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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary)

FROM MALAYA

BY REY ARCILLA: COMFORT WOMEN


JANUARY 8 -By Rey O. Arcilla
THE Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman expressed condolences to the family of OFW Joselito Zapanta who was recently executed by the Saudi Arabian government for murder and robbery. I find it strange that Foreign Secretary Albert “Super Amboy aka Giant Smiley” del Rosario did not deem it fit to make the statement himself. When he assumed his post some five years ago, he hit the ground running (on one occasion literally, according to a couple of witnesses) by rushing to the Middle East a number of times to oversee the evacuation of OFWs, Vice President Jejomar Binay whose office worked closely with Del Rosario’s DFA in trying to save Zapanta expressed his sympathies to the latter’s family. If the Vice President of the Republic could do it, why not Del Rosario? Does he find it beneath him to sympathize with the family of a convicted felon? *** Stranger still, in my view, is the absence of a statement from Del Rosario or President Noynoy Aquino about the agreement struck between Japan and South Korea regarding the so-called “comfort women” sexually ravaged by Japanese soldiers during World War II. Japan offered a “heartfelt apology” and a payment of one billion yen ($8.3 million) to South Korean “comfort women”. The question now is what Japan will do about the women enslaved by her soldiers in the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Taiwan and possibly other countries occupied by her during the Second World War. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to his foreign minister, “extends his feeling of heartfelt apology and regret to all of those who as comfort women have suffered great pain, both mentally and physically, that is difficult to heal”. Will Abe express the same sentiment to the “comfort women” whose number is fast dwindling due to old age in countries concerned other than South Korea? Already, Taiwan’s president has called on Japan to apologize to and compensate Taiwanese wartime sex slaves after the Tokyo-Seoul agreement. What will Noynoy and his foreign secretary do? READ MORE...

ALSO: By Nestor Mata - A POMPOUS PRESIDENCY


JANUARY 7 -By NESTOR MATA
ALL throughout his pompous presidency that ends on June 30th, President Noynoy Aquino has blamed his predecessors and political foes for his innumerable blunders and failures since 2010. Why, when the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), otherwise known as the presidential pork barrel fund, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, Aquino blamed even his friend and eminence grise, Secretary Florencio (Butch) Abad. “If Aquino was not being a fault-finder,” as one critic bluntly put it, “he was sarcastic, when he should have been compassionate” as in the case of the families of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) police commandos who were massacred in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, by Muslim terrorists. He was quoted as having told them, “Patas na tayo (Now we’re even), obviously alluding to the death of his father Senator Ninoy Aquino, supposedly by forces loyal to then President Ferdinand E. Marcos at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport in 1983. Finally, at the annual commemoration of Rizal Day last December 30, Aquino called on all Filipinos “to reflect on the sacrifice of Dr. Jose P. Rizal to free our country from the shackles of abuse and inequality.”  Yes, indeed, the Filipino people will soon be freed from the “shackles of abuse and inequality” that marked Aquino’s administration, known for its dumb lies and awful bloviations!  *** What does the Paris climate change agreement, otherwise called COP21 that was approved by 159 countries late last year, mean for Asia? First of all, the pact was “far from perfect, but it was more robust than many had anticipated in the run-up to COP21”, as reported by Nithin Coca, a writer on cultural, economic and environmental issues, in an article for The Diplomat magazine. In its preamble, the deal included a mention of human rights, a strong ambition mechanism, collective emissions reduction actions in 2018, followed by regular mechanism to ensure that the Internally Determined National Contributions (INDCs) each nation submitted prior to COP21 are scaled up over time. It also established that support for capacity building in developing countries --- crucial for much of Asia --- would launch in 2016, and enshrined transparency, a key demand of many developing countries. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - REVIEWING MAMASAPANO


JANUARY 8 -COURTESY OF MANILA STANDARD THE Senate is scheduled to reopen its investigative hearings on the Mamasapano massacre, one year to the day when one of the most heinous setbacks of the Philippine security forces occurred. The continuation of the probe is being done on the request of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who said he has new evidence to be presented and many other questions left unanswered, mainly because he was out of the Senate floor during much of the investigation. What makes this development opportune is the fact that a year has passed since the Mamasapano debacle where 44 top operatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) died, but the promised prosecution of alleged Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) suspects and others responsible for the carnage has not moved much. Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. pointed out that he wanted very much to hear new testimonies and statements from former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, now a candidate for senator. This is especially because De Lima had publicly promised in April or May last year that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in tandem with the Department of Justice (DOJ) will file charges to some 90 personalities, many of them from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to hold them responsible for the killings. As Marcos pointed out, it is already January, 2016 and De Lima has left the DOJ to pursue her candidacy, but not a single case has been filed. Malacañang, through spokesman Edwin Lacierda, had tried to downplay the reopening of the probe, noting that officials of the PNP and the Executive Department had already appeared before the Senate panel and their testimonies are now part of the records, and that they have nothing more to say. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - AWFUL, DANGEROUS, INDECENT


JANUARY 6 -CONGRESS, that genetic pool of the country’s political dynasties, have been known to regurgitate some considerably weird ideas from time to time. It should not come as a major surprise therefore that one of its members has proposed to make a special provision in Republic Act No. 3019, better known by crooks in government as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, to penalize government auditors. According to the congressman-author’s explanatory note, corruption only happens because resident auditors in government agencies allowed it. As if the previous statement is not awful enough, the lawmaker went on to say that any intelligent person would readily see that corruption in public offices would be impossible if auditors would only be faithful to their job. How the honorable legislator came up with such a contorted reasoning is quite beyond an ordinary Filipino’s grasp, particularly when one considers that the rule in effect when it comes to government transactions is post-audit. This means wickedness, avarice, and villainy all have already been at play on a government project even before the Commission on Audit’s bean-counters stepped in. Indeed, the bill’s author was correct in declaiming that corruption should be blamed for depriving our less-fortunate countrymen of what is due them under various social programs of the government. How he ended up assigning the fault to resident auditors, however, defies understanding. That is not to say auditors are saints. Far be it from us to claim that all 4,000 men and women poring over government transactions all year long are incapable of doing wrong or of resisting temptations. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Benjamin Diokno - HOW DO WE ACHIEVE A HIGHER, SUSTAINABLE GROWTH?


JANUARY 11 -By BENJAMIN DIOKNO
It would seem that the Philippines’ economic growth is losing steam. While it can sustain a growth rate of between 5.5 to 6.0%, such level and pattern of growth cannot bring us to industrialized world status in the next twenty years, nor can it bridge the widening gap between the rich and the poor. In brief, the policymakers’ promise of first-world status by 2030 is just that – a promise. The current policy of economic muddling through, characterized by political temporizing, weak institutions, and ineffective bureaucracy will not bring us to the Promised Land. In 2015 and 2016, GDP growth will level off at 6.0 percent. GDP growth in 2015 would not be much different from the first-three–quarters’ growth of 5.6 percent. What little progress has been made on the government spending side will be offset by weak exports and the destruction of personal properties, farm outputs and public infrastructure by two damaging typhoons (Nona and Onyok) in late December 2015. Growth in 2016 would be similar to 2015. Except for election spending, there will be no new sources of growth, as the world economy remains gloomy. With GDP growth of 5.6 percent in 2015 and 6.0 percent in 2016, the Aquino administration would have grown by an average of 5.8 percent, one percent higher than the average growth of 4.8 percent in the previous ten years, 2011 to 2010. But remember that the Philippine economy almost hit recession in 2009 owing to the global Grand Recession, that pulled down the average for the decade. There are many challenges to a strong, sustained growth in Aquino’s final year. On the external front, the world economy is slowing and become more uncertain. The seriousness of the challenge will depend on whether China will have a hard or soft landing and whether the Fed’s move towards monetary normalization will be fast or gradual. A harder than expected China fall and a faster than expected rise in US interest rates would be more harmful to the global economy -- and indirectly on the Philippine economy. The collapse of world oil prices has caused fiscal and economic problems in oil-exporting countries. With falling revenues, these economies have to cut public spending, especially on public infrastructure. Saudi Arabia, squeezed by low oil prices post record $98 billion budget deficit for 2015. It is hard to imagine that these budget cuts won’t have an impact on Filipino overseas employment. The ongoing geo-political war is taking its toll on employment opportunities for Filipinos abroad. There are less overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) now not because the local jobs market is improving, as claimed by administration officials, but more because working in war-torn territories has become unbearable for many overseas Filipinos. With this trend, the rise in OFW remittances has begun to decelerate and will definitely affect overall household final consumption spending. On the domestic front, agricultural output will continue to be sluggish as El Nino drought lingers on until the second quarter of the year. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

COMFORT WOMEN


By Rey O. Arcilla

MANILA, JANUARY 11, 2016 (MALAYA) By Rey O. Arcilla January 08, 2016  - THE Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman expressed condolences to the family of OFW Joselito Zapanta who was recently executed by the Saudi Arabian government for murder and robbery.

I find it strange that Foreign Secretary Albert “Super Amboy aka Giant Smiley” del Rosario did not deem it fit to make the statement himself. When he assumed his post some five years ago, he hit the ground running (on one occasion literally, according to a couple of witnesses) by rushing to the Middle East a number of times to oversee the evacuation of OFWs,

Vice President Jejomar Binay whose office worked closely with Del Rosario’s DFA in trying to save Zapanta expressed his sympathies to the latter’s family.

If the Vice President of the Republic could do it, why not Del Rosario? Does he find it beneath him to sympathize with the family of a convicted felon?

***

Stranger still, in my view, is the absence of a statement from Del Rosario or President Noynoy Aquino about the agreement struck between Japan and South Korea regarding the so-called “comfort women” sexually ravaged by Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Japan offered a “heartfelt apology” and a payment of one billion yen ($8.3 million) to South Korean “comfort women”.

The question now is what Japan will do about the women enslaved by her soldiers in the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Taiwan and possibly other countries occupied by her during the Second World War.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to his foreign minister, “extends his feeling of heartfelt apology and regret to all of those who as comfort women have suffered great pain, both mentally and physically, that is difficult to heal”.

Will Abe express the same sentiment to the “comfort women” whose number is fast dwindling due to old age in countries concerned other than South Korea?

Already, Taiwan’s president has called on Japan to apologize to and compensate Taiwanese wartime sex slaves after the Tokyo-Seoul agreement.

What will Noynoy and his foreign secretary do?

READ MORE...

***

A little bird told me that two high-ranking DFA officials were removed from the first Philippine Delegation that went to The Hague to formally present the case we filed before the Permanent Court of Arbitration on our territorial dispute with China over parts of the West Philippine Sea.

When I asked what the reason was for the ouster of the two, the reply I got was that they had the courage, temerity if you will, to ask questions and express their views on the case. I find the reply plausible.

Not too long ago, another high-ranking DFA official was removed from the panel negotiating with the United States the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) reportedly for standing up for what he felt would serve the national interest best.

The prevailing atmosphere in the Department, according to many insiders, is that “if you are not with us, you are against us”. So, everybody just resorts to coasting along, not wishing to jeopardize his/her chances of getting a promotion or not being assigned abroad.

The atmosphere is made worse by the sycophants surrounding Del Rosario who are mostly retired DFA officers and whose sole interest is to stay in the service for as long as they can.

Consequently, none of them has had the courage to voice out their views on matters of policy.

And even administrative ones… A good example is that Del Rosario had pasted on one of the huge glass panels at the main entrance of the DFA building. Everyone, and I mean everyone, in the Department will tell you they don’t like it. Such a juvenile display is simply not fit or proper for a foreign office headquarters.

Yet, not one of them who are supposed to be professionals has had the courage to tell Del Rosario what s/he thinks.

Their reply to my needling – “Di bale na, sandali na lang naman.” Sad.

Insiders have also confirmed that this column is not among those that are allowed by his obsequious underlings to reach Del Rosario’s attention… Perhaps in their desire not to aggravate the severe back pain that insiders say constantly bothers him?

***

Last week, I wrote about the anomalous rental of 294 cars by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) under Teresita Deles questioned by the Commission on Audit (COA).

The COA also asked Deles why she did not return P662 million in Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds to the Treasury more than a year after the DAP was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

It appears there is another shenanigan that took place in OPAPP in 2014.

COA has just called for an investigation of possible forgeries in attendance sheets for conferences and meetings supposedly attended by OPAPP personnel in 2014.

COA reports that there are “disparities in signatures of same attendees on different attendance sheets and apparent similarity or resemblance of handwriting strokes by different claimants… In a number of attendance sheets, different names were printed but the handwriting/strokes were similar… There were several attendance sheets that included the same name but with different signatures.”

And Deles wants us to believe and trust her on the Bangsamoro Basic Law?! Naman!

***

From an internet friend:

A fifteen-year-old Amish boy and his father visited the city for the very first time. They wandered around, marveling at the different sights. Eventually they got to a mall. They were amazed by almost everything they saw, but they were especially amazed at two shiny, silver walls that could move apart and then slide back together again.

The boy asked, “What is this Father?” The father (never having seen an elevator) responded, “Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life, I don’t know what it is.”

While the boy and his father were watching with amazement, a fat middle- aged lady walked up to the moving walls and pressed a button. The walls opened, and the lady walked into a small room. The walls closed, and the boy and his father watched the small numbers above the walls light up sequentially.

They continued to watch until it reached the last number, and then the numbers began to light in the reverse order. Finally the walls opened up again and a gorgeous 24-year-old blond woman stepped out.

The father, not taking his eyes off the young woman, said quietly to his son... “Junior, go get your Mother.”


A POMPOUS PRESIDENCY By NESTOR MATA January 07, 2016


By NESTOR MATA

ALL throughout his pompous presidency that ends on June 30th, President Noynoy Aquino has blamed his predecessors and political foes for his innumerable blunders and failures since 2010.

Why, when the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), otherwise known as the presidential pork barrel fund, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, Aquino blamed even his friend and eminence grise, Secretary Florencio (Butch) Abad.

“If Aquino was not being a fault-finder,” as one critic bluntly put it, “he was sarcastic, when he should have been compassionate” as in the case of the families of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) police commandos who were massacred in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, by Muslim terrorists. He was quoted as having told them, “Patas na tayo (Now we’re even), obviously alluding to the death of his father Senator Ninoy Aquino, supposedly by forces loyal to then President Ferdinand E. Marcos at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport in 1983.

Finally, at the annual commemoration of Rizal Day last December 30, Aquino called on all Filipinos “to reflect on the sacrifice of Dr. Jose P. Rizal to free our country from the shackles of abuse and inequality.”

Yes, indeed, the Filipino people will soon be freed from the “shackles of abuse and inequality” that marked Aquino’s administration, known for its dumb lies and awful bloviations!

***

What does the Paris climate change agreement, otherwise called COP21 that was approved by 159 countries late last year, mean for Asia?

First of all, the pact was “far from perfect, but it was more robust than many had anticipated in the run-up to COP21”, as reported by Nithin Coca, a writer on cultural, economic and environmental issues, in an article for The Diplomat magazine.

In its preamble, the deal included a mention of human rights, a strong ambition mechanism, collective emissions reduction actions in 2018, followed by regular mechanism to ensure that the Internally Determined National Contributions (INDCs) each nation submitted prior to COP21 are scaled up over time. It also established that support for capacity building in developing countries --- crucial for much of Asia --- would launch in 2016, and enshrined transparency, a key demand of many developing countries.

READ MORE...

The past few years has seen the environment emerge as a serious issue across the Asian region. In China, it is air pollution that is forcing the government to take action, while in the Philippines, devastating typhoons and floods really made it clear what the highly vulnerable archipelago nation would have to deal with if climate change continued unabated. Moreover, for most Asian countries, cutting emissions sounded like a sure-fire way to slash future growth potential.

The climate change agreement is not perfect by any means, and one crucial weakness is the fact that emissions from shipping and aviation were not included in the deal. Singapore, which relies on trade for its economy and has one of the continent’s major shipping and aviation ports, was the main roadblock on this, Coco’s report went on. Moreover, there was little mention of land-use emissions, the same year that Indonesia’s unprecedented fires, which emitted massive carbon dioxide. The Paris agreement did not reflect all we asked for, according to Krishneil Narayan, coordinator for the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network. It was meant to be a progressive step in identifying new common grounds to address climate change together collectively through a new, universal agreement. And climatologists themselves are concerned that the agreement does not do enough in the short term.

They fear that, without drastic cuts now, we may emit enough GHG to get to 1.5 degrees in just five years.

In other words, what came out of Paris must now be acted upon, and fast. With nearly every nation on Earth having pledged to gradually reduce emissions of the heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet, much of the burden for maintaining the momentum shifts v]back to the counties to figure out, and carry out the concrete steps needed to deliver on their vows.

The mechanism and operation of the agreement now fall to the United Nations, which must figure out how to dispense funds from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and develop a fair system for carbon accounting. But emissions reductions actions are the responsibility of the nearly 200 member-states, meaning the ultimate success of the Paris agreement depends on Asia, responsible for the biggest proportion of global emissions.

Another crucial factor will be the robustness o the climate change finance mechanism, to be funded primarily by developed countries, and if technology transfer allows for the rapid expansion of clean energy. This was the center point of French President Francois Hollande’s post-agreement speech, that the $100 billion figure for the GCF was a floor in the final agreement, the date of the fund’s inception was pushed back by five years to 2025.

“Developed countries have obtained another five years to deliver what they agreed to do,” said. Meena Raman, legal advisor at the Third World Network. “It is regrettable that this has happened as it delays action in developing countries which are in need.”

Now, the hard part begins. If this is truly Asia’s century, then Asia has the opportunity to make it a green one!

***

Quote of the Day: “Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we have to act!” – Miguel Arias Canete, the European Union’s energy commissioner and top climate negotiator.


EDITORIAL: REVIEWING MAMASAPANO January 08, 2016


COURTESY OF MANILA STANDARD

THE Senate is scheduled to reopen its investigative hearings on the Mamasapano massacre, one year to the day when one of the most heinous setbacks of the Philippine security forces occurred.

The continuation of the probe is being done on the request of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who said he has new evidence to be presented and many other questions left unanswered, mainly because he was out of the Senate floor during much of the investigation.

What makes this development opportune is the fact that a year has passed since the Mamasapano debacle where 44 top operatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) died, but the promised prosecution of alleged Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) suspects and others responsible for the carnage has not moved much.

Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. pointed out that he wanted very much to hear new testimonies and statements from former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, now a candidate for senator. This is especially because De Lima had publicly promised in April or May last year that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in tandem with the Department of Justice (DOJ) will file charges to some 90 personalities, many of them from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to hold them responsible for the killings.

As Marcos pointed out, it is already January, 2016 and De Lima has left the DOJ to pursue her candidacy, but not a single case has been filed.

Malacañang, through spokesman Edwin Lacierda, had tried to downplay the reopening of the probe, noting that officials of the PNP and the Executive Department had already appeared before the Senate panel and their testimonies are now part of the records, and that they have nothing more to say.

READ MORE...

This is not entirely true, because the committee report drafted by Sen. Grace Poe on the issue has not passed the whole Senate in full voting, and even her co-senators like Alan Peter Cayetano and JV Ejercito are convinced that the Enrile queries should be entertained.

Going into the campaign period, and with political alignments now clearly defined, this reopening of the Mamasapano hearings should prove to be more productive, incisive, and interesting, since senators, especially those in the minority and those in the majority but no longer politically aligned with President Aquino, are expected to throw sensible questions which are unrestricted by political influence.

The truth may now be more accessible and available to the public, inasmuch as the senators who can ask the pointed questions and who may be counted on to ferret out the truth and nothing but the truth in the Mamasapano massacre are no longer politically aligned or friendly with the administration, and thus will be effective investigators themselves.

There is nothing like an honest to goodness probe on this issue. The government owes it to the SAF 44 and their relatives as a recognition of their sacrifices.


EDITORIAL: AWFUL, DANGEROUS, INDECENT January 06, 2016

CONGRESS, that genetic pool of the country’s political dynasties, have been known to regurgitate some considerably weird ideas from time to time.

It should not come as a major surprise therefore that one of its members has proposed to make a special provision in Republic Act No. 3019, better known by crooks in government as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, to penalize government auditors.

According to the congressman-author’s explanatory note, corruption only happens because resident auditors in government agencies allowed it.

As if the previous statement is not awful enough, the lawmaker went on to say that any intelligent person would readily see that corruption in public offices would be impossible if auditors would only be faithful to their job.

How the honorable legislator came up with such a contorted reasoning is quite beyond an ordinary Filipino’s grasp, particularly when one considers that the rule in effect when it comes to government transactions is post-audit. This means wickedness, avarice, and villainy all have already been at play on a government project even before the Commission on Audit’s bean-counters stepped in.

Indeed, the bill’s author was correct in declaiming that corruption should be blamed for depriving our less-fortunate countrymen of what is due them under various social programs of the government.

How he ended up assigning the fault to resident auditors, however, defies understanding.

That is not to say auditors are saints. Far be it from us to claim that all 4,000 men and women poring over government transactions all year long are incapable of doing wrong or of resisting temptations.

READ MORE...

But lest the congressmen missed out, it might not hurt to point out that COA has been very much on guard against misdeeds by its own people. Administrative cases are filed, investigated and penalties meted out regularly which is a far cry from the system Congress has for its erring members.

There have been 82 such cases in 2012, 30 in 2013 and 21 in 2014. Some auditors were given the boot, others were suspended, a few were docked portions of their wages. Several are now facing criminal charges in court.

Still the downward trend of those numbers is more than clear enough indication that COA is doing its job of weeding out undesirables among its auditors.

It does not need reminders by way of a congressman’s exuberant imputations.

There are other many things in our government that badly needed fixing but the Commission on Audit is not one of them. – PT.


By Benjamin Diokno: HOW DO WE ACHIEVE A HIGHER, SUSTAINABLE GROWTH? By BENJAMIN DIOKNO January 11, 2016


By BENJAMIN DIOKNO

It would seem that the Philippines’ economic growth is losing steam. While it can sustain a growth rate of between 5.5 to 6.0%, such level and pattern of growth cannot bring us to industrialized world status in the next twenty years, nor can it bridge the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

In brief, the policymakers’ promise of first-world status by 2030 is just that – a promise. The current policy of economic muddling through, characterized by political temporizing, weak institutions, and ineffective bureaucracy will not bring us to the Promised Land.

In 2015 and 2016, GDP growth will level off at 6.0 percent. GDP growth in 2015 would not be much different from the first-three–quarters’ growth of 5.6 percent. What little progress has been made on the government spending side will be offset by weak exports and the destruction of personal properties, farm outputs and public infrastructure by two damaging typhoons (Nona and Onyok) in late December 2015.

Growth in 2016 would be similar to 2015. Except for election spending, there will be no new sources of growth, as the world economy remains gloomy.

With GDP growth of 5.6 percent in 2015 and 6.0 percent in 2016, the Aquino administration would have grown by an average of 5.8 percent, one percent higher than the average growth of 4.8 percent in the previous ten years, 2011 to 2010. But remember that the Philippine economy almost hit recession in 2009 owing to the global Grand Recession, that pulled down the average for the decade.

There are many challenges to a strong, sustained growth in Aquino’s final year. On the external front, the world economy is slowing and become more uncertain. The seriousness of the challenge will depend on whether China will have a hard or soft landing and whether the Fed’s move towards monetary normalization will be fast or gradual.

A harder than expected China fall and a faster than expected rise in US interest rates would be more harmful to the global economy -- and indirectly on the Philippine economy.

The collapse of world oil prices has caused fiscal and economic problems in oil-exporting countries. With falling revenues, these economies have to cut public spending, especially on public infrastructure. Saudi Arabia, squeezed by low oil prices post record $98 billion budget deficit for 2015. It is hard to imagine that these budget cuts won’t have an impact on Filipino overseas employment.

The ongoing geo-political war is taking its toll on employment opportunities for Filipinos abroad. There are less overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) now not because the local jobs market is improving, as claimed by administration officials, but more because working in war-torn territories has become unbearable for many overseas Filipinos. With this trend, the rise in OFW remittances has begun to decelerate and will definitely affect overall household final consumption spending.

On the domestic front, agricultural output will continue to be sluggish as El Nino drought lingers on until the second quarter of the year.

READ MORE...

POTENTIAL SOURCES OF GROWTH: MANUFACTURING AND CONSTRUCTION

Manufacturing which has been a major source of growth in recent years has started to lose steam. From a peak of 10.3 percent growth in 2013, it expanded by only half, by 5.4 percent, in 2015. Manufacturing will continue to struggle as the world economy starts to stall. Exports declined sharply in 2015, and its recovery remains uncertain in 2016 as economies of China, most of Europe, and a large part of oil-producing countries continue to slow down.

Growth in construction remains strong but slowing. From a peak of 14.4 percent growth in 2012, growth has progressively declined to 8.9 percent growth in 2015.

Yet, public construction accounts for only about one-third of total construction. Private construction has to be sustained in a big way if one wishes the sector to make a significant contribution to growth. This means public-private partnership projects have to be pushed more vigorously in the next decade.

From a public policy standpoint, it would be a mistake to assume that the higher budget authorization for public infrastructure as provided for in the 2016 budget would automatically translate into higher spending for capital projects. There are various reasons for this cautious note. First, there is an election ban on new construction 90 days before the May 9th 2016 national and local elections. Second, it is hard to imagine that the inept public officials and bureaucrats will suddenly become a paragon of efficiency overnight.

Third, with the likely change in political leadership after the 2016 elections, bureaucrats would be extra cautious in acting on their assigned tasks for fear of risking their retirement pay should they get involved in some questionable transactions.

Finally, there is built-in delay for new construction as the new set of leaders assumes office. It is reasonable to expect that the incoming President will spend at least two (perhaps four) quarters reviewing and assessing the programs and projects initiated by his predecessor.

The contribution of public administration, defense and social security to economic growth has traditionally been negligible. In fact, it was slightly negative in 2015.

The Philippine economy continues to be consumption led. For an economy that is striving to become a medium-income country in the near term, capital formation has been weak and erratic. From a peak of 31.6 percent in 2010, capital formation turned negative in 2012 and had three years (2011. 2014 and 2015) of unremarkable expansion during the period under review.

Remember a country that does not invest for the future is doomed to low-growth trajectory in the long-term. Net external trade cannot be seen as having a positive contribution to growth in the near term. The strong net external trade in 2010 was followed three years ( 2011,2013, and 2015) of negative external trade.

In sum, from 2011 to 2016, the Aquino III administration would likely register an average GDP growth rate of 5.8 percent. That’s neither spectacular nor shabby. But this middle-of-the-road performance has barely put a dent on the high poverty incidence in the country, which is a direct proof that growth under the present administration was not inclusive.

The present level and pattern of growth is not going to bring us to the promised first world status. The present political and economic model is simply not working. We need better leaders, responsible rather than vindictive politics, more open and predictable governance structures, and more competent and effective government.

***

Benjamin E. Diokno is a former secretary of budget and management.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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