The Road Ahead

Śródmiejska Obwodnica Zachodnia (Bielsko-Biała)

Road in Poland

Three Kings Day. The smoke of New Year firecrackers has dispersed. Time to look at what could lie ahead.

Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow once defined a hierarchy of human needs. These are:

  • Physiological. Many people in the Philippines are still very poor, can hardly make ends meet. The hunger that was reported during the time of President Arroyo seems to be gone. There is the Pantawid Pamilya program which is a safety net for many, inspired by similar programs in Latin America. It is not a dole-out, but is connected to developing good habits like medical check-ups, sending children to school and more. What I do not know is if it reaches far enough into the slum areas – because desperation can lead to drugs and crime.
  • Safety. In terms of personal safety, there are those who fear crime. There have been some improvements in policing mentioned in previous articles, and attempts to improve the delivery of justice. Fear of crime may be one of the things that make Mayor Duterte popular. Never mind that his radical approach may endanger innocent people, even themselves. In terms of safety in case of illness, there is Philhealth, but the generous benefits Binay has offered in Makati seem to appeal to some. Never mind that they might not be fundable on a national scale.
  • Love and belonging. Many families are split up due to migration and work abroad. There are even people working in Metro Manila who leave their families in the provinces because they cannot afford to live with them in the city. Grace Poe with her motherhood statements might appeal to many. Never mind that her program is more like a nice movie, not at all realistic.
  • Esteem. Miriam Santiago might fulfill that need for some. Never mind that she has no strategy on how to guard the nation from its enemies. Only nationalistic bluster. And old-school talk.
  • Self-actualization. There is a very modern upper and middle class that is confident and now discovering the world, realizing its full potential and possibilities. Mar Roxas could be the symbol for most of these people. Some of them might not realize how far behind them others are. Self-actualization can become self-absorption, seeing the others only as masa or bobotante. Maslow himself saw self-transcendence as the final step. People should help others, explain things, share both opportunities and knowledge. I see Leni Robredo as very strong in this area.

Conflict and Communication

Laufwasserkraftwerk Oberföhring Isarwerk 3

Vintage hydroelectric plant

I see the present discussions in the Philippines as an expression of different needs within the population. Conflict was necessary to start some discussions, because some are not able to talk or explain well, and others are not good at listening or understanding, and almost everybody passes judgement way to quickly. Rapid change has made communication very hard – between social classes, between city and countryside, between different generations. Might be that more true communication is needed though.

But PLEASE not about candidates, candidates, candidates again. Just like some young Pinoys who had to eat chicken every day after their father had made too much for a big Filipino party said manok, manok, manok after two weeks. Informing oneself responsibly comes first. Look for a clear picture. Maybe even form groups to gather information and piece things together. Then ask government and politicians what they want to do about pressing matters. Describe problems and possible solutions. Find out who is responsive and who isn’t by communicating with them.

This is better than just yelling out on social media. I am very tired of much of the noise by now. It will not have any effect at all. Just like voting leaders with unproven or questionable capabilities is very dangerous. Or thinking any President can do it all alone or even a President-VP tandem, and voting just any Senators, Congressmen, Governors or Mayors this year. Miracles don’t exist. Successful countries did not happen overnight. Just looking a little at history will show it. Overnight successes like Saudi Arabia and Dubai may still turn out to be like one-day oil millionares.

Getting Stuff Done

Abschlussdeich Blickrichtung Südwest

Afsluitdijk in Netherlands

Based on my own experience as an IT projects veteran, and also having seen how things get done worldwide, this is what is essential:

  • Sustained effort. It took around 150 years to tame the Isar river of Munich, which used to flood the poorer areas of the city, creating canals for water management, hydroelectric plants and a dam whose water is let out BEFORE major rains come in order to be able to accomodate them and protect the city – what are weather forecasts for? But every phase delivered results.
  • Foresight. Why was the purchase of the MRT in the 1990s not used to ramp up a local industry for creating own train coaches and rails, to be able to build more lines without spending foreign currency reserves? The DOST AGT system which is already running and might be first used in Baguio considers these criteria. Considering rising sea levels, might it not make sense to build something like an Afsluitdijk for Manila Bay, between Bataan and Batangas? Even create new cities like the Dutch did over there, or double Metro Manila in size?
  • Build own expertise. Do not just follow the advice of consultants, adapt it to local needs. Build local expertise so that the role of consultants will be less in subsequent projects.
  • Communicate with stakeholders. Make websites for example that truly inform about what plans are and how they are progressing, in a way the can be easily understood by most.
  • Monitor success locally. Don’t just believe what is told. Make surprise inspections. Send anonymous testers. Ask people affected for feedback and truly listen and answer them.

Now the Philippines will need more effective managers who get things done, like Dr. Mahar Lagmay of DOST Project Noah. And political leaders who put together effective teams at all levels. Finally, voters will have to think for themselves, put together a very complex picture and decide. Or vote based on their feelings only – which doesn’t help.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 6 January 2015



19 thoughts on “The Road Ahead


    “Rizal . . . wrote: ‘We said, and we repeat it once more, and will always repeat it, all reforms of a palliative nature are not only ineffective but are even harmful when the Government is beset with ills that need radical remedy.’” [Rizal’s prophecies fulfilled, Oscar P. Lagman, Jr., Business World, 28th Dec 2015]

    What was Rizal asking when he spoke to reforms of a palliative nature? What is this reform for, what is the purpose? Wittingly or not, we created an ecosystem that will perpetuate our state of affairs. As this blog has raised, the Philippine ecosystem – which we perhaps take for granted – is comprised of parochialism, paternalism, hierarchy, political patronage and oligarchy. Which is a reflection of what Fr. Bulatao calls our split-level Christianity. For example, we pride ourselves in the focus on family and if Binay becomes president that will even be enshrined – that family is license to kill as in political dynasties?

    • Nice, the right kind of thinking is growing!

      Part of our work at the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) involves building a foundation for long-term competitiveness in the country. These involve projects like the Gameplan for the Ease of Doing Business, the City and Municipality Competitiveness Index, Business Permits and Licensing System, Performance Governance System, Islands of Good Governance, and Annual Enterprise Survey on Corruption. This work underscores our strategy that we need to work on sectoral, geographical and institutional bases to improve overall national competitiveness.

      Starting this year, we will add these new projects to build up an even longer-term approach to building and maintaining a foundation for global competitiveness.

      The first is Project Repeal. In the last several decades, the Philippines has piled layer upon layer of legislation and regulation across many sectors. Though no formal estimate has been made, we can assume this overregulation has increased the cost of doing business, the cost of compliance (on the part of the business community and the entrepreneur), the cost of enforcement (on the part of the government), and the opportunities for corruption (on the part of both the government and the private sector). It’s time we established a systematic review and repeal process of legislation, executive and departmental orders, and even local government ordinances and issuances so we can streamline our regulations and clean the books of unnecessary laws.

      This is a second aspect which is also vital:

      A second project is the Liveable Cities Design Challenge, an urban design competition which we ran on a pilot scale in 2014 with support from USAID. With the Philippine population now hitting 104 million, it is clear that we cannot build a strong country from so few good cities. We must have a systematic way of improving urban planning and building better cities across the country. Given our size, we probably need at least 30 significantly strong cities to act as the country’s growth engines.

      Last year, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation activities, we teamed up with PricewaterhouseCoopers in a study of 28 cities in Apec measured for liveability, sustainability, and competitiveness. Metro Manila and Metro Cebu were included, and both fared poorly. We need to use metrics to gauge our cities’ development and resilience against disaster, probably the most important factor for building the competitiveness of Philippine cities.

      Both of these projects (as well as others we have in the pipeline) will have long-term effects on our global competitiveness. In fact they will have profound institutional impact. They will be welcome additions to our current portfolio of projects.

  2. Some answers, thanks for your comments:

    @Karl: when it comes to manufacturing, start small and then build up. The Japanese started with shoddy small cars where are they now? I can show you BMW models from the 1950s they were nothing compared to Mercedes or Pontiac but who are they now? Sustained effort is the key. But also modesty not trying to do everything at once. DOST AGT uses capabilities the Philippines has in building bus bodies, and added other stuff. Diesel motors I guess they still have to buy that is a complex technology.

    @Pelang: in Germany license plates are all made on-the-spot by local SMEs, different ones in each city from what I have seen so far. The danger in the Philippines is of course that they might produce fake license plates on the side. You need reliable, certified vendors – those that can be trusted not to misuse their capabilities.

    @wangad: I wrote about zero-sum games in the previous article. Not using synergies is a zero-sum game. Better get a 90% good idea running than wait too long for 100%. Better even to get Phase 1 running quickly and simply, but make sure it can be extended when time and money are there. As for the creativity shown in “making money”, the Romanians can have that too they also had kotong cops before, but they are now using it to find creative solutions for problems – my Internet article mentions that.

    My point is that none of the countries progressive today did it overnight. Germans were poor in the 1950s, but prioritized rebuilding their cities and industries.

    • I wIsh you never get tired of finding out what is latest int Pinas.Let us continue to learn together.
      I am recting to one of your comments at Joe’s that you do not need to know everything.
      We do not need to know everything.
      Your approach to history is good, you have the best worldview ever. Insights Par excellence.

    • Thanks. The thing is the more it gets closer to the present, the harder it is to see the forest for the trees.

      The very partial and incomplete way in which most Philippine media report is a bit frustrating at times as well.

      What is nice is the stuff that chempo posted after the comment I made – it has been very enlightening.

      His advantage is that of an Asian living in the Philippines – understands things much more than a Westerner can.

      At the same time, he has enough distance to see the broader sweep than those more personally involved somehow.

  3. i wish that the philippines will become prosperous and well developed with industries, products, education, services, living conditions, infrastructure, etc. in scale of 1 to 10, we are at 3, germany, usa, japan and other ist world countries at 8.

    there is a big brain drainage problem and lack of private and public support for our intelligents, innovators, thinkers and similar professionals…hence ofws. we do love popularity and teledrama serye.

    we talk about a problem, we dissect the problem but we almost never synergize to find a solution to a problem. many think his/her solution is the only right one.

    if there is not money in it we won’t touch it. if money can be had then we pinoys become ingenious…hence scams, hulidaps, laglag bala, kotongs, bukol, etc. i wish for love of country motivates our leaders and our people but then i realize too that one cannot do well on an empty stomach and a politico cannot progress on an empty alcansiya. so i wish na lang. and i wish pa more.

  4. hello, giancarlo, above. pls note those that helped around your parents house and not getting cct, tell them to approach local branch of dswd and tell them their problems. I’ve heard dswd has helped people with similar problems before. if they meet dswd’s criteria, front up interviews and have proper IDs and biometrics, they’ll most likely be made recipient of cct. thanks.

  5. I believe one of the biggest problems of PPPP CCT program is that good governance is preventing the DSWD to help the poorest strata of our society. 3 persons with families that help around my parents house do not qualify for the CCT and the reason is they do not have permanent addresses. This is due to the nature of their work. They move at a moments notice to chase the odd jobs such as year end cleanup of the house small construction jobs etc.

  6. Irineo, help me understand the logic of acquiring license plates for cars as i have no idea why is it a hard task to do so in the Philippines. I do know, my sister bought a brand new one in 2010 and it was a year after i got to visit her, she still had temporary license plate on and even when i asked a year after that. I can’t imagine that happening in germany, ever. You are required to get the license plate and have it attached in front and back of your car upon registration and it doesn’t take even an hour to do that because the official outlet that do these are just across the building where the registration of vehicles takes place and there are no fixers involved. How does this differ in the Philippines and how does this differ in the Philippines. I noticed, though that there is just one license plate maker in the area or i’m not really sure for i have seen only one in our area of a ibigger city. Has he the monopoly of the business? Does the federal govt. assign just one partcular contractor to do this? How? Do they do some biddings too like the Phil. govt.? i can’t imagine that happening in the philippines without govt. Biddings whether fake or not, otherwise, there would be proliferations of some sorts. Like a street full of “litsong manok”, you know what i’m saying. I must have answered my own question. Please elaborate.

  7. We had lots of discussions on manufacturing.
    That license plates showed that simple tin can production is still relied upon to a foreign manuffscturer.

    After the 1997 crisis Manufacturers left,but they ate MNCs like Unilever and Procter and Gamble.
    After that crisis we excelled in Services like BPO,it has been like that ever since.

    Now we promote buy Filipino,but they are dominated by food products from different regions, non food products are wood works,handicrafts and furniture.

    I wish we could manufacture our trains,and military hardware but BOT laws and now the PPP
    encourage foreign partnerships,because we can not afford big ticket manufacturing.
    add to that our legalistic procurement laws which tried to plug loop holes,it only encouraged more like the hole in the dike story.

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