As the country celebrates the 28th anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolution, a lot of ballyhoo will be made by the Aquino administration and its PR machinery on the legacy of that historic event.
There is no doubt that the 1986 peaceful uprising is a historic event, and even inspired events such as the Polish uprising, the fall of the Berlin Wall, even the Arab Spring.
But looking back at the past 28 years, perhaps the only real accomplishment of the 1986 uprising is the restoration of the legislative branch of government. The restoration of press freedom could not be even credited to the 1986 uprising, because the independent media bravely fought the Marcos dictatorship, and even help ferment the EDSA People Power revolution.
In the past 28 years, however, the Philippines never attained real economic progress. Perhaps the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis can be partly blamed for the lack of real economic progress by the Philippines, but the fact that the country suffered greatly economically during that regional crisis only goes to show that its economy does not have a firm base.
And today, the signs of the country not making any real economic progress is written all over: a manufacturing sector that lags behind its Asian neighbors; massive unemployment; an agriculture sector that still needs to be modernized; massive corruption at all levels of the bureaucracy; and smuggling which has become rampant.
Special mention could also be given the fact that electricity rates in the country are among the highest in the world, and the number of billionaires has dramatically increased while the ranks of the unemployed remain huge.
Furthermore, Congress has proven to be a failure when it comes to initiating economic reforms that will pave the way for the country to industrialize. And it is worth mentioning that both the House of Representatives and the Senate now have image problems, because of the ongoing investigations into the pork barrel scam. This is a no-brainer: the billions of pesos that allegedly lined the pockets of several members of progress could have been used for anti-poverty programs like microfinance, and establishment of common service facilities for rural-based enterprises and farmers.
With 28 years since the 1986 peaceful uprising literally going to waste because no real economic progress has been made, it is high-time that the drumbeaters of the event’s anniversary face the reality that there is very little to celebrate tomorrow, even as the economy registered impressive gross domestic product growth in the past two years.
What the Philippines needs in the succeeding years is an economic revolution that has the following components: the formulation of a national industrialization agenda of which the objective is the establishment of light to heavy industries in various sectors, with emphasis on agro-processing, the steel industry, and electronics; increased investments in the agriculture sector that will emphasize mechanization of farms, and encouraging the youth to take up farming as a vocation or business; opening up certain industries to 100-percent foreign participation, like the manufacture of steel and even power generation; more support for small and medium scale enterprises through special loan windows, training programs, and market promotion; and cracking down on smuggling.
A bureaucrat or the President of the Republic does not need a doctorate in economics to understand the importance and urgency of the aforementioned.
Last week, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that the current growth of the Philippine economy is “not sufficient for poverty reduction,” adding that it will take decades to uproot poverty in the country.
Such an admission by a respected government official should remind those making a big deal about the 28th anniversary of the 1986 people uprising that what the Philippines really needs is an economic revolution. In short, there may really be nothing to rejoice about in tomorrow’s celebration of the 1986 peaceful uprising.