“WELL, GMA has been in Cebu three times in the first two weeks of this month,” said my favorite balikbayan friend while we were sipping coffee in our favorite uptown mall coffee shop yesterday. “She is getting to be a fixture in Cebu, and putting the local officials on their toes, if I may say so. They have never experienced this before, having the sneaky feeling the President is right there, looking over your shoulders. . . .”
“Yes,” I said, “but at what cost? I heard presidential trips to the provinces cost something like P350,000 each. That amount times three makes more than a P1 million already. If you apply a kind of cost analysis to it, would being present in the burning of confiscated shabu, or inaugurating the new court of appeals building, be worth it? Perhaps, addressing international conferences once in a while is all right.”
The point here is that her attending to activities like the ground-breaking of infrastructure projects, or the inauguration of the same, would take up so much of her time which she could devote to or give deeper focus on more significant matters that are bedeviling her second administration. Some people cannot seem to understand the point of her attending to “small details” while leaving the big ones in the hands of her aides sans coordination.
For instance, there are three most interesting agencies of government that appear to have mesmerized that sector of the low income people with glowing plans and impressive visions of things their respective offices would undertake to solve the nation’s current woes. These are people among the 84 million Filipinos today that roam the nooks and crannies of this nation cowed not only by poverty but of the enormity of their woes.
Problem is, I just could not see my way through their respective goals. Perhaps in their effort to assure the hard-pressed President that everything will be all right in spite of the nation’s being beleaguered with challenging problems from all areas of our national life—social, political and economic—they have conjured various scenarios designed to achieve the ten targets of governance the President outlined in her inaugural address.
Not many months ago, I wrote about how the agrarian reform program needs to be rationalized, simply because years after the comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP) was implemented, there has been no satisfactory change in the life of the farmer-beneficiaries. Instead, the agrarian reform law has generated more resentment and discontent from landowners whose lands were “bought” from them for a song.
Then comes the news story that the Department of Agriculture has announced that “more than half of the planned 2.7 million hectares of land to be developed for agribusiness and aquaculture will be devoted to high value crops like mango, banana, pineapple and vegetables.” The plan, so the report said, is “expected to create 2.3 million jobs by 2010.” It said out of 2,181,820 hectares for the sector, 900,000 would be devoted to coconut.
The DA, the report continues, has also set aside 875,139 hectares for palay production that would generate 81,000 new jobs, according to the new agriculture secretary. Use of certified seeds and new technology is expected to “enhance rice production” as “post-harvest loss-reduction program” is undertaken. The DA, it is said, will tap the National Food Authority and the private sector to ensure the success of the program.
I don’t know, but it seems to me I have heard these plans before. I recall, for instance, that the DA some years back was extended some money to irrigate 1.2 million hectares of farmland and insure our self-sufficiency of the cereal. I cannot recall a report saying it succeeded. In my hometown, an irrigation system serving 700 hectares was destroyed by typhoon in 1998. It took three years before it was repaired. It did not last long either.
I believe the DA planners are fantasizing again. Past presidents and past secretaries have had their respective programs, and nothing happened to the lives of our rural folks. Unless we have the financial capability to push through the program, I would say the DA secretary is dreaming through his hat. The trade and industry head says it is possible to double the income of 35 million Filipinos earning an equivalent of only $2 a day.
The DTI secretary thinks his plan is doable. But then, to be able to achieve it, the nation’s gross domestic product must have to grow by about 7.3 percent, equal to the amount needed to double the workers’ income—P25 billion. “This means that the GDP would have to grow from its present rate of P80 billion to P105 billion.” The goal is achievable through the development of small and medium enterprises, contributing P25 billion annually.
Yes, it’s a logical notion if we could see our way through the dreams of the DA and the DAR, if the land the DA speaks of is different from the agricultural lands and other areas the DAR is working hard to give to landless beneficiaries even if they are not farmers. Pray, our government lordships, do tell us the truth. Please, no politicking now.