When I was young and growing up in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, I dreamed of traveling the world. God has been so good to me that He granted that dream, and allowed me to travel to many countries.
But whenever I get back home to our motherland, I always feel some kind of pain in my heart, a pain that springs from a belief that we have not done enough to build a beautiful society for our people.
Why is it that places like Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan can provide so much more for their people, and we cannot?
In his book “From Third World to First,” Lee Kuan Yew described the Philippines as a country with two societies – the few who have so much, and the many who have so little. Our country needs a gel that could unite and make us whole, he said.
Very true, and yet our country’s problems are more complicated than that.
Despite our country’s rosy economic outlook from the past several years, rural poverty remains very high. Taiwan has only 8 percent rural poverty; Malaysia also has 8 percent; Thailand 14 percent; Vietnam 17 percent. But our beloved country records 40 percent rural poverty.
The wealth and income disparities between the rich and the poor are also very high. According to a study by Credit Suisse Global Wealth Watch in 2014, the richest 1 percent of Filipinos own and control almost 50 percent of our country’s wealth and resources. According to another study, the combined wealth of the six wealthiest families is bigger than our country’s national budget for this year 2016, while the combined wealth of the 50 wealthiest families comprises 26 percent of the country’s total economy. Most local economists believe that only the companies of the richest 1 percent of the country’s businesses benefit from 60 percent of the national GDP every year.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are about 12 million Filipinos today who live in “extreme poverty” and about 12 million Filipinos have no work or job. Many of them resort to selling shabu just to earn money for their families.
I am glad to have recently joined the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA), an organization founded by a group of reform-minded leaders led by Dr. Jesus Estanislao, former Department of Finance Secretary and Chairman of the Development Bank of the Philippines.
ISA is pursuing a vision of the Dream Philippines – a country that is beautiful in its march to progress and prosperity, where no Filipino is left behind in poverty, where there is enough for everyone, where every child can attain the fullness of life as he or she conceives it to be; a country where all of these are possible, because our government delivers, our leaders perform and our citizens get involved.
To realize this dream, ISA has adopted good governance as its tool, and uses it as the anchor in each of its three major programs.
First, ISA installs and runs good governance and development programs in various national government agencies (NGAs), such as the DND, AFP, PNP, DTI, and BOI, among others. It employs the PGS (Performance Governance System), which incorporates the Balanced Scorecard technology developed at the Harvard Business School being used today by the Forbes’ top 500 companies.
Second, ISA installs and implements good governance and local economic development programs in various LGUs in the country, programs which identify and develop drivers of economic growth in the localities.
Contrary to the first impressions of many, ISA is not an award-giving body or a certifying entity. It is so much more than that. It installs and implements good governance programs in government institutions that create roadmaps and help these NGAs and LGUs attain their respective visions for institutional transformation and economic development.
Among the very first LGUs to enrol in ISA in 2004 were Naga City (Mayor Jessie Robredo), Marikina City (Mayor Marides Fernando), and Calbayog City (Mayor Mel Sarmiento), among others. Among its recent success stories are Balanga City (Mayor Joet Garcia), Butuan City (Mayor Ferdinand Amante), Dipolog City (Mayor Evelyn Uy), and San Fernando City, La Union (Mayor Mary Jane Ortega).
ISA’s third major program is Good Filipinos, a movement of individuals who voluntarily pledge to become good citizens by supporting good governance efforts and performing small acts of love for our country every day. For our Philippines to become world-class, we need a world-class citizenry; but for us to have a world-class citizenry, we need to start with a small group of Filipinos who are willing to serve as model citizens—true exemplars of good citizenship. In essence, this is what Good Filipinos is all about.
Dear readers, if you share these aspirations for our country, please join us. Let us work together in pursuit of our Dream Philippines. Please contact me through my e-mail address below, or send your ideas to Marielle Antonio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex Lacson is president & CEO of ISA, and the author of the national bestseller “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country.” His email address: email@example.com. This regular column is written by contributors from the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA). Learn more about their work through isacenter.org.