President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he delivers his fourth State of the Nation Address at Congress in Manila on July 22, 2019.
Noel Celis/AFP
So, what’s the plan?
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - July 29, 2019 - 12:00am

A week after the President’s SONA, folks are still wondering what the President really said. Yes, he said a lot of things that look good in a social media meme, but the question remains: What happens next?

For example, here is one quote from that SONA many of us can only agree with:

“Honestly, I have identified the enemy who dumped us into this quagmire we are in. I have met the enemy face-to-face and sadly, the enemy is us. We are our own tormentors—we are our own demons; we are as rapacious predators preying on the helpless, the weak, and the voiceless. We find corruption everywhere in government with every malefactor watching his cohort’s back in blatant disregard of his oath when he assumed public office…

“No amount of euphemism can trivialize or normalize betrayal of public trust or any other criminal offense. It is an injury laced with insult. It is both a national embarrassment and a national shame. For every transaction, a commission; for every action, extortion; and a request that goes on and on—endlessly and shamelessly.”

Strong words. But if he thinks that by denouncing corruption he clears himself of responsibility, he ought to think again. Firing those customs people is just the beginning. He should follow up the return of that P60 million collected by one of his friends from the tourism department. He should stop recycling those he had fired.

But he is right. The demons are in his backyard. He needs to do something dramatic and far reaching to get to the roots of corruption. It is promising that he closed down PCSO due to endemic rampant corruption. Let’s see where this goes.

Here’s another quotable quote: “We, in government, talk too much, act too little, and too slowly. I recall saying that before the congressional hearing when I was mayor of Davao City. I say that again to emphasize how little we have changed since then. We are long on rhetoric, but short on accomplishments.”

So very true, Mr. President. So what are you going to do about it? After the heavy propaganda on Build Build Build, where is the administration now, three years after? Where are the car plates from LTO? Why hasn’t the EDSA city bus rationalization project been undertaken?

Some projects were inaugurated recently. But those are projects started by the past administration. As for the partial opening of the Skyway extension, that’s a private sector project started in P-Noy’s watch. It would have been done faster if government, past and present, did its part more quickly – delivering the right of way.

Get the government to act faster on PPP proposals to build better infrastructure. Get the bureaucrats to stop nitpicking proposals, delaying projects he could inaugurate before he steps down.

The business sector was waiting for the President to say something substantial that could increase their willingness to invest in this country. They wanted the President to say something to calm their fears.

Indeed, business folks are looking for a clear to-do list from the President. My old colleague from the former energy ministry, Marcial Ocampo took it upon himself to write down his idea of that list:

The next three years should focus on:

1. Affordable housing - tenement housing near transport hubs and rail stations with skills training, school and public health centers.

2. Corporate mechanization to help farmers thru scheduled land preparation, planting, pest and weed control, harvesting, storage, refrigeration.

3. Transport logistics to haul produce, purchase and market produce with minimal middleman intervention to maximize farmer incomes.

4. Marketing assistance, export promotion, trade fair participation.

5. SME development, assistance and promotion.

6. Large industry and manufacturing support.

7. Integrated land, air and water transport for seamless travel.

8. High speed internet, connectivity and effective communication networks.

9. Streamline national and local government units and bureaucracy.

10. Regular preparation of master plans for sustainable growth, resilient communities and disaster mitigation.

11. Renewable energy with storage technologies for sustainable development.

Simple goals said simply to make it easy for people to see how Mr. Duterte is improving their lives. Because like the President, every Filipino dreams “of a Philippines that is better than the one I grew up with,” as the SONA exclaimed.

But it is good the President, unlike his propagandists, is well aware that the last three years had not been terrific in terms of accomplishments. On his key project, the anti drug campaign, the President accepts failure because, he said, of corruption.

“It has been three years since I took my oath of office, and it pains me to say that we have not learned our lesson. The illegal drug problem persists. Corruption continues and emasculates the courage we need to sustain our moral recovery initiatives.

“However, the drugs will not be crushed unless we continue to eliminate corruption that allows this social monster to survive…

“We are now entering a period of consequences. The consequences of what we did and did not do, but should have done during the first half of my term. I assume full responsibility for that. As President, I cannot pass it—the blame to anybody. So it’s on me.

“Though we cannot change the past, we will not squander the future. I will push harder in the pursuit of programs that we have started, but always within the parameters of the law.

“I will not merely coast along or while away my time during the remaining years of my administration. It ain’t my style. But I will not stop until I reach the finish line. Then and only then shall I call it a day.”

We sure hope so. We want to see an energized President Duterte from now on.

Mr. President… you need to be a lot more hands-on if you want to see your legacy projects accomplished. The first three years didn’t give us much hope. Can we take your word that the next three will be just great?

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

DUTERTE SONA 2019
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