At the latest Dutertenomics Forum organized jointly by the British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and the Presidential Communications Office, and supported by the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines, I was impressed by the dynamic president and CEO of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), Vince Dizon. In answering a question from the floor about the difference between the current administration and previous administrations in the ability to deliver much needed infrastructure projects, he focused on three words: unity, decision and action.
According to Vince, the cluster of economic agencies—the Departments of Finance, Trade and Industry, Budget and Management, Transportation, Public Works and Highways, and Information and Communications Technology, the National Economic and Development Authority, and the BCDA—is ensuring through its leaders that projects get started much faster because of unity of purpose, as defined by the government’s “build, build, build” program.
Vince swore that in his many years in the government, this was the first time he was seeing agencies doing away with the silo mentality and working closely together to deliver on promises. Yet again, I have been given reason to hope. And, no, they were not empty words, as Vince cited concrete examples of unity, decision and action. I suggest that to believe, you take on Vince’s invitation to organize group visits to Clark where they are building the country’s first smart and green city.
Another point from Vince that gave me hope was his giving credit to the previous administration’s significant work toward achieving the Clark Green City vision. Arnel Casanova was the appointed mover for the BCDA then, and the business community was certainly impressed with what he accomplished. Like the continuing K-to-12 education reform, this is a game-changing initiative that did not fall victim to the changing of the guard in Malacañang.
After all, as Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno put it in the same forum, “politics is not good economics.” I think I shall be on the lookout for all these good initiatives that the Duterte administration has wisely chosen to continue, speed up and expand.
My spirits were further buoyed when Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said that “build, build, build” was about not only infrastructure but also human capital. In my column last week, I proposed a “feed, feed, feed” program to ensure that our strength as a country because of our people will not be weakened. Proper nutrition, innovative knowledge and skills, and the right values should be priorities to prepare our youth for the challenges ahead, I wrote. More good news that the other secretaries present hastened to add was that “infostructure” is also part of “build, build, build.”
In a previous report under this column, Tomas Alcantara, chair of the Apec Business Advisory Council Philippines, lamented the silo mentality in the government that has been hurting MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) development and innovation. The revelation at the Dutertenomics Forum that silo mentality is being addressed will be welcome news for business leaders like Alcantara who are working hard to sell Pilipinas Inc. to the rest of the world.
This probably explains why Trade Secretary Mon Lopez has also been able to accomplish so much more to support MSME development and push for inclusive business. It seems like the different units, departments and offices at the DTI are finally coordinating more closely because of the strong tone from the top, as modeled by the department secretaries in the economic cluster. I can only hope that those in the social cluster are doing the same.
On Vince Dizon’s three words, let me conclude with the need for unity of purpose, not only among the economic cluster secretaries, but also among our people. In other countries, even taxi drivers and farmers talk of a common vision, a purpose that unites them with political and business leaders. In our deeply divided nation, the challenge remains: How do we unite in purpose now?
Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is executive director of the Makati Business Club and vice president of Integrity Initiative Inc.
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