Monday, March 30, 2015

Defining the “creation” – the Philippines – we want

Is it time we think beyond family and of the community? I'm writing this while staying at my daughter's extra room in their SoHo apartment, which she offered since my wife had to extend her stay in Manila. Which means instead of a 45-minute train ride I have a 20-minute subway ride to my client in Midtown. It's all about family; and at home she with her husband still keeps “her bedroom.” And some time ago, they offered our pied-à-terre to a friend that badly needed a place in Manhattan.

Where are we as a nation? We must first define the Philippines that we want – because the future is in our hands but we have to create that future? And we must acknowledge the ambivalence in our traits and values to appreciate why we have been conflicted? And such ambivalence robs us of focus and commitment that successful undertakings represent, like running a tight ship – as opposed to a floundering ship?

There’s a news item that we can only welcome because we are urged to “formulate a long-term strategic plan for the country that transcends administrations to ensure continued development in the country despite changes in leaderships.” [Strategic plan that transcends administrations pushed, Bernie Magkilat, Manila Bulletin, 22nd Mar 2015]

Defining the creation we want? In military parlance it is defining the “hill” – i.e., how they would take down a target and return to base to celebrate, for example. The hill is defined not in a limited sense. It is similar to sustainable development that encompasses an ecosystem – i.e., imagine, visualize and think 360 degrees. In nation-building it is defining a people's belief like the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. In an enterprise it is defining the object of the enterprise itself. And in a product it is defining its reason for being. In other words, what is the overarching goal or vision?

We get the drift? Because anyone can put together the words to best describe the creation they want. More to the point, we Pinoys must first know where we are going if we'd like to ever get there? And because misery loves company, the human tendency is to turn around and be critical of others. But winners behave differently, they benchmark. Because there is no perfect creation the key is to pick and choose best practices demonstrated by others.

If we are to look beyond family we have to learn to look outward not inward, and stop being parochial. As importantly, we have to be more demanding and less forgiving? “If you have so much patience you can withstand anything but it’s easy for your officials to say, our people are okay, it doesn’t really matter, we can take our time. The patience of Filipinos can be exploited. I don’t want them to be more impatient, however. I’d like them to be more demanding and less forgiving.” [The Ambassador who speaks Filipino, ASIF AHMAD Ambassador, United Kingdom, Bernie Magkilat, Manila Bulletin, 22nd Mar 2015]

“This all becomes more vital in light of the launch of the Asean Economic Community at the end of December this year. From a partisan politics perspective, the President and his men should also pay attention to these things. But they seem to have their priorities all messed up. They don’t seem to realize they have very little time left – assuming that Aquino is not forced to step down soon by an unexpected event as horrible as Mamasapano – to post some visible achievements and lay the socioeconomic groundwork for the next administration.” [Mr. Balisacan points out the real ‘straight path,’ The Manila Times, 21st Mar 2015]

Why can’t we get our priorities right? Try crab mentality? And does it come back to our inward-looking parochial bias that we like to claim is a positive because it’s premised on family? What about community and the common good?

“FOR all of de facto President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd’s pontificating about the ‘straight path,’ he has certainly failed to recognize the one that the country’s top economic planner has been pointing out all along. In a recent press briefing, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Arsenio M. Balisacan spelled out in rather frank terms the key obstacles to business expansion in the Philippines. Noting that the level of actual business growth trailed the apparent level of enthusiasm of domestic and foreign businesses about the Philippines’ economic prospects, Balisacan said that there was ‘a pressing need to address infrastructure bottlenecks, port congestion and power woes.’”[ibid.]

And why can’t we be on the same page? Take these two news reports talking about the same topic: (a) “DOF welcomes EO on coco levy funds,” Chino Leyco, Manila Bulletin, 21st Mar 2015; and (b) “Farmer groups hit Coco Levy Fund EOs,” Ding Cervantes, The Philippine Star, 21st Mar 2015.

Is it good or bad news? “The Department of Finance (DOF) has welcomed the issuance of an executive order governing the inventory, transfer, reconveyance and disposition of coco levy funds and coco levy assets. Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima, said President Aquino’s decision to issue Executive Order No. 179 will pave the way for the government to put an end to a long-standing issue for many of coconut farmers . . . President has signed EO 179 providing the guidelines that will govern the inventory, transfer, reconveyance and disposition of coco levy funds and coco levy assets.” [ibid]

That sounds like good news, yet: “[T]he small coconut farmers’ long demand is for the government to return the coco levy money and assets to its legitimate owners and not to privatize and sell these fund and assets for the benefit of big businesses in the coco industry and Aquino’s self-interest.” [ibid]

Does it remind us of the land reform program? Those behind it assumed it was good yet many years later we are still debating whether it was good or not? Have we defined “the hill”? What about defining sustainable development or an ecosystem or nation building? What about the object of the enterprise or the product’s reason for being? In other words, what is the overarching goal or vision?

Singapore isn't perfect yet is a good benchmark. “In his book "From Third World to First," Lee shared lessons on development, diplomacy, policy-making, history, culture and domestic affairs.” [15 things Lee Kuan Yew said about the Philippines, Camille Diola,, 23rd Mar 2015] And it appears the world can't get enough of Lee.

Can we define the Philippines that we want – and run a tight ship as opposed to a floundering ship?

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