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News Commentary

A strategic agenda for the new administration

Paco A. Pangalangan - Philstar.com
A strategic agenda for the new administration
Commissioners sing the national anthem during the proclamation of the elected senators at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay, Metro Manila on May 18, 2022.
AFP/Jam Sta. Rosa

With the Philippine elections behind us, it is equally important to look back at the issues that led to the results and to look forward strategically at new government’s road ahead.

Vote counting is about done. The Commission on Elections, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers. have already proclaimed twelve of the country’s newest senators. Soon, the victories of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sarah Duterte for the country’s top public offices will also be formalized. 

However, as this new government comes in, it does so to a Philippines still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and to Filipinos still concerned about improving the economy, combating corruption and defending its territory. 

From this point on, these same Filipinos that cast their vote back on May 9th now look to the policies and programs of their newly elected leaders to deliver on campaign promises and address these long standing concerns.

Recognizing the complexities of addressing these concerns our institute, Stratbase ADRi, launched a book of policy recommendations entitled “Beyond the Crisis: A Strategic Agenda for the Next President”. Similar to what we did after the 2016 national election, this book includes insights and recommendations from sixteen experts from various fields that the new government may opt to take into consideration in order to address current issues and to prepare for potential, future threats. 

It is our hope that this publication creates positive change by sparking conversation and sustained and participative policy discourse that ultimate leads to uplifting the lives of Filipinos and achieving a better Philippines.

During the launch event in Quezon City, Stratbase ADRi President Dindo Manhit shared some of his insight for a foreign policy and security agenda. In his policy paper, he recommends to the next government: implement a clear, cohesive and consistent foreign policy direction prioritizing the country’s national interests – in politics and security, economic diplomacy and welfare of the Filipinos. 

Furthermore, the new government must integrate current and emerging trends and developments in Philippines’ external environment to prioritize the responsiveness and future-oriented direction of Philippine foreign policy. Prof. Manhit also stressed that it was critical to strengthen the country’s role in international politics and its inherent state power by developing its military, economic, scientific, and cultural capabilities and strengthening alliances and strategic partnerships.

Also at the launch event, Dr. Renato De Castro spoke about the need to formulate a new National Security Strategy (NSS) based on the 2016 arbitral ruling. His suggested NSS also incorporates non-traditional security priorities, such as public health, in the National Security Strategy and the National Development Plan. He also recommends continue the efforts to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program with a specific focus on asymmetrical warfare capabilities and to increase the Philippine defense budget to effect these reforms.

Dr. Carlos Primo David, had some recommendations on improving the Philippine agriculture sector by establishing food production areas. Among his key recommendations were: to adapt a climate-resilient agriculture sector that would advance production and growth through a government-industry synergized strategy; promote crop overproduction and food processing with a guaranteed purchase agreement with the private sector and/or government; optimize smallholder farms instead of mechanization and the promotion of land consolidation strategies.

Dr. Toby Monsod was also there to share her policy recommendations to accelerating the country’s resilience and climate change adaptation. In order to strengthen the Philippines’ contribution to the global decarbonization agenda, Dr. Monsod highlights the need to shift away from a greenhouse gas inventory-centric approach. Instead, she recommends a shift towards an approached anchored on climate change adaptation and resilience, with specific recommendations for the power and energy and transportation sectors, among others. Furthermore, she pushes for building robust community ownership for climate action and the leveraging opportunities based on the Philippines’ own advantages, including the biodiversity of its marine and coastal resources.

When it comes to a governance agenda, Dr. Francisco Magno spoke about the need for a comprehensive approach on corruption prevention. Central to this comprehensive approach is improving institutional capacity building and more focus on integrity development programs for all levels of the career service. Furthermore, Dr. Magno’s policy paper also touched on e-governance and interoperability throughout national government agencies and local government units to improve the delivery of public services. 

Dr. Ronald Mendoza’s paper on reducing inequality in the Philippines emphasized that political and electoral reforms, not economic reforms alone, should be prioritized to effect real reform to address deep-seated structural weaknesses. In particular, he calls for the review of the implementation strategies of passed laws and to revisit stalled legislative measures that address inequality, such as TRAIN, Bangsamoro Basic Law, Rice Tariffication Law, Universal Health Care Law, 4Ps Law; and the Rightsizing the National Government, Freedom of Information Law, and Anti-Political Dynasty Law.

These policy papers, along with others in this book cover subjects that the institute is studying closely: governance, the economy, security and defense, and sustainability. Based on our previous studies, Filipinos feel very strongly about these issues. In fact recent surveys show that improving the economy and fighting corruption are consistently to national concerns and that addressing issues of climate change and public health are top of mind issues. Similarly, our surveys also show that Filipinos want their government to more actively strengthen its presence in the West Philippine Sea.

The incoming government inherits these and other issues and concerns from its predecessor. So now that the elections are over, our leaders are expected to step up and address these challenges. In the words of our Institute President Dindo Manhit during the book launch, “It’s time to listen to the Filipino people. That’s what happened in the elections. Campaigns heard the Filipino people, and built a campaign around that. And now it’s time for them to also listen to the Filipino People on key issues.”

Other authors of the “Beyond the Crisis: A Strategic Agenda for the Next President” include, on security and defense, Dr. Mely Caballero-Anthony, Dr. Chester Cabalza, and Mr. Richard Heydarian; on economy and development we have former BSP vice-governor Diwa Guinigundo, Dr. Justine Dioko-Sicat, Dr. Vicente Paqueo, and Dr. Elanor Jara.; on governance issues, we also have policy papers from Ms. Zy-za Suzara, Dr. Sherwin Ona, and Dr. Rizal Buendia. The policy papers are available online for download. 

 

Paco A. Pangalangan is the executive director of think tank Stratbase ADR Institute.

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