Deadend sectorism of the Philippines lives on

Deadend sectorism of the Philippines lives on Featured

SECTORIST policies dominate Philippine politics and overflows to the economy and then impacts the way majority of Filipinos experience life in these islands. It is laudable that the goal of the Duterte administration is a “comfortable life” for every Filipino but alas, while the goal is good, the means (reliance solely on sector dominance) will not be the right vehicle. It has already been proven to be the wrong vehicle. In fact, the sectorist bus will lead the Duterte administration off the cliff, pretty much the way the Aquino 2, Arroyo, Erap, and Ramos sectorist buses led the Philippines off the cliff.

The cliff I define to be the bare minimum to say “yes, the Philippines has an economy that allows one to choose to stay here to work, earn a dignified living (even if simple), allows school attendance up to vocational or college, and can tell any foreign country (even those who lend us money) not to dare point any missile at any part of our territory or at least have a modicum of defense capability.

From the above, we have fallen off the cliff for most periods of our history except maybe very briefly after World War 2, in the mid-1940s to early 1960s, when massive hardwood and other natural resource extraction was undertaken by the elite of those years (about less than 100 Filipino families) and a nascent industrialization was attempted. Then we were way ahead of China.

Even that effort was not sustainable beyond the 1970s partly leading to Martial Law and after the first oil crisis of that era, with the nation’s back against the wall, the OFW segment was developed as a safety valve.

Ever since, the Philippines has undergone several boom-bust cycles and only recently has been able, with sound macro policies in place after the Asian crisis of 1997, to become a relatively well-performing economy. “Well-performing” as far as sectorist metrics are concerned like gross domestic product, BoP, foreign reserves, etc. but we know that these masks the true state of the average Juan. Certainly, the minimum wage can barely give a dignified life and cannot make those who earn such levels go beyond consuming sachets of their necessities.

What we have seen during the recent Arroyo and Aquino years, and what we are apparently going to see with the Duterte administration, and I sincerely hope I am wrong, is more of the same “jobless and trickle-less GDP growth” even if it grows at 8 percent per year, because of the sheer number of new entrants of young Filipinos into the labor market. Low-quality informal job generation is the norm.

Why is this so? After only 12 months, the Duterte policy initiatives have resulted in policies that benefit sectors (mining, energy, etc.) at the expense of local areas (sectorism). Measuring progress by GDP growth primarily rather than household networth growth is the core of sectorism. The opposite is areaism.

Policy initiatives that would strengthen families and their surrounding local environment, or areaism, that emanate from some other quieter secretaries are withering in the vine. Land conversion suspensions, irresponsible mine closures, genuine ending of endo schemes, climate change mitigation and adaptation, effective and new anti-poverty programs are not nearly getting the attention of government initiatives like “Build! Build! Build!” and more coal plants and policies that make urban development a playground for the top five property developers.

Yes, there are crumbs that are being dispensed, like the guidance for MSEs through the Go Negosyo initiative, the continuation of the 4Ps (likely to end by 2019), but these are not logically leading to a new development paradigm based on areaism policies.

Areaism would see local communities defining their needs for urban development, infrastructure, economic programs and a balanced environment and having the sectors respond to those needs instead of dictating on local areas. Thus, for example, instead of property development oriented towards enclaves with exclusive access and facilities, whole urban blocks would have mini-parks, safe pedestrian walkways and bike lanes, lots of trees and walkable neighborhoods that encourage interaction between all sectors of society instead of stratified bonding only within certain classes.

Areaism, for example, would see the DENR’s reforestation program seriously implemented by upland households who would have secure tenurial rights and are part of a bigger agro-forestry system that produces badly needed wood products like lumber, among other forest products that we currently import. We have over 10 million hectares of forestlands and yet we are now importers of lumber and timber products. This is even after the fact that DENR spent over P35 billion in sectorist fashion by spending these refo funds (since mid-1990s)with ineffective PO and NGO contracts involving foreign species with little value that barely serve the local market instead of empowering communities to regrow original rainforests. Thus, the local market still thrives on illegal logging and imported timber and upland families are still poor.

Federalism was supposed to lead us towards areaist policies, with regional or state governments (enlarged LGUs) being the ones to craft development programs for the constituent communities and put a damper on sectorism. Alas, sector dominance lives (again) and very likely will lead to a deadend again.000
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