As part of the academe’s role of conscientization, monitoring, and assessing the policies and performance of government, the Center for Policy and Executive Development (CPED) of the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) of the University of the Philippines (UP) held a forum at the NCPAG Audio-Visual Room in the afternoon of September 3, 2019.
UP NCPAG faculty members, Dr. Ma. Victoria R. Raquiza, Dr. Enrico L. Basilio, and CPED Director Ebinezer R. Florano presented their reflections on the priority agenda stated by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July, and discussed their assessments on the country’s social, economic and political dimensions, respectively.
Raquiza presented data showing the state of poverty, inequality, health, and education in the country, as she discussed the expected role of government in ensuring “that all members of society are able to attain a certain standard of living and have access to opportunities to improve their lives.” She emphasized that government should improve the people’s well-being, promote equality, and contribute to social cohesion.
Raquiza reported that Filipinos in the agriculture sector, farmers, fisherfolk, low-income earners, and those in urban poor communities benefit the least, even from the growth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). “They languish in the low-value, low-productive, even precarious, labor market marked by poverty-level wages. They have little access to social protection, and they are exposed to hazardous working conditions,” she said. “Agriculture is in dire straits, . . . historically declining, and this decline continued under this administration,” she added.
Raquiza concluded that poverty incidence generally stayed the same, with the gains of observed economic growth not being equitably shared with the majority of the population. She noted there is still high inequality, and that there has been no major breakthrough in the past 30 years. She recommended “more redistributive measures, especially in fiscal policy and measures.” She added that “access to quality education and quality healthcare remain a challenge for the majority,” and that these require “significant improvements”. “Given significant levels of poverty and inequality across various dimensions, there is need to increase focus on social equity,” she said.
Basilio’s discussion focused on economic indicators and trends. He noted an above six percent GDP growth rate for the Philippines in the past 3 years, with construction, finance, real estate, manufacturing, trade, and services among the industries and sectors having the highest average growth rate from 2012 to the present. However, he added that the country’s trade gap is widening, wherein there are more imports than exports, leading to a ballooning trade deficit and a declining import cover. He also reviewed the present drivers of economic growth, key legislations, and sources of revenues, such as the series of tax reform measures.
Basilio said that the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” plan is still Luzon-centric, with 79% of the projects to be done in Luzon, 7% in the Visayas and 14% in Mindanao. He added that self-rated poverty went down, with more people thinking things improved, and that the growth rate should be pegged at ten to 12% for a period of ten years for most people to gain from the trickle-down effect. In conclusion, he said, “progress in achieving the 10-point socioeconomic agenda is advancing strongly.”
Florano examined the public policy aspect in his reflections on public policymaking in the Duterte Administration. He identified key points in the social, economic, political, and public administration sectors mentioned by President Duterte during the 4th SONA. Cited for enacting 133 laws, including priority measures, he also credited this administration for being “more productive than the first two years” of the previous administration, adding that 39 of these were national laws, comprising 29%, while 94 were local laws, comprising 71%.
Florano explained that policies and intentions should be communicated clearly for the benefit of the citizens. However, he noted that there was “so much confusion on government policy” in the last three years since there are lingering questions regarding public pronouncements and implementation of policies and laws. Issues concerning the West Philippine Sea, respect for women, anti-crime and the drug war, corruption, and new cabinet-level agencies, among others, became highly controversial or were marked with inconsistencies or vagueness due to actions and statements coming from the president and members of the administration.
Florano posed questions on the “true public policy” vis-à-vis the intentions and actions of the administration on such critical national issues. He proposed further “academic studies to answer and understand research questions related to public policymaking”, to reveal the “true public policy”, and to help increase effectiveness and efficiency in governance.
“Ideally, public policies should be authoritative, based on law, and actions and intentions should be in sync,” Florano said. “There should be clear communication of public policies for better delivery of public services. There should be no room for misinterpretations,” he concluded.
Dr. Reginald G. Ugaddan gave a recap of the presentations. Prof. Simeon A. Ilago, officer-in- charge of NCPAG, delivered the closing remarks. Ms. Danica Joy C. Navidad served as emcee for the forum.