MANILA, Philippines - The new administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III begins with an extremely high trust rating of 88 percent – higher than any of the post-dictatorship presidents. This is a measure of people’s belief in the commitment of the Aquino administration to reverse the anti-poor policies implemented during the regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

We in the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) submitted to the President an Agenda outlining demands for changes in the debt and public finance policy, the power industry, the water sector, and government’s stance on climate negotiations and responses to climate crisis. This is in the context of a looming fiscal crisis due to the record-breaking deficit and empty public coffers left by the Arroyo administration, electricity prices soaring past major Asian cities save Tokyo, a water crisis that is pushing Filipinos to desperate extremes, and a looming La Niña that might bring us another devastating Ondoy.

This, for we believe that the Aquino administration should stop Arroyo’s practice of using band-aid solutions to the country’s chronic problems. A business-as-usual approach will only delay the inevitable descent of the economy to oblivion, but it will not change its course. Conditional cash transfers to the extremely marginalized, or emergency employment, or may sound like valid ambulatory actions, but at best, they can only provide breathing space. These measures can never serve as platform in strategically resolving the problem of poverty and under-development.

The Aquino administration should not hesitate to be more strategic in its approaches. It is with this belief that FDC’s Agenda is part of an alternative National Economic Platform or New Economic Policy (NEP), a summary of which we also submitted to Aquino. NEP is a set policy framework statements which outlines a vision towards a sustainable and modern Philippine economy to be achieved by 2020. We hope that the elements of our NEP would be integrated and used in the drafting of the 2011-2016 Medium-term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP). This, for the MTPDP outlines the strategy and governance framework of the Aquino administration for its entire term.

NEP incorporates elements of an alternative paradigm that sharply diverges from the mainstream market fundamentalist framework imposed by International Financial Institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB):
  1. Instead of merely a “Strong Republic,” NEP centers on the need to establish a “Strong Developmental State” that mobilizes government’s regulatory and procurement powers to discipline the market and direct resources towards national development and social welfare;
  2. Instead of creating “Super-Regions” which has as its prime purpose spurring economic growth in the countryside but ignores equity and environmental issues, NEP pushes for a National Land and Water Use Act taking off from the completion of urban and rural land reform and with a sustainable development perspective;
  3. Instead of capital accounts liberalization championed by IMF, NEP insists on the need for controls on capital flow and management of the domestic capital structure;
  4. Instead of export-oriented industry focused on exports of raw material and low-value services, NEP advocates for an integrated industry focused on developing local economies and servicing the needs of a strengthened domestic market;
  5. Instead of “cheap labor policy”, NEP champions a high-wage, high-income regime in order to build a strong national consumption, savings, and revenue base;
  6. Instead of city-centric development that harms the environment through wastage and pollution, NEP takes it as primary advocacy the prioritization of adaptation needs and low-carbon development;
  7. Instead of delegating “reproductive” tasks to households, NEP champions the provisioning of free public universal healthcare and valuation of unpaid labor by women;
  8. Instead of an import-dependent “food security” approach championed by ADB, NEP recommends a “Food Sovereignty” model which seeks food self-sufficiency not just on the national but up to the community level;
  9. Instead of encouraging private sector participation (PSP) in bulk water supply and local water utilities, NEP explores Public-Public Partnerships (PPP) in small-scale water systems that involves local government units and cooperatives; and,
  10. Instead of a privatized and deregulated industry outlined by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, NEP insist on strong government intervention that facilitate the strengthening of community-based power systems and rural electric cooperatives.
This SONA is merely a start of a challenging six-year rule for the Aquino administration, starting with exposing the current national situation after Arroyo. We in FDC hope that the inputs coming from the people itself will be heard and sincerely incorporated by the new government. FDC will be watching the Aquino administration closely as it wields government power towards its promised reforms. (30)

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