There’s something very wrong when the Aquino government thinks nothing of throwing away P10-billion (or US$212-million) for its year-long hosting of various events of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), including the summit this week, yet scrimps on much-needed aid for starving and suffering Filipinos.
More than a month after typhoon Lando devastated large swaths of Luzon, for instance, thousands of victims have yet to receive government aid. In Nueva Ecija alone, known as the “food bowl” of Central Luzon, at least P3.5 billion worth of crops were damaged, leaving many farmers without any source of livelihood.
Although there is still some P9.6 billion left over from the government’s P13 billion calamity fund for 2015, the Aquino administration has been too slow in releasing funds to help our farmers and other typhoon victims.
It’s no different 1,000 kilometers to the south.
Sad plight of 130,000 families in Tacloban
More than two years after typhoon Yolanda turned the once-thriving city of Tacloban in Leyte into a wasteland, only 1,128 houses, or less than 10 percent of the target of 16,331 permanent houses for typhoon victims, have been constructed. There are still more than 130,000 families living in makeshift quarters or bunkhouses, waiting for livelihood assistance.
Kabataan partylist representative Terry Ridon attributes the snail-paced rehabilitation of Tacloban to the slow release of government funds, citing the recent COA report which criticized DSWD secretary Dinky Soliman for releasing only 33 percent of the P1.15-billion cash donations to Yolanda victims, with the bulk kept in DSWD’s bank accounts.
It’s obvious, however, that for PNoy, the APEC is more important than the millions of impoverished Filipinos. He spent a good part of last Tuesday going around Metro Manila to personally inspect NAIA and the APEC summit venues but he won’t spare a few hours to commiserate with the victims of typhoon Yolanda on the second anniversary of the disaster.
He’d also much rather attend the wedding of a real estate magnate’s son than “gatecrash” the commemoration rites in Tacloban, because he was not invited, or so Malacañang says.
Of course, most Filipinos know that’s pure B.S. because Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez sent the invite via email to Malacañang a full week before the event. A copy of that email is now doing the rounds on social media.
PNoy is pulling out all the stops for the APEC because it’s his coming-out party. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to burnish his image on the world stage and brag about the country’s so-called transformation during his term – which Liberal Party (LP) vice-presidential candidate Leni Robredo gushingly described as the “Golden Age” of Philippine governance. In short, the summit is the perfect forum for PNoy to disseminate his “daang matuwid” propaganda to a wider international audience.
It is propaganda because the Aquino administration is trying to paint a distorted and exaggerated picture of the country’s economic growth. We find it quite ironic that while the theme chosen by the Aquino administration for this year’s APEC summit in Manila is “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World,” the country’s so-called economic growth has been anything but inclusive.
Hunger rates have remained practically unchanged during the past decade or so. In fact, the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey showed that hunger rates worsened in the third quarter of this year to 15.7 percent, with the number of Filipino families experiencing involuntary hunger rising to 3.5 million, the highest since December 2014’s 17.2 percent.
Based on SWS data, the last time hunger rates fell to a single-digit level (7.4 percent) was in March 2004 during the Arroyo administration. It was also during the Arroyo administration that the total hunger rates fell to its lowest level in the past 17 years at 5.1 percent.
The recent hunger survey result is not entirely unexpected, especially with another SWS survey released last Monday, which showed that the number of unemployed Filipinos swelled to more than 10 million during the third quarter of 2015.
According to SWS, unemployment has been rising since the first quarter of 2015. In March, the jobless rate was at 19.1 percent, rising to 23.7 percent in June and 23.7 percent in September. SWS disclosed that since 2010, joblessness in the Philippines has constantly remained above 20 percent – except in March 2015 when it fell to 19.1 percent – peaking at 24.4 percent in March 2012.
However PNoy embellishes his achievements, what is certain is that foreign investors are not blind to the realities on the ground.
Despite PNoy’s touted reforms, the country dropped six notches to 103rd place in the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2016 report. The foreign investors who PNoy said were “lining up” to set up or expand their businesses in the country four years ago seem to have disappeared into thin air. In fact, our foreign direct investments (FDI) inflow fell 42 percent to $1.64-billion in the first five months of this year.
In contrast, Vietnam has so far received a record $9.65-billion in actual FDI this year, with strong inflows going to the manufacturing sector – the fulcrum of job generation. How were they able to do it? By being investor-friendly not just in words but also in deed. That, to our mind, is the best propaganda.