With all the negative noise being created by critics of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and his government – much of it from the Western media and more than enough of it from local media – it’s easy to lose sight of the positive changes taking place across the Philippines. And there are many.
Below, is a snapshot of just 50 of them. What they show is that the Philippines is not in some eternal night of the Goths, as many would have the world believe. These developments improve, in some way, the daily lives of millions of people.
The government’s socio-economic plan, designed to provide a fair and equitable society, address the problems of poverty and boost the middle class, is being put into action. This involves a major shake-up of the public sector and the introduction of a new work culture by which public employees – from immigration officers to municipal clerks – serve the people, rather than exploit or harass them as has hitherto been the practice.
At the same time, real progress is being made to create a safe and stable environment – not just for Filipinos but also for those who want to do business there. This cannot be faithfully delivered if the deeply entrenched problems of illegal drugs, crime and insurgency are not first tackled head on. For the same reason, corruption, monopolies and other protectionist practices in the corporate arena are also being dealt with. This battle will be stepped up in due course.
In effect, what Duterte and his colleagues are engaged in here is a programme of national reconstruction. Their intention is to do away with the stubborn remnants of a feudal system that dates back to Spanish colonisation and usher in a modern era.
A vibrant economy cannot be delivered, however, while between 3 and 4 million people are using crystal meth; while illegal-drug lords seek to turn the Philippines into another Colombian cash cow; while terror fanatics are left to hold, not just individuals, but the economy, its tourism, and the country’s image to ransom; while oligarchs and influential clans treat Philippine commerce as their own private fiefdom; while economic disparity is allowed to exist as if its just some fact of life; while civil servants treat departments of government like their own private businesses; while corruption and waste continue to permeate the public sector, rewarding indolence and cheating and hobbling all hopes of efficiency and transparency.
These are all big items, but there is no question that Duterte and his team are fully committed to these efforts. And they’re not wasting any time. The contents of this snapshot have been achieved in less than 90 days.
Drugs War: 1. Some 700,000 illegal-drug workers and addicts have surrendered. 2. Drugs worth billions of dollars seized. 3. Drug labs dismantled across the country. 4. Crackdown of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) natcotics trade. 5. Private sector pledges cash for drug-rehabilitation centres. 6. Drugs-war effort, Oplan Tokhang (approach and talk), launched in gated communities.
Employment related: 7. Companies told to end contractualisation. 8. Age-limit requirements for jobs stopped. 9. Employment rate rises.
Increased transparency/efficiency: 10. Signing of Freedom of Information Act. 11. Corrupt government, military, police and corporate officials publicly named. 12. Installation of CCTV across Customs Department facilities. 13. Services by government agencies speeded up; respect for the public improved. 14. Centralised complaint and action hotlines (911 and 8888) introduced.
Land/rural workers: 15. Long-overdue distribution of Hacienda Luisita land to local farmers. 16. Agricultural equipment, purchased by previous government, finally distributed. 17. Provisions of irrigation projects for farmers/boats for fishermen started nationwide. 18. Removal of fishing fences in Manila Bay to help small fishermen’s livelihoods. 19. Gates to Department of Agrarian Reform in Quezon City removed after 18 years of preventing farmers’ access. 20. Shutdown/closure of environment-damaging mining companies.
Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs): 21. Overseas Employment Certificate exemption for OFWs returning to same employer. 22. Immediate repatriation of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia. 23. First one-stop-shop for OFWs at Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. 24. Balikbayan boxes (overseas packages) no longer mishandled and stolen from.
Peace/ law and order: 25. Indefinite ceasefire with Muslim groups (MNLF, MILF) and communist groups (CPP, NDF). 26. Government peace talks with Muslim and communist groups held in Norway. 27. Mindanao peace process resumed in Malaysia. 28. Bilateral talks with China over disputed sea territories. 29. Relations with Indonesia put back on track. 30. Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police replaces ineffective Bureau of Correction guards at NBP. 31. Drop in the number of street crimes. 32. Curfew hours imposed for minors.
Servicemen/police: 33. Proposed salary increase for servicemen. 34. Proposed state-of-the-art hospital for servicemen. 35. Benefit claims by families of fallen servicemen speeded up. 36. Pay rates for members of the Philippine National Police raised.
Taxation: 37. Crackdown on tax evaders. 38. Tax-avoiding online gambling stopped. 39. Standard 10% income tax rate to be introduced.
Travel: 40. Dept. of Foreign Affairs speeds-up passport processing. 41. Passport validity extended to 10 years. 42. Removal of processing fee for travel-tax exemptions. 43. Tanim bala (planting bullets in airport luggage) stopped once Duterte took office. 44. New Manila airport buses to major hubs in nearby cities. 45. VIP treatment at airports for government officials ended. 46. Improvements to MRT/LRT services.
Welfare/assistance: 47. Twelve government agencies to focus on poverty, centralised under Cabinet Secretary, Leoncio Evasco Jr. 48. Social Security System pension raised by PHP2,000. 49. One sack of rice added to government “4Ps” poverty-alleviation programme. 50. Increased allowances for Olympic delegates.
There is a long way to go and the current administration is the first to admit it. But the government is also pledged to see this work through – with of without the consent and approval of CNN, CNBC, the BBC and their fraternity. After all, this is not their country; irrespective of the outcome, their lives will not be affected. The lives of the Filipino people, however, will and that’s what is driving this government to cure the ills of the past. And for investors, that knowledge should be very reassuring. Certainly one thing they already know is that the success of their investment portfolios is of no interest to CNN, CNBC, the BBC and their fraternity.