Sunday, 25 July 2010

FVR suggests inputs for SONA

P-Noy/Pinoys, the Balangays, and SoNA
Manila Bulletin

“The spirit of change is again alive in the Philippines. An era of political embarrassment and economic hardship could be over, and the future promises fresh opportunities for us upon which to build a better Philippines. The question is how our leaders and people choose to approach such opportunities and adopt them for our national benefit. Clearly, it is time to begin working together again, and helping each other with solutions, instead of becoming each other’s problems.” – from Volume V, “Bulletin of FVR Sermons”

Last Friday, July 23, the Manila Bulletin and the Ramos Peace and Development Foundation launched Volume V of “FVR’s Sermons” entitled “Another Ending, Another Beginning: Recapturing Our Nation’s Destiny.” This book could be useful for P-Noy’s first SoNA and help him motivate Pinoys to work as a national team during his term.

By now, President Benigno Aquino’s SoNA scheduled for tomorrow, July 26, should be almost ready – including valid inputs from Cabinet Departments, civil society/sectoral groups, think-tanks, business chambers, investigative journalists, people’s organizations, etc.

Yes, almost finalized – except for significant last-minute retouchings by P-Noy himself to be incorporated in the official Malacañang version. After all, it’s his SoNA, not anybody else’s.

Leading the way as skipper
P-Noy’s SoNA should not be a recitation of the problems of the nation – because most of those are already well-known.

Hopefully, he will focus more on what he visualizes the Philippines should be at the end of his watch and beyond – and, equally important, how he proposes to navigate our ship “Pilipinas” towards a better future with higher quality Filipinos on board.

According to Calixto Chikiamco, prominent economic analyst: “That would portray P-Noy as having a developmental vision – the way forward to the future and the goal with which to unify the country...” (Business World, July 19).

With or without wang-wang, the leader must, by his unswerving dedication, inclusive balance, and strategic focus, lead the way – even as he insures that regardless of external shocks or internal mishaps, the nation’s progress moves forward/upward.

P-Noy has taken over the skipper’s responsibility to guide and navigate our only ship (on which all Pinoys are on board, including OFWs, dual citizens, and the unborn) towards the Promised Land of a more bountiful future. His success in fulfilling that vision would recapture our nation’s destiny of a better life and a place of respect/dignity in the community of nations.

The rebuilding of the nation is the work of all hands, and not just of one leader. It takes the collective effort of the citizenry to make this happen – through unity of purpose, solidarity in values, and teamwork in nation-building.

Filipinos can prevail and succeed – no matter how high the goal – if we put our act together. Our Mt. Everest team displayed exceptional harmony that all can emulate. Their virtues of caring, sharing, and daring for each other throughout their arduous journey to the “roof of the world,” 29,035 feet high, enabled them to surmount each crisis along the way.

Philippine realities
Clearly articulated in our Constitution’s preamble is the Filipino’s ambition: “To build a just and humane society and establish a government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace.”

Certainly we are today a nation confirmed in our constitutional democracy – strengthened by the trials we have weathered. Today, nevertheless, we are still one of a few countries burdened with the combined weight of communist insurgency and a Muslim separatist rebellion. Organized crime makes our streets unsafe and threatens citizens in their homes.

Social services have lagged badly behind the rise of population and the migration to our cities of poor rural people. Neighborhoods are deteriorating with too many families lacking adequate housing, sanitation, and potable water.

Our education and health services are under unbearable strain. And, every day of delay in meeting these problems makes them more intractable and adds to the absolute poverty of millions of kababayans. The test is whether we can act with dispatch today to answer these challenges – not tomorrow.

No better example can be given to our leaders than that of three youthful Pinoys and three Pinays who climbed to the top of Mt. Everest in May, 2006, and May, 2007, respectively. The lessons of intrepidity, audacity and grim determination – exemplified by their incomparable feat – should not be missed by those elected to lead us.

Infrastructure development and public finance
Because it entails much planning and time to implement, we must now aggressively push connective infrastructure-building. This will not only create jobs. It will also give investors proof of Philippine resolve to provide growth solid foundations for sustainable development.

Our priorities are arterial national highways, urban mass transport and expressways, farm-to-market roads, clean power from recyclable sources, and major water conservation/flood control structures to serve 100 million Filipinos by 2016.

For continuity/efficiency, all these should be provided multi-year funding. To finance infrastructure development, we must be unrelenting in collecting what is due the government in taxes and other revenues. This can be attained by cracking down on tax evaders. Tax evasion can be curbed if government can show that scalawags – whoever they may be – will not go undetected/unpunished.

We cannot make do with our present revenue base unless we improve our meager 13 percent tax effort to the level of ASEAN’s 18% average. Development has a price that must be paid by both ordinary people and the big taxpayers/non-taxpayers.

To maintain economic stability, we need continued fiscal and monetary discipline, principally by keeping the budget deficit and inflation within manageable/acceptable levels.

We should then be able to mobilize development financing for both agriculture and industry – not just through government financial institutions but primarily through the private banking sector, whose corporate responsibility is to be government’s effective partner.

The quality of governance
Just as crucial as the vigor of the economy is the quality of governance. This is why we must strive to make the Philippine state more effective – in policy-making, economic management, and project implementation (where corruption is more prevalent). By opening up our economy, modernizing our material and human assets, and raising workers’ productivity, we should be able to attract more investments and technology-exchange.

Quality governments respond effectively to domestic challenges, and ingeniously mitigate external demands imposed by globalization. Quality governments plan for long-term progress rather than quickie political advantages.

They do not obstruct broad-based strategic initiatives but, instead, facilitate cooperative relationships with both private business and civil society. For the common good, quality governments continuously adapt their economies and capacities to changing conditions.

The object of political reform should be the delivery of quality governance – whose first task is to ensure enduring stability as the foundation of sustainable development.

P-Noy’s six-year journey and the Balangay voyage
Our Mt. Everest summiteers – Leo Oracion, Pastor Emata, Dr. Ted Esguerra, Carina Dayondon, Janet Belarmino, and Noelle Wenceslao under Team Leader Art Valdez – have now evolved into “Balangay Voyagers,” reinventing themselves from world-class mountaineers into similarly world-class seafarers. Their principled motivation in embarking upon this maritime adventure is simple, yet admirable.

In Art’s words: “In our Balangay voyage, we will share our self-image and self-assertion that the Filipino can do the impossible.

By exhibiting Filipino ingenuity and native survival skills in this modern age with the use of ancient seafaring technology, we aim to rekindle our people’s adventurous and pioneering spirit along with our maritime expertise which colonialism took away.”

Tomorrow, July 26, they depart from Zamboanga to start the ASEAN leg of their Balangay voyage which will take them southward to Malaysia and Brunei, westward to Vietnam, and finally northward to China to arrive in October for the climax of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

To our Everest summiteers now Balangay voyagers, your supporters wish you: “Fair winds and following seas.” As we bid you safe travel, expect that in the countries you visit, there are also our global Pinoys waiting to proudly welcome you. We hope P-Noy provides you official and moral backing.

The same supportive messages of goodwill and successful achievement from well-wishers go to P-Noy as captain of the larger ship “Pilipinas” as he leads us across stormy seas plus unknown dangers along the way.

Rizal’s SoNA
The Balangay could become the catalyst to stir national pride again among Filipinos. Dr. Jose Rizal in his historic SoNA, “The Philippines, A Century Hence,” predicted that “we are capable of greater things.”

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