COMMENT: Unfair Share

CONFED Mindanao has 79 members – 26 provincial governors, 27 city mayors, and 26 presidents of Municipal Mayors’ League with South Cotabato Provincial Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes as president

Fuentes pointed out that of the P1.126 trillion 2007 budget, Mindanao’s share is only 25 percent or P281.5 billion. In 2002, Mindanao’s share of the P804-billion budget was 19 percent or P152 billion. She believed that Mindanao should get more “considering [its] contribution to the national economy.

Sen. Miguel Zubiri, speaking after his oath-taking in Malaybalay City, mentioned a different figure – for 2007, just 18 percent share and he promised to have it increased to 25 percent. He said, Mindanao contributes 40 percent – it could even be 60 percent – to the national economy. (MindaNews, July 17)

The difference between Fuentes’ and Zubiri’s figures is incidental. What should concern more Mindanao leaders is the unfair share it has been getting. The more just the share it gets in terms of infrastructure and service funds, the faster will be its development and the better will be the social life of the people.

However, I think, instead of lamenting Mindanao’s fate, CONFED Mindanao should state what in their belief should the fair and just share. Should it be 30 percent? Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. mentioned once at least 33 percent.

Is Manila to be fully blamed? It is well known that farm-to-market roads and other agricultural infrastructures in Mindanao only get a trickle compared to what’s invested in Metro Manila and industrial zones in Luzon. Foreign investors have to be attracted with excellent infrastructures. In Manila’s thinking, they are more vital to the national economy than farmers in Mindanao.

Do local executives – hence CONFED Mindanao – and Mindanao’s representatives in Congress not share a big part of the blame? Do they work together to plan projects for funding in the national budget? Oftentimes, the local executives and their representatives could not transcend their political interests – fighting over “achievements” as political capital in elections.

Could it be that Mindanao’s share is only that much because the local executives do not coordinate with the national line agencies and their representatives in Congress?

Remember: The Executive prepares the budget. The different departments submit their budgetary needs according to reports from their line agencies. Congress enacts the budget. Hence, the need of coordination by the local executives if they want their projects funded.

II

If reports from the Palace turn true, for the first time Mindanao will be featured prominently by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her State of the Nation Address on Monday. She will tackle the peace concerns in Mindanao.

Good! But why feel concerned just now? She never addressed the peace concerns in Mindanao in her past six SONAs. In fact, we are at loss to know what the Mindanao policy is under the Arroyo administration.

For all the loud and bold talks – including her liking to promote by herself her programs in television – President Arroyo has been directionless in the past six years, following a sort of trial and error tendency. She has been portrayed by media as taray, meaning combative in Tagalog. But she is more of taray in Ilonggo which means directionless.

Just to cite some examples:

In 2001 and 2002, she was obsessed by “Strong Republic”. She boasted that her father, President Diosdado Macapagal, had put in place the first stones and she would finish it. Where in limbo is “Strong Republic” now?

In her SONA on Monday, she will “talk about her vision to transform the Philippines into a First World country in 20 years” – by 2027. She failed to build “Strong Republic” in six years. Now she envisions “First World Country” in 20 years. Is she entertaining plans to stay as president that long?

To her, only her father mattered among Philippine presidents. Just very recently, she asked the haciendero leaders in Silay City, Negros Occidental to help her revise the land reform law, saying that her father “was the father of land reform and she was not about to kill it”.

Question: Was President Macapagal the father of land reform? Far from it! President Ramon Magsaysay, almost ten years earlier, had a land reform program. “Neither the Magsaysay nor the Macapagal land reform program had much impact” on the tenancy problem, said a study on land tenure in the Philippines.

Question: Is she really serious about revising Aquino’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program? Why did she not do it in 2001? Because she did not have much success with CARP in six years, she will change it – like changing the definition of “unemployed” to solve the unemployment problem.

There are more instances showing this pattern: If her program fails or not faring well, she would change it with a more grandiose-sounding one instead of examining what went wrong and remedying it. Her “Super Regions” economic plan is something to watch. Even the Human Security Act could be a plug for her failure to solve the rebellion of the Reds and the Moros.

III

Hey! Anyone wants to join the first batch of settlers on Mars in 2053?

A Princeton University astrophysics professor, Dr. J. Richard Gott III, in 1993 computed by the Copernican formula “that humanity would survive at least 5,100 years” more. But recently, he “issued a wake-up call: To ensure our long-term survival, we need to get a colony up and running on Mars within 46 years”.

Interested? For more details, surf the July 17 issue of The New York Times and download the article Findings: A Survival Imperative for Space Colonization, by John Tierny.

("Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You can reach him at [email protected].)

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