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Benito Legarda Jr. through this column

CROSSROADS TOWARD PHILIPPINE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL PROGRESS - Gerardo P. Sicat (The Philippine Star) - September 9, 2020 - 12:00am

Born in 1926, Benito Legarda Jr. adopted for his e-mail address in post-retirement, “Otineb6291”, or Benito1926. At 94 years what a long blessed life! this well-known economist, central banker, historian, a man of many talents succumbed to the pandemic virus last month.

A serious reader of Crossroads column. Legarda had been one of my serious readers. I will miss his absence.

We have been economist-colleagues since the 1960s. In the 10 years of this weekly column, Legarda periodically sent in a critical observation, praise, but sometimes to correct. In all cases, I thanked him for his comments.

A wide range of topics – from economic policy, economic history, martial law and its aftermath, Jose Rizal and his ideas – covered these exchanges. A few samples are below.

“How to federalize.”

BLj (Benito Legarda Jr):  I read with interest your column of Aug. 17 on proposed federal states, and agree that the 12-state proposal wrongly bases the federal states on administrative regions. However, I believe your own basis of using geography as a basis is also defective.  Both methods would give us, in effect, lifeless mannequins that need an externally operated mechanism to function. I believe that states should have an inherent life of their own, based on culture, which is expressed in language. Thus I would go for states of unequal size based on ethno-linguistic criteria. These would have their own dynamic, and being of unequal size would call for a bicameral legislature wherein, as in the USA, the smaller states have equal representation in the upper house. In my scheme, some states would be obvious – Ilocos, the Tagalog region, Pampanga, Bicol, the Waray region, the Hiligaynon region, the Cebuano provinces, Palawan. “Borderlands” would be Cagayan, Cordillera and Pangasinan- Zambales in Luzon and the Kiniraya- Aklanon region in Panay. Should they be separate states or melded into the larger ones?  Bangsamoro does not have to be one state. It could be split among the old sultanates of Jolo, Maranao and Maguindanao. I believe an ethno-linguistic basis would be a better foundation for federalism, which is defined as a system of enumerated powers.

GS: … I have been aware of the linguistic and other cultural reasons for a federation. One could go too far in creating cultural identities in a nation, and therefore more “states of the republic.” …Yugoslavia’s break-up into parts was inevitable because it had been marred by highly accented socio-cultural factors that provoked “balkanization.” I believe we should promote more unity within fewer state boundaries so that there is more cohesion arising from culture as a binding element of nationhood. I think of Ilocanos as not being confined mainly in the Ilocos for they are in our midst, in Manila, as everywhere in the country and also heavily represented even in Mindanao, for instance. Those from Cebu are also all over the place. And so we can say this of Pampanguenos or Tagalogs, etc. Our experience with a national language is only one dimension of the growing unity over time among Filipinos in the country. Though it has been too Tagalog-based (and that is a flaw in its earlier construction), any Filipino traveler can now be understood in this language from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi. Years of development through the national medium of the spoken and written Filipino has united us more as a people than we probably are willing to admit because of pride in our own dialects. (Of course other factors like politics tend to break us apart.) Within a larger geographic state that has the many advantages of scale economies, each of our potential federal states under my plan would have much more capacity for growth. The running of state governments would also be more economical. Anyway, this is how I will argue this case when I get the chance to come back again to the topic. Thank you for your thought-provoking points which of course should be the teaser for an extended argument. I admit however that any other reason for differentiation would be, for many, a good reason for creating a new and separate state within the prospective federal republic.

Labor markets, and ‘endo’

BLj: You have written a couple of columns on Endo and the current efforts … to terminate it. But it is only a symptom of the real malady, namely rigid employment laws in a labor-surplus economy. Business cannot separate employees without having to clear with the Dept. of Labor. Rather than go through tedious and lengthy bureaucratic hassles, they prefer to just make temporary hires. To minimize endo, relax the rigidity. You have been a strong advocate of labor-intensive modes of production, and you should bat strongly for such real reform.

GS: As always, many thanks for your comments as well as critical reading.

John Power and industrial employment policy.

BLj: (My one meeting with John Power) was not a very cheerful encounter. It was a meeting at the Central Bank presided over by, I think, Blas Ople, so it must have been about employment. After Power spoke, I spoke up, probably outlining the Central Bank’s position. He kept interrupting me, and I rather sharply reminded him that he had had his turn and it was now my turn, and be good enough not to interrupt. He may have been a good academic economist, but diplomacy was not one of his strong suits.  Wasn’t he a football player in college? That may explain his propensity to tackle. Also, didn’t he marry a rather pretty UP student…? Academics have a different approach than us policy types.

GS: Some people admire others for the correctness or sharpness of their ideas and contributions. Others remember people more for their looks and behavior. The ideal is that good ideas be contributed by gentle and polite people. We live in the real world, not one of fashion! John, I was told, had music as his previous background. If that was true, then he tackled by pushing his beliefs more than through a conscious effort to embarrass. (Note to reader: John Power and I wrote the book published by Oxford University Press, 1970, The Philippines: Trade and Industrialization Policy.)

For archives of previous Crossroads essays, go to: https://www.philstar.com/authors/1336383/gerardo-p-sicat. Visit this site for more information, feedback and commentary: http://econ.upd.edu.p h/gpsicat/

BENITO LEGARDA JR.
Philstar
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