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Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Philippines: 8 signs of hope for the country

Hope is one of life’s great essentials. A person who sees no future in a company will look for opportunity elsewhere. A man who sees no hope in a country will migrate to another place.
Is there really hope for our country?
If we simply remove our blinders, put in place by our prejudices and unhealthy loyalties, we will see that there are indeed signs of hope. Some of these signs are obvious while others are not too visible to the naked eye. But they are there, so real, like the invisible air we breathe.
The first of these signs is that the fight against graft and corruption being waged by President Aquino appears to be true. A number of corrupt practices have been stopped, including the “pabaon” practice among the high officials in the military; many questionable government transactions involving billions of pesos are being scrutinized. The long arm of justice seems to be finally catching up with those who, for many years, were beyond its reach.
Secondly, there seems to be serious efforts to build a good government, as many good leaders have been appointed to important positions. For example, Education Secretary Armin Luistro is on track to wipe out our country’s backlog of 66,000 classrooms nationwide by 2016. This would be a great achievement by itself.
The third sign is the earnest move to bring good governance down to the grassroots level. Through the efforts of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the 2011 General Appropriations Act now requires the heads of local government units to fully disclose their budget, projects and financial activities to their constituents. The information must be posted on websites, displayed on posters in conspicuous spots within the locality, and published in newspapers of general circulation.
In 2011, a great majority of the governors, mayors and barangay chairs complied with the full-disclosure requirement. Those who did not are facing penalties of removal or suspension, on the ground of gross negligence or dereliction of duty.
The fourth sign of hope is the healthy confidence in our country’s economy. This year, for the first time in our history, the Philippine Stock Exchange index pierced the 5,000 level, our highest ever. The stock market is a good gauge of investors’ confidence in our economy for the next 6-12 months. In 2011 the Philippines’ foreign direct investments (FDI) rose to P256.1 billion, the highest since 1996 when the FDI posted P241.1 billion. In January and February of this year, foreign investments were higher than those in the same period in the last five years. And for the first time in our history, the Philippines has become a creditor-nation among the member-countries of the International Monetary Fund.
Fifth, entrepreneurship is on the rise. Many Filipinos today talk about financial literacy and opportunities for investment and entrepreneurship. Joey Concepcion’s GONegosyo Caravan is doing a tremendous job of promoting start-up enterprises nationwide. Gawad Kalinga’s new phase of wealth creation and social artistry works to create livelihood opportunities and small businesses for its villages nationwide. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s program of developing more small agri-entrepreneurships in livestock, vegetables, fruits, rice and corn is also increasing the number of wealth creators all over the country.
The sixth sign of hope is that citizen leadership is spreading. It is good citizenship when private citizens take the initiative and do what they can to help solve problems in their communities, and in the process help in the task of nation-building. In essence, it is leadership by ordinary people, by ordinary heroes like Tony Meloto, Efren Peñaflorida, Josette Biyo, Harvey Keh, Reese Fernandez, Jay Jaboneta, and Anna Oposa. The list is getting longer every day.
Seventh, more overseas Filipinos want to help our country. More of them are reclaiming their Philippine citizenship. Tony Olaes, Boy Abay, Rose Cabrera, Dale Asis, Ruby Veridiano and Eileen Aparis are among the young ones I know. Tony Olaes, one of the privileged Filipino-Americans I have met, is spending a lot of his own funds to help our people. Rose Cabrera is building in Intramuros a RestoShop that would promote the beauty of our country. Dale Asis formed a Bayanihan Foundation in Chicago and channels support to the Philippines. Ruby Veridiano of New York and Eileen Aparis of California have great ideas on how to connect the second-generation Filipino-American youth in the United States to our motherland.
The eighth sign of hope is that the Filipino spirit is on the rise. For me, this is one of the most important signs. Not only is there hope in the hearts of many of our people, there is also a tangible desire to succeed, to excel, to shine. The spirit of greatness among our people, which has long been stifled, is being awakened. We see this in many areas—Filipinos who try to break Guinness world records, who climb the highest peaks of our planet, who try to excel in their fields. Our people are hungry for greatness. The many unknown potentials of the Filipino are being unleashed.
We should build on the gains we have made. But there is one thing history wants to remind us. Lee Kuan Yew was not able to bring progress and prosperity to Singapore during his first six years of governance. That is also true for Mahathir in Malaysia, for Park Chung Hee in South Korea, and for Nelson Mandela in South Africa. It took at least 20 years for Lee Kuan Yew, at least 15 years for Mahathir, and also 15 years for Park Chung Hee, before the reforms they started bore fruit and changed their countries’ destinies forever.
With God’s grace, technology, the support of more hope-builders—yes, our country needs more ambassadors of hope—we can leapfrog our way to progress and prosperity.

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