HOW rich is the Philippines? How about the 81 provinces? How do we monetize our natural wealth as assets that determine the future of shifting to federal? Why should we continue to rely on income, land area and equal sharing as the defined formula in determining Internal Revenue Allotment? Do we still carry these factors in the determination or shaping of federated areas? What factors are considered in a 60-40 allocation of taxes and natural wealth in favor of federated areas? Why pursue 80-20 in favor of federated areas?
What is our natural capital? Do we have an environmental accounting framework in place? Why are we not incorporating environmental values into economic and political decision-making? Part of the wealth of our nation are the resources we have and yet they do not constitute a booked entry in our national accounting ledger, whether at the central level or at the provincial level. They are not monetized in our “national economic accounts,” particularly the income and product accounts (e.g., gross domestic product (GDP) and gross national product (GNP)). Recognizing that “standard of living” involves many factors—among them per capita income, protection of our environment, rate of resource depletion, and enhancement of human resources—maximizing GDP, under current definitions, is clearly a limited surrogate for maximizing “standard of living,” ‘’quality of life,” or “human welfare.” And so we think poor when we are actually rich as a nation.
Any environmental accounting framework should include three potential stumbling blocks: establishing definitional boundaries, estimating net physical depletion and monetization. If we are able to establish such a framework, then we can aid and ensure that any shift to federal has all the elements of success. Elected leaders, local career officers and the public would know how rich or poor a province is and hence chart a direction that takes into account the benefits of constituents. Asset mapping could also aid federated areas to define a long term development plan and not a seasonal one dependent on political winds. Constituents are also aware of the possibilities of growth in their areas and why they remain poor while others prosper.
In the previous column, we discussed the need to carefully study transitions so the system can withstand the shock attendant to change. We have lessons learned in CAR and ARMM and the Local Government Code. These lessons matter because transitions have not been carefully studied to ensure success of autonomy and decentralization.
One critical component in any shift to federal is the ability to come up with an asset list based on a mapping of existing resources, industries, products produced, exports, tourism, among others. By coming up with an asset map, a province can begin thinking of the future. Do I extract the minerals now or leverage them for the future with potential obsolescence? Should I focus on my comparative advantage? Should tourism be a driver for economic development of the province, just like Aklan? What is the wealth of Cavite when compared to Cebu and Sulu? Or of Pangasinan as compared to Bukidnon or Albay?
Again, the red flag is being waived here. Federalism is not just about models of asymmetry or not, not just about bicameral or unicameral legislative, it is not just about systems and structures. Rather, it is about economic viability. If we shift to federal without an asset map, how do you tell Samar that you are rich and is capable of so much possibilities but is hampered by the kind of leader you vote into office? And yet that leader does not even have a sense of Samar’s wealth.
There are 33 high-value crops that are produced in the country. Not all provinces produce every crop. There are crops that are only produced in a handful of provinces. Cotton is produced in two provinces—Capiz and Ilocos Norte; asparagus is produced in 6 provinces—South Cotabato, Negros Oriental, Agusan del Norte, Tarlac, Negros Occidental and Iloilo; white potato is produced in 12 provinces—Benguet, Mountain Province, Davao del Sur, Bukidnon, Nueva Ecija, South Cotabato, Cotabato, Ifugao, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Negros Occidental and Isabela.
(To be continued tomorrow)