READ: Speech of VP Binay at Kusog Mindanaw Dialogue with National Candidates

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2016 presidential contender Vice President Jejomar Binay speaks about his platform of government and where Mindanao stands in a Binay presidency if he gets elected. 

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Speech of Vice President Jejomar C. Binay as delivered during the Kusog Mindanaw Dialogue with National Candidates at the Waterfront Insular Hotel, Davao City on November 29th, 2015.

Maayong buntag, Mindanao. Daghang salamat sa pag-imbita ninyo kanako dinhi.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak before you about my platform of government, and where Mindanao stands in our shared undertaking to build an equitable, peaceful, and inclusive Philippines.

Allow me to begin by saying that my principles of governance, my priorities as a public servant, and my vision for our country, have been molded by my personal experiences.

Lumaki ako sa kalinga ng aking ina na isang guro, at ng aking ama na isang government clerk. Ngunit dahil kulang kami sa pera, hindi namin naipagamot ang aking ina, at siya ay namatay dahil sa kanser.  Ilang buwan lamang matapos siyang mamatay, nasunog ang aming maliit na tahanan. Natupok ng apoy ang lahat ng aming ari-arian. Ang natira lang sa amin ng aking ama ay ang damit na aming suot-suot.

Hindi kakaiba sa akin ang mga problema ng mahihirap. Ako ay dumaan sa hirap sa murang edad. Ang kahirapan sa akin ay hindi bagay na nababasa ko lang, o napapanood sa pelikula, o nakikita sa ibang tao. Ang kahirapan ay naging bahagi ng aking karanasan.

Ito ang dahilan kung bakit sa murang edad pa lamang, sinabi ko sa sarili ko na hindi habambuhay ang paghihirap. Pinangako ko sa sarili ko na lahat ay gagawin ko upang umahon sa kahirapan. At kapag nabigyan ng pagkakataon, lahat din ay gagawin ko upang tulungan ang mga kapwa ko mahirap.

Sa kolehiyo, naging bahagi ako ng kilusang aktibismo noong dekada sisenta hanggang ideklara ang batas militar. Pinili kong maging human rights lawyer sa halip na maging abugado ng mga malalaking korporasyon. Ilang beses man akong hinuli at ikinulong, lagi akong bumabalik sa mga picket line, barikada at mga rali.

At nang mabigyan ako ng pagkakataon na pamunuan ang Makati ilang araw pa lamang matapos ang 1986 EDSA Revolution, tinanggap ko ito upang maging instrumento ng tunay na pagbabago ang pamahalaan. Pagbabago sa pamamahala, pagbabago sa paglilingkod, at pagbabago ng buhay ng mga mamamayan, lalo na ang mga mahihirap.

My friends,

We have lived for the last five years in a nation that brings back memories of Makati in 1986: a nation with two faces. That is the paradox of the Philippine economy. We are hailed as Asia’s economic darling, but over 11 million Filipinos live in abject poverty.

Our agricultural lands offer bountiful harvests, yet three million Filipinos went hungry in the third quarter of the year, with Mindanao having the most cases of reported hunger at 21.7 percent.

The Aquino Administration promised at the start to lift the lives of the poor by ending corruption.

After almost six years, we have more poor and hungry Filipinos, we have more Filipinos looking for work, we have an anti-corruption campaign successful only in its selectiveness.

The present administration should not claim sole credit for the growth in the past few years given the growth momentum and trajectory since the 1990s.

More than the rhetorical daang matuwid, reforms done by previous administrations and favorable externalities were credited by independent analysts as critical in promoting growth. The country’s growth could in fact have been more robust if the economic management were better.

The key to understanding the paradox afflicting our economy is ineffective, incompetent government.

We all know the handicaps we need to spur internally generated growth.

Being an archipelagic country, we need to evolve an efficient logistics system so that island economies are not stranded from the mainstream. We need a comprehensive national transport system, including modern ports, airports and rail systems to move products cheaply and disperse economic activity. We need a more modern road system delivering farm produce to the markets more efficiently.

Five years ago, the Aquino Administration unveiled a private-public partnership or PPP program as its centerpiece policy. This program has now become the epicenter of its failure.

Most of the infrastructure projects under PPP remain on the drawing boards. Those that have been bid out suffer from inexplicable delays. And just recently, a major investor backed out of a PPP undertaking because of the inexplicable delays in the processing of documents.

This administration will bow out of office with only one project completed: a four-kilometer link road it called expressway obviously built to serve the property developments of those who constructed it.

We have an administration that began with good intentions but has now become an instrument for harassing investors and citizens.

Lilinawin ko lang, hindi si Jojo Binay ang nagsabi na laganap ang harassment ng Customs, B.I.R, pulis at ibang government agencies. Ang nagsabi niyan ay ang kandidato ng Liberal Party mismo. Salamat naman at kahit papaano, tinanggap nya ang katotohanan.

When even the ruling party candidate admits that the present administration has failed to protect its people from abuse and coercion, we must then take the logical conclusion: we do not need six more years of an abusive, inept and uncaring administration.

What differentiates a Binay presidency from the present one?

Our program of government has three basic thrusts.

First, a healthy economy or economic dynamism that would create many jobs and opportunities for our people.

Second, social inclusion or expanded social services.

And third, a change in leadership and in the structures hindering the rapid development of the Philippines.

Allow me to briefly retell the Makati story: Makati today is a far cry from the start of 1986: the municipal treasury under the previous administration was bankrupt, with total debts and obligations of P200 million against an income of P190 million.

Back then, Makati had old and worn-down infrastructures, unpaved roads, dilapidated public school buildings and teaching facilities, and inadequate health facilities. It was already the financial center, home to the country’s rich and powerful. Yet many families hardly ate meals three times a day and unemployment was a problem. And government services were at the level of a fourth class and even fifth class municipality.

I immediately imposed fiscal discipline, streamlined revenue collection, purged the payroll of almost 3,000 ghost employees, and cancelled contracts that were disadvantageous to the local government.

One of the first things I did was to call Makati’s business leaders to a meeting, where I told them that the municipal government was bankrupt. In the interest of transparency, I even allowed them to examine our balance sheets.  After that sobering briefing, I laid down my plans to improve Makati’s financial standing and services, and asked them to help the local government by paying the proper taxes. 

Assuring them that my administration will not compete with business, I asked them to take care of business, and I will take care of governance.

Since then, Makati’s revenues have increased annually, without once incurring a deficit.  Despite the ups and downs of the Philippine economy, Makati has achieved a degree of stability in its revenues. When I left Makati in 2010, it had total budget of eleven billion pesos.

And because of our stable revenue base and the reforms we have introduced to make the bureaucracy more efficient and more responsive, the city government has been able provide its residents with a quality of life previously enjoyed only by Makati’s privileged few.

When I first assumed office, I recognized four major development challenges facing Makati, namely:

1. The big disparity between the rich and the poor;

2. The increasing population coupled with urban growth;

3. The growing number of labor force; and

4. The need to modernize basic services and facilities.

With the help of various stakeholders from the private and public sectors, the local government in 1988 crafted a development agenda constituting a comprehensive, long-term planning framework which we summed up in one word: ARISE, an acronym for Action on Revenue, Infrastructure, and Services, it became our rallying point for Makati’s remarkable transformation in the past two decades.

But the more important question that I know you want to ask is how did we perform in addressing poverty. Let me cite data from the Philippine Statistics Authority:

In 2009, the poverty rate in Makati stood at 1.6 percent. In 2012, we further reduced it to 0.05 percent.

Administering the country’s premier city strengthened my conviction that poverty can be reduced, and real inclusive growth is attainable under a capable and experienced manager and administrator who understands the poor and can craft the right social and economic policies and can implement these policies.

Our people’s most urgent need at this time is for effective and experienced leadership and an enabling, compassionate government.

The first task of the next government is to bring tax relief to our people by revising the tax rates to account for inflation, something the Aquino Administration has flatly rejected.

This will restore purchasing power to the working class and expand demand in the local economy. This will reduce pressure for raising wages that will make the entire economy uncompetitive.

The corporate tax rate should likewise be reduced to be at par with the rest of the region. This, by far, will serve as the best incentive for investments in our economy.  The increased investments will offset the initial loss in revenue. Both the adjustment in individual tax rates and reduction of excessive corporate tax rates will not amount to half the potential revenues lost to rampant smuggling and a mere pittance to over P500 billion underspent funds idly stacked in state coffers.

As I mentioned earlier, the next government should attend to rapidly upgrading our infrastructure. This will increase the competitiveness of Filipino businesses. It will ease the traffic congestion that wastes billions in economic potential each day. It will revive our exports. It will resurrect our agriculture. It will create more jobs and disperse economic activity.

We cannot improve on the hardware without improving on the software. It is society’s responsibility to invest in the next generation. Public investment on education is the best guarantee of sustainable prosperity in the long future. This ought to be supplemented by modernizing education policies that will induce investments in training, education and teachers. The more flexible we are, the more quickly our whole educational system will adjust to modern realities.

I have expressed many times before my openness to constitutional renovation, at least on the matter of removing barriers to investment. We cannot possibly build a new economy on a constitutional framework that enshrines old economic dogma.

We might as well explore reorganizing governance, including enhanced decentralization and greater share of Internal Revenue Allotment or IRA to poor 4th and 5th class municipalities. The more decentralized decision-making is, the more responsive it will be. The more empowered local government units are, the more accountable they become. Presidents may no longer behave like emperors, impervious to the views of the grassroots.

My friends, my long experience as a local executive has taught me the importance of continuity, predictability, and sustainability.

For reforms to truly benefit our people, we need to identify policies and programs that should be continued but will be further improved on.

Hindi dapat itinitigil agad ang mga programa dahil lamang ito ay sinimulan ng dating administrasyon. Dapat pag-aralan, at tingnan kung ano ang maaari pang ipagpatuloy at ayusin.

For example, my presidency will continue to implement the public-private partnership or PPP program. This is but a continuation of the government and private sector partnerships we started in Makati, notably at the university of Makati. These partnerships have moved the local economy forward and provided jobs for Makati residents, which should be the end goal of such partnerships.

These delays have resulted in underspending on infrastructure, although we know that underspending has also been done deliberately to give the administration more funds to use during this election season. Inipit ang paglalabas ng pondo para pakawalan naman ito ngayong malapit na ang eleksyon.

So many reason and excuses have been offered to justify underspending and delayed spending. But for me, underspending is simply underperformance. Delayed spending is delayed service. Sa piso na hindi nailabas sa tamang oras ng Department of Health ay may isang mahirap na namamatay. Ang bawat pisong hindi nailalabas ay pagpigil sa pag-asenso ng ating mga kababayan.

We will continue and improve the Conditional Cash Transfer or CCT program or 4Ps. But we will ensure better targeting of beneficiaries. Yung dapat lamang makakuha ng CCT ang dapat isama sa programa. There are still leakages in the program and this has to be addressed decisively.

Kasabay nito, dapat ding taasan ang budget para sa health care at education. A CCT beneficiary is required to undergo regular checkups at health centers and for their children to regularly go to school as a requirement for continued membership.

Yet out health centers do not have enough facilities and medicine. And most of our public schools lack educational materials, even the most basic utilities like water and electricity. Para bang ang pagpunta sa health center at pagpasok sa eskwela ay pang-attendance lamang, dahil hindi naman talaga natutugunan ang pangangangailan ng mga mahirap nating kababayn dahil kulang ang budget ng pamahalaan.

Sabi mismo ng Commission on Audit, inefficient ang distribution ng DSWD. Dapat ayusin ito.

In its 2014 report, COA said that only P13.725 billion of P15.323 billion in 4Ps deposited at land bank for over the counter payments was disbursed. This means P1.598 billion did not reach beneficiaries.

The same COA 2014 report noted ‘recurring deficiencies in the program: inaccuracies in the list of beneficiaries, distribution gridlocks, non-receipt or underpayments, and non-compliance with requirements.

Ang CCT o 4Ps program ay nagsimula sa panahon pa ng arroyo administration. Pagkaraan ng walong taon, dapat naayos na ang sistema. Sayang ang pera, at hindi nakikinabang ang dapat makinabang.

Ngunit hindi dapat tingnan ang CCT or 4Ps na ito lamang ang solusyon sa kahirapan. Ang long-term solution, mabigyan ng trabaho ang ating mga kababayan.

Saang sectors manggagaling ang trabaho?

Mula sa limang sektor:

1. Agriculture, fisheries and forestry;

2. Manufacturing;

3. Exports, particularly business process outsourcing (BPO);

4. Tourism; and

5. Small-scale industries.

As I have said many times before, we need to amend the economic provisions of the constitution. By doing so, we will open up the economy to more foreign participation.

The formula is simple: more foreign direct investments or FDIs equals more jobs and livelihood opportunities for Filipinos.

Economic growth should be investment-driven rather than consumption-driven, as it has been for the last five years.

We need more foreign direct investments, especially in the five sectors I mentioned. Our FDI level is still behind the rest of our ASEAN neighbors:

In 2014, Singapore’s FDI was $67 billion; Indonesia, $25.7 billion; Thailand $11.8 billion; and Malaysia, $10.5 billion. The Philippines was way below with $6.2 billion.

I have been asked in one forum, what can the country expect from a Binay presidency?

Let me make this clear: I do not just plan or promise, I get things done.

As the former city mayor of Makati, I have always upheld the belief that it is the government’s responsibility to take care of the poor who don’t normally benefit from economic growth.

And through the social programs implemented by Makati, we were able to ensure that the poor citizens of Makati shared in the fruits of the city’s progress.

Can we implement a similar program nationwide? Yes, we can, with political will, proven experience, a willingness to listen and engage all sectors, and a genuine concern for the poor.

Mindanao agenda  

What role will Mindanao play in our push for real inclusive growth?

Let me begin with these statistics, which I know you are all familiar with:

According to the social weather stations September 2015 survey: Mindanao’s poverty incidence remained at 70 percent, unchanged since June.

Five of the 10 poorest provinces (from 20016-2012) are in Mindanao. Two of these, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, are in the ARMM.

Majority of Mindanao’s population consists of subsistence farmers and landless laborers.

Mindanao’s unemployment rate[1] is 5.3 percent compared to Luzon’s 8.5 percent. But underemployment is higher in Mindanao at 21 percent compared to Luzon’s 18 percent.

Mindanao’s formal sector is small and skewed towards the Davao region at 15 percent and northern Mindanao at 25 percent.

Manufacturing is very small; agriculture, despite being the dominant sector, is the least productive.

And Mindanao is beset by a major power supply problem.

Mindanao’s power supply is lower than demand, which affects long-term productivity and business viability. As of November 23, the Mindanao grid had a capacity of 1,157 megawatts, which is 212 megawatts short of the peak demand at 1,360 megawatts.

Mindanao is projected to require at least 500 MW of new capacity by 2016, another 500 MW by 2020, and 1,600 MW by 2030.

At present, Mindanao relies on two government-run hydropower plants for 50 percent of its supply. The threat of el niño puts Mindanao’s energy supply at risk.

New coal-fired plants are expected to come after 2015 but officials say that as supply improves, Mindanao also needs to brace for rate increases.

What steps will a Binay presidency take to alleviate poverty in Mindanao?

We will start by allocation higher share of the internal revenue allotment or IRA for poorer municipalities.

At present, the 34 percent shared by close to 1,500 municipalities is not sufficient to finance economic activities and social services in the countryside, especially municipalities that are IRA-dependent.

We shall endeavour to give the poorer 3rd to 5th class municipalities a bigger share of the IRA.

We will also create a business environment that will attract investors in agriculture and manufacturing.

These sectors absorb low-skilled and less-educated workers.

We will promote cacao, coffee, and coconut, since these crops give Mindanao a competitive advantage.

We will undertake an aggressive expansion of rural infrastructure and improvement of supply chain and logistics.

We will invest more in social services.

According to the World Bank an additional P350 billion is needed in the next 3 years in Mindanao for investments in health, infrastructure, and education to bring it within the upper middle class category of the Southeast Asian region.

We will accelerate infrastructure development.

Under DPWH’s proposed P202 billion budget for 2016, P97 billion or 48 percent is allocated for Mindanao.

A Binay presidency will continue investing more in Mindanao and ensure that it benefits from the 5 percent or more of GDP allocated for infrastructure spending alone.

More infrastructure projects mean more construction jobs, more economic activities, and more investors coming in as infrastructure projects get completed.

But it is also important that we get more investors to do business in Mindanao, particularly in power.

My administration will cut down the bureaucratic inefficiencies that delay the construction of new power plants.

It currently requires 160 signatures gathered over 2 years before a new power plant is approved.

We will streamline the application process for new power plants to ramp up Mindanao’s power supply.

We will also decentralize the issuance of permits.

At the moment, businesses in Mindanao are having a hard time getting permits due to centralized regulations.

Mining permits from the DENR have been devolved but regional directors cannot approve a permit without clearance from Manila.

Import commodity clearance has been devolved to Department of Trade and Industry local offices but it still needs the signature from the head office in Manila.

The centralized system makes it harder and more costly to do business in Mindanao, or anywhere outside the capital.

Lastly, let me emphasize my commitment to lasting peace in Mindanao.

We need a peace agreement that would address the concerns of all groups and stakeholders, whether Muslim, Lumad, or Christian.

I support an agreement that is within the bounds of our constitution and national sovereignty.

But peace and development need not be put on hold while congress deliberates the BBL.

My presidency will continue to work with our development partners — the Asian Development Bank, AUSAID, JICA, among others — in implementing various projects, institutional development and capacity-building to improve the welfare of Filipinos in Mindanao.

I have been asked to talk briefly about foreign relations.

I am a firm believer of diplomacy and dialogue.

We will pursue our claim on the Spratlys before the appropriate international forums. Philippine sovereignty is non-negotiable.

But this should not preclude us from exploring and expanding our ties with china in trade and investments. 

Before I close, allow me to say that unlike some other candidates who come from propertied families and studied in exclusive schools here and abroad, I came from the ranks of the poor and overcame my poverty though hard work, a degree of luck and perseverance.

I understood, from my childhood, how hard it is to make a living in a hostile economic environment. I appreciated the value of education in raising life expectations. I understood quite well how a society that rewards merit rather than birthright opens opportunities for those who work hard and cultivate talents.

My values are shaped by my own experiences.

The rule of law is the best guarantee the poor will receive equal protection. This is in stark contrast to the whimsical rule by law that misuses laws and manipulates state agencies to persecute political adversaries while protecting cronies. This is why I chose to become a lawyer and why I have struggled for human rights especially during the most trying times of Philippine democracy.

I believe that government can only be responsive if citizens are empowered in the political sphere. If ordinary citizens are not assertive, is the natural tendency of government to be callous. If the poor are not empowered, the oligarchy will persist.

The best society is where empowered citizens reasonably expect to be rewarded for merit.

A just society is a society of hardworking, self-made citizens. That is the anti-thesis of the insensitive and incompetent oligarchy our people now endure.

These are values I hold dear. These are values that, I believe, distinguish me from my rivals.

These values will define my presidency, the same values that will liberate our nation.

Para matugunan ang kahirapan, gutom at kawalan ng trabaho, kailangan natin ng pamunuan na may kakayanan, handang maglingkod, at naiintindihan ang problema ng mahihirap.

As a management guru once said, “A plan without action is a dream, but actions without a plan is a waste of time.”

I have the executive ability to manage and administer. I have shown competence in the jobs that were assigned to me. And I am compassionate to our people especially the poor. I walk the talk, i make things happen, and I hit the ground running.

Maraming salamat po.

Daghang salamat sa inyong pagpaminaw.

Source: Institute for Autonomy and Governance

[1]World Bank: unemployment in Mindanao is low because people are too poor they cannot afford to be without work, but underemployment is high.

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