|VP Jejomar Binay with Sen. Gringo Honasan and ex-Sen. Migs Zubiri
DAVAO CITY (via PhilAmPress) – Vice President Jejomar C. Binay has unveiled his agenda to develop Mindanao, with increased government spending for social services and infrastructure, a bigger share of national taxes for local governments, and bringing more foreign investors in agriculture and power.
In a speech at the Kusog Mindanaw’s Presidential Forum in Davao City, Binay noted that five of the 10 poorest provinces are in Mindanao, including Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao which are both in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Binay also cited the Social Weather Stations September 2015 survey indicating that Mindanao’s poverty incidence remained at 70 percent, unchanged since June.
To alleviate poverty in Mindanao, he said his administration will start by allocating higher share of the internal revenue allotment (IRA) for poor municipalities.
“We shall endeavor to give the poorer 3rd to 5th class municipalities a bigger share of the IRA,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Binay also said his administration will strive to create a business environment that will attract investors in agriculture and manufacturing, and generate more jobs in these sectors.
“These sectors absorb low-skilled and less-educated workers,” he said, noting that majority of Mindanaoans are subsistence farmers and landless laborers.
According to the World Bank, Mindanao’s unemployment rate 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 also small and skewed towards the Davao region at 15 percent and Northern Mindanao at 25 percent.
Moreover, manufacturing is very small and agriculture, despite being the dominant sector, is the least productive.
“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,” Binay said.
The Vice President also vowed to invest more in social services under his presidency.
He cited a World Bank report that an additional P350 billion is needed in the next three years in Mindanao for investments in health, infrastructure, and education to bring it within the upper middle class category of the Southeast Asian region.
Aside from increased social services, Binay said his administration will push for infrastructure development in Mindanao to attract investors.
“A Binay presidency will continue investing more in Mindanao and ensure that it benefits from the 5% or more of GDP [gross domestic product] allocated for infrastructure spending alone,” Binay said.
“More infrastructure projects mean more construction jobs, more economic activities, and more investors coming in as infrastructure projects get completed,” he added.
Binay noted the importance of getting more investors in the power sector and vowed to streamline the application process for the construction of power plants.
“My administration will cut down the bureaucratic inefficiencies that delay the construction of new power plants. It currently requires 160 signatures gathered over two years before a new power plant is approved,” he said.
“We will streamline the application process for new power plants to ramp-up Mindanao’s power supply,” he added.
Binay mentioned that Mindanao’s power supply is lower than demand, which affects long-term productivity and business viability.
He said that 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 Nino puts Mindanao’s energy supply at risk, he added.
He also noted that while new coal-fired plants are expected to come after 2015, officials say that as supply improves, Mindanao also needs to brace for rate increases.
To further improve Mindanao’s business environment, Binay said his administration will 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 [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] have been devolved but regional directors cannot approve a permit without clearance from Manila,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Binay said he is open to “constitutional renovation,” especially on matters that bar investments in the country.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Binay also expressed his support to an agreement that promotes peace in Mindanao as long as it is within the bounds of the Constitution.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he added.
“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,” he further said.
Meanwhile, Binay reiterated that competence and compassion in a leader are keys to fighting poverty and achieving inclusive growth.
“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,” Binay said.
“Para matugunan ang kahirapan, gutom at kawalan ng trabaho, kailangan natin ng pamunuan na may kakayanan, handang maglingkod, at naiintindihan ang problema ng mahihirap,” he added.
Binay likened the last five years of the Philippines to Makati in 1986 and called it “a nation with two faces.”
“We are hailed as Asia’s economic darling, but over 11 million Filipinos live in abject poverty,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Binay also took a shot at the administration’s anti-corruption campaign for being selective and said the government had been remiss in finding ways to improve the lives of the poor.
“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. We have an administration that began with good intentions but has now become an instrument for harassing investors and citizens,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Nonetheless, Binay said there are programs in the current and past administrations worthy to be continued and further improved.
“My long experience as a local executive has taught me the importance of continuity, predictability, and sustainability,” he said.
” 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,” he added.
For one, he said the Binay administration will continue the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program and make it more efficient.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Binay said he will also “continue and improve” the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) or 4Ps program by making sure that the funds are given on time to the proper beneficiaries.
“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,” Binay said.
He noted that even the Commission on Audit reported that the Department of Social Welfare and Development has been inefficient in the distribution of the 4Ps funds.
“Sabi mismo ng Commission on Audit, inefficient ang distribution ng DSWD. Dapat ayusin ito,” Binay said.
According to a 2014 Commission on Audit report, only P13.725 billion of P15.323 billion in 4Ps deposited at Landbank for over the counter payments was disbursed.
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,” he said.
In addition to this, Binay said he will increase the budget for health care and education to make sure that the needs of the beneficiaries are properly met.
“A CCT beneficiary is required to undergo regular check-ups at health centers and for their children to regularly go to school as a requirement for continued membership. Yet our 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,” he said.
“Para bang ang pagpunta sa health center at pagpasok sa eskwela ay pang-attendance lamang, dahil hindi naman talaga natutugunan ang pangangailangan ng mga mahirap nating kababayan dahil kulang ang budget ng pamahalaan,” he added.
To help with job creation, Binay said he will push for the amendment of the economic provisions of the constitution to open up the economy to more foreign investments.
Binay said his administration will strive to attract more foreign direct investments (FDIs) in the five job-generating sectors, including agriculture, fisheries and forestry; manufacturing; exports, particularly business process outsourcing (BPO); tourism; and small-scale industries.
“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,” he said.
Binay stressed that it is the government’s responsibility to take care of the poor, who don’t normally benefit from economic growth.
He said he was able to do this when he was still mayor of Makati.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he added.