, some leaders do not only fail to deliver on their promises. They screw them up. And they rob them blind.
President P-Noy will soon deliver his speech before the two chambers of Congress assembled with low-to-average expectations from the people. In fact, the Filipino Everyman is content with what he sees right now—a president who is impervious to the trappings of power. Should P-Noy decide to break tradition and manage to convince the manicured hordes (the lawmakers) to instead go to Luneta and mingle with the masa as he delivers his speech, so much the better.
But I think this is stretching the meaning of “Kayo ang Boss Ko” too far.
What, really, are the basic expectations of the people from P-Noy?
P-Noy can even skip foreign affairs. Unless he does proclaim an effort to reclaim Sabah. Or stake our permanent claim on the resources-rich offshore areas that our resources-starved neighbors want to exploit as well. Our status as a blip in the global constellation does not give the president the luxury to say something about foreign affairs.
What possible instructions can he send to the DFA that would gladden the hearts of the masa? Make the passport–filing process simpler. Reduce the queues. Securing an E-passport need not be a torturous process. People wont mind if there is a special lane for outbound workers. They are heroes, remember.
Here is what many people envision as a hassle-free mode of securing a passport. It should not send a diabetic into an hypo attack.
From the high perch of foreign affairs, let us go to—literally—to the ground. What can gladden the hearts of farmers? Vigorous research and development through a jumbo R and D fund. Irrigation funding and putting in place adequate post-harvest facilities. On post-harvest, this is the most telling thing: we import more Porsche Panameras than deep-plowing tractors every year.
Agri extension services—killed by the local government code and devolution—should be strengthened.
Access to agri credit, at rates cheaper than prime, should be given to farmers.
On the most important concern, education, P-Noy should anchor his program on one phrase: fill the shortage. Classroom shortage, textbook shortage, the shortage of teachers. Plus desk shortage and the utter lack of computer rooms and science labs.
On health, there is this promise of universal coverage within the medium term. The programs should be geared toward meeting the WHO and the UN standards on health care.
Right now, we are not even investing one percent of GDP on health programs. We should raise it to two percent of GDP, which is half of the UN benchmark for health investment, 4 percent of GDP.
On job generation, the commitment to provide OFWs with remunerative jobs is at best unrealistic. We
should meet two goals: ample jobs at home and quality jobs for Pinoys bound for the dozens of overseas work sites.
The BPO sector is definitely a job-generator. So is tourism, which is really a promising sector of the economy. You can find hotels and lodging sites being built in the most impossible places and this is happening across the country.
If P-Noy can entice the giant agri-business companies to engage in contract growing, an integrator-grower relationship, then farming jobs will be opened up on a massive scale.
A public works program patterned after Roosevelt’s WPA, wherein the mass of the rural unemployed
would dig ditches, build canals, work on road programs, will be another mass generator of jobs in the rural areas.
PNoy had an earlier pronouncement on tapping one million hectares of idle or underutilized land to revive the lethargic rural economy. He can easily tap two million hectares of such unproductive lands land and turn these lands into enclaves of productivity.
Justice and law and order? Giving every citizen a fair deal is enough.
On national security, the problems are mostly from within. The revolutionary left will not fold away, still clutching to the 60s thesis of encircling he cities from the countryside. It will remain a problem and only the classic solution will end it—win the hearts and minds of the people. Those with ties to global terrorism and the global jihadists will occasionally engage in orgies of violence but Filipinos are not temperamentally suited for such zealotry and such faith-driven violence will not find a thriving ground here.
We really don’t know what P-Noy can say on national security except reiterate the tired lines on ending armed insurgency within the short term.
To our great relief we face no outside threat. Even the crassest of the imperial powers today know that here, there is nothing much left for the taking.