COMMENTARY: Worrying about 2022



MELBOURNE, Australia (Mindanews / 28 February) — Filipinos, all 100 million+ of us, are presently hostage to two dire circumstances: 1) a gigantic and still growing population; and, 2) an environment that is slowly losing its capacity to provide. Think Metro Manila and every other metropolitan city in the country.

Ostensibly, the conflation of these two challenges has placed the Philippines in an extremely difficult position. And it is very alarming that none of the five Presidentiables has clearly acknowledged this grim predicament in their respective campaign agenda. In fact, not one of the national development plans proposed by these candidates are purposely designed to meet these two ominous conditions threatening our nation’s future.

A good example of such a shortcoming would be the well-appreciated proposal to invest in agriculture to increase productivity but without any clear accompanying measures to help stakeholders within this sector cope with the demands of climate change. An environment policy that prioritizes international treaties over the need to feed the 100 million+ warm bodies in the country would likewise be a clear illustration of such inadequacy

The sad truth is the electoral narrative presented so far by these candidates is simply a collage of motherhood statements and catchy two-liners. It lacks that sense of coherence necessary to actually help voters be more appreciative of the country’s current state.

Moreover, the presidential platforms on offer are so jam-packed with proposals and promises that we are left essentially dazed, confused and utterly unable to intelligently distinguish among the five candidates. Hence, it is highly doubtful that at this stage of the campaign if voters, even the more astute ones, can actually paint a clear picture of what could potentially happen in the next six years.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that every Filipino desires economic progress. We get excited with promises of more jobs and higher income. We thank the high heavens upon hearing assurances of making education and health care more affordable. We leap for joy after listening to candidates talk about infrastructure investments and so forth.

However, the spate of natural disasters that have come our way has taught many of us to be more circumspect as to how we achieve national prosperity. Indeed, while the majority of the electorate see the exploitation of nature for economic gains as unavoidable, the twin notions of sustainability and social responsibility are now viewed as indispensable too.

And it may come as a surprise to many but integrating environmental and community dimensions to economic development planning is already an accepted concept here in the Philippines. About two decades ago, the Philippine Agenda 21: A National Agenda for Sustainable Development for the 21th Century was launched under the leadership of arguably the most effective head of government our country has ever had

The Philippine Agenda 21 (PA21) envisioned “a better quality of life for all Filipinos through the development of a just, moral and creative, spiritual, economically vibrant, caring, diverse yet cohesive society characterized by appropriate productivity, participatory and democratic processes, and living in harmony and within the limits of the carrying capacity of nature and the integrity of creation.”

Unfortunately, this economic development mindset was effectively set aside during the terms of Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because both obviously had other plans in mind as to where the profits of the country’s economic gains should go.

While our country has made significant progress at the macroeconomic front due to the focused effort of the current administration, there is still reason to worry about the years to come.

As matter fact, as per the United Nations Human Development Index for 2014, the Philippines is only at the Medium Human Development level. We are in the same category with countries such as Uzbekistan and El Salvador. Obviously, economic progress that is completely satisfactory for every Filipino demands more work to be done.

The good thing is our national economic managers never gave up on pursuing economic progress through the PA21 pathway. Accordingly, an official document, Assessment of the Philippine Agenda 21, the Prospects for a Green Economy, and the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development, which advances a national development blueprint that meets our needs in the present but does not compromise the ability of future generations to address theirs.

Obviously, formulating a campaign narrative that is grounded in reality is not an impossible task. Perhaps the 5 presidential aspirants should consider utilizing this report to streamline their respective electoral platforms so that the same directly and unequivocally attacks the actual problems confronting us head on.

Making this critical adjustment in their campaign can be a game-changer because voters will definitely be more motivated to rally behind an economic development proposition which does not gloss over our massively growing census and the sobs and gasps of Inang Kalikasan.

Hopefully at the next scheduled debate, the Presidentiables actually leave the electorate with a clear and realistic picture of what may lie ahead for the country. Indeed, I pray that we finally see and hear someone who can truly put us at ease that the Philippines will be a much better place in 2022. “The author is a practicing lawyer and a legislative consultant. He conducts research on current issues in state-building, decentralization and constitutionalism.”

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Micael Henry Ll. Yusingco is a practicing lawyer and a legislative consultant. He conducts research on current issues in state-building, decentralization and constitutionalism.)