The three-day World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia held in Manila successful ended yesterday. It looks like the Aquino Administration gave an impressive show about its performance over the past four years to some 600 business and government leaders. The list of delegates included those from the civil society and the academe representing 30 countries.
In an article written by Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima for the WEF Summit on East Asia, the focus was on the alleged reforms undertaken by the Aquino presidency.
Mr. Purisima wrote: “To see how reforms can change perception and reality, one may look at the Philippines.” The finance secretary claimed that President Benigno S. Aquino III “has turned around the country from being ‘the sick man of Asia’ to an economic comeback story.”
As expected, the economic growth of 7.2 per cent in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was cited as the highest in the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region in spite of the natural calamities like Super-Typhoon Yolanda that devastated the Visayas late last year. The investment upgrades from Fitch, Standard & Poor’s (S & P) and Moody’s in 2013 were also mentioned, as well as the recent upgrade by S & P this month.
However, what the finance secretary did not or failed to mention is that the Philippines has the highest unemployment of 7.3 per cent in the Asean. Of course, Mr. Purisima will also not reveal that the unemployment rate has worsened from 6.5 per cent in October 2013 to 7.5 per cent in January 2014. Worse than the unemployment rate, is the underemployment rate of almost 20.0 per cent for 2013. (Source: National Statistics Office, Philippine Statistics Authority)
With over 60 per cent “participation rate,” there are more than 4.0 million who are jobless and another 12.0 million who are employed, but whose income cannot pay for their basic needs. All told, there are more than 15.0 million Filipinos who are in dire straits. This probably explains why an average of two million of our countrymen left as Overseas Filipinos Workers (OFWs) in the past two years (2012-2013) or 5,500 Filipinos leaving per day in search of a better future abroad for themselves and their families.
The Aquino administration has a mantra that believes that “Good Governance is Good Economics.” It speaks of “institutionalizing transparency” in order to “intensify efforts for reforms” in its remaining years in power. Well said and nice to hear. However, until today President B.S. Aquino 3rd has miserably failed to pass the Freedom of Information (FoI) bill that he promised to deliver when he ran for president in 2010. Another broken promise?
In time for the World Economic Forum Summit on East Asia, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) ran a two-part series written by Ms. Doris C. Dumlao last Tuesday and Wednesday. The title of the second article was “Under international Scrutiny: If PH Reform Irreversible” and asked “whether the turnaround that the country has seen in recent years is irreversible.” The question really is what “turnaround” really happened?
The said article boldly declared that “the clear-cut consensus is that a lot has been accomplished under President Aquino in improving governance, thus, raising the bar for his successor.” The declaration continued: “Perception turned favorable as soon as Aquino made “Daang Matuwid” (righteous path) his vision and mission, rekindling investor and consumer confidence.”
The myth of Daan Matuwid under President B.S. Aquino 3rd can be seen from the smuggling of rice and oil products to the obscenely overpriced and substandard projects of the Department of Public Works & Highways (DPWH), many of which are not even needed in the first place. Then there are the dubious of multi-billion contracts of the Department of Transportation (DOTC) from the P32-billion Cebu international airport to the P5.-billion vehicle license plates of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) which is under DOTC.
Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao first exposed the extent of the smuggling under the Aquino administration, which is worse than smugglinh in the combined first two years of the administrations of former Presidents Joseph “ERAP” Estrada and Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo. The figures used by Mr, Tiglao came from the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD).
The magnitude of the smuggling of oil products was confirmed in early 2013 by no less than by Mr. Ramon Ang and Edgar Chua, the presidents of Petron and Pilipinas Shell, respectively. They estimated that the loss of revenues to the government amounted to more than P20 billion each year. After President B. S. Aquino 3rd excoriated the Bureau of Customs in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22, 2013, Mr. Chua said that the smuggling of oil products worsened months later towards the end of the year.
In the case of the multi-billion rice-smuggling done through the collusion of the government’s National Food Authority (NFA), the Senate that had conducted its hearings recommended the filing of appropriate cases against NFA officials with the Office of the Ombudsman. Last week, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III personally filed complaints against four Agriculture officials with the Ombudsman for forging his signature on an organic farming project. Yet President Aquino would not fire his Agriculture Secretary.
With the DPWH projects, corruption is worse now under the Aquino administration.
DPWH shamelessly demolished good roads and bridges at the scale never done before in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. National roads have been and are being widened when even there is no need for the additional lanes and thousands of trees are cut down. Lastly, well-paved roads are being asphalted twice that is why they are as high as the sidewalks.
Daang Matuwid na Patungo sa Bangin! (Straight Path Toward the Ravine!)