Speech of
Mar Roxas
at Galing Pook’s Conversation with Presidential Candidates on Rural Development
SDC Auditorium, Ateneo De Manila University
[December 11, 2015]

Chairperson Lito Coscolluela; Father Ed dela Torre, who’s outside; Secretary Bebeth Gozun; […] Marivel Sacendoncillo of DILG days; Veronica Villavicencio; Eddie Dorotan, of course, our executive director; Atty. Jimmy Ofilenia, Vice President for Social Development of Ateneo; Paolo Noel Vasquez, former Vice President for Social Development of Ateneo; distinguished guests; fellow alumni, I see some Ateneo alumni here; friends; ladies and gentlemen:

Magandang tanghali po.

I want for our interaction to be meaningful for me as well as for you. I’m not going to spend too much time on a speech or a remark. Many of whose elements, I’m sure, you’ve heard from other venues or other fora.

I just want to give some context to where we are today.

First of all, administratively, I know that we’re Ateneo but will we get “post” [a form of sanction] if we speak in English? [Laughter] Okay lang ba Taglish? [Laughter]

Dati pinapatayo kami one hour kung mag-Tagalog ka. [Laughter]

Five years ago, many of the faces I see here came together, and in one measure or another, some more involved, some less involved, we as a society came together and elected PNoy as President. It was a genuine social movement. We were all tired of the cheating, the lying, the stealing for the last several years. And, the good people of our country, we all came together and put an honest man as President.

And you might hypothesize—that’s the first time I used that word in the campaign, “hypothesize”—[laughter] that that was the initial seek from the honesty and the sincerity at the top, many of the good things that we are experiencing now.

I think it’s undeniable that if we take a look at it from the medical point of view, the country was a patient, which in many ways we were—we were called the Sick Man of Asia. Lumpo tayo; hindi tayo nakakasabay sa ating mga kapitbahay na bansa. If you were the Sick Man of Asia, so many indicia, so many parameters, and measures now indicate that we have moved forward. Kung dati-rati tinakbo tayo sa emergency room, and within the first several months or years of the administration, from the emergency room, nalipat tayo sa ICU. Pag-ICU [pumunta] sa regular room. Ngayon, wala na tayo sa ospital. I’m not saying we have returned to good health, that we have gained Olympian health status, pero malayo na ang narating natin sa kumpara sa saan nagsimula.

Many of you were part and parcel of the many discussions, debates, and efforts to get us to where we are today. I will not take up your time giving you all of the statistics, which are available in various websites and various publications. I think what’s important for us and for me as well is to get some feedback, and engage in discussion is, where do we go from here? Here we are five years later. We’ve made substantial progress and this progress is foundation for where we want to go.

I recall when I was running for the Senate, just as an aside, I would be in a forum such as this. We would begin and little by little people would stand up and leave. So I would ask the organizer, “People are leaving?” “Okay lang ‘yan. Mga kumbinsido na ‘yan.” [Laughter] “Ang kailangan mo na lang kausapin, ‘yung mga natitira.”

So considering the previous speaker I’m glad na hindi pa kayo nakukumbinse. [Laughter]

So what do we do now?

For the first time in generations, there is a legitimate basis to say “Ituloy.” Ang sigaw natin in 2010, “Palitan, baguhin, patalsikin!” Sigaw natin in 1986, and I see there are many veterans here of 1986, by the way 1986 is 30 years ago, one generation later–sigaw no’n, “Patalsikin! Baguhin!” So here we are five years down the road, going on six, the question is, “Is that still valid?”

I’m not saying that we’ve reached perfection. I’m not saying that we’ve reached the paradise, and certainly I’m not saying that we are content with where we are. What I’m saying is that there is a valid case to be made for ituloy, for itaguyod, for palawakin. Not necessarily specific projects and programs, but the values that got us here: the basic values of clean governance, of upholding people’s interests above all others, and of participative, consultative leadership, and decision making. Those are the very basic elements that got us here. If you look at those values, if you look at every case, those are the values that saw us through very, very difficult times.

In the international language of bankers and social anthropologists, they call the Philippines “event rich.” And we are. We have 25 storms every year. We have—you know, when you take a look at the economics of the country and dimensions of growth and development, I really feel like I’m at lecture hall, exogenous events: things that are not in your control occur and one of the measures of the strength of the society, strength of the economy is its resiliency, its ability to bounce back. Just like a human being, di ba? We get colds, we get flu, we get ill, but how quickly do we bounce back?

Anyway, what I’m trying to make is for the last five years have been very difficult. We had all these events happening in our country. We’ve had the strongest storm to ever hit land in the recorded human history, anyone in the world. We had Zamboanga Siege where nearly a thousand fully armed, heavily armed men, tried to take over Zamboanga. […] There were many, many incidents and events that could have derailed us, distracted us, would’ve made us go off course. But here we are. We are certainly much better off than where we were when we first started. And that’s the case that we’re taking. Would we make a U-turn? Do we go back to square one? Do we go off in some other direction? Or, do we carry on? Do we improve? Do we continue the “revolutionary zeal” and thinking that got us here in 2010? It’s paradoxical because our basic approach and perspective is that of the outsider trying to reform. We are basically reformists. And yet here we are in the—some people say unenviable, some people say enviable. But here we are in the position of being the administration.

So how does one continue to be reformist, to be activist, to be change oriented, reform oriented, while in the administration? Meaning, it’s very easy to campaign, it’s very easy to propose, it’s quite another thing to govern. And so we have the burden of governing while at the same time, pushing and carrying on, and pushing the envelop of reform and change as far as we can.

Where do we go from there?

Certainly we continue. We fortify the very values that got us here, which are clean governance, transparent governance, which is putting people’s interests ahead of all other interests in every decision. We continue with our “bibingka approach” of fire sa taas or heat sa taas, heat sa baba, to ensure the inclusivity of the growth. We make sure that while we move forward towards modernity that we also go back to basics because there are still hundreds and thousands of homes that are not connected to power; that don’t have potable water, that don’t have internet access, which are very basic elements of what life or modern life or successful life necessitates in this day and age.

So, the problems of poverty, need, and want, and hopes continue except that the milieu has changed. Certainly, in 2016, we will be much better off starting out from where we were in 2010. Question is, what do we do there?

I’ll just bring up one very specific, considering this is Galing Pook group that you might be very interested in. It is an important part of our platform to ensure na walang maiiwanan. This is something we call our “Walang Iwanan Fund,” our back-to-basics fund. This could also be called our “Karapatan Fund” because karapatan ng tao ito. It’s very, very easy and straightforward. How many Filipinos are there? Roughly around 100 million. So we attach one thousand pesos per person nominal valuation and that’s 100 million times a thousand—a hundred billion. So those hundred million people live all over our country, in towns and provinces. So, very simple, it’s an expanded BUB. You can take a look at it that way; it’s expanded BUB. You can take a look at it as an entirely different back-to-basics concept. But the essence of it is no one, not any single one of the one thousand four hundred ninety towns or the 81 provinces or of the 42,000 barangays will be left behind. Because we will set aside an amount of money that will be dedicated and will be implemented at the local level for their growth and development. Similar to what the P23 billion in the BUB is doing.

So, not because of a favoritism but just as an example: Marides [Fernando], may I just call on you? You still know the number of Marikina residents? [Ferando: 500,000] 500,000. So you take a town or a city like Marikina, 500,000 people times P1000, P500 million for six years. The residents of Marikina can now figure out how are we going transform our community, our city, our municipality because we will have P500 million this year, P500 million next year, P500 million the year after, P500 million the year after that. So, they’ll spend less time, in fact they will spend no time knocking on senators’ doors or making paramdam kay Pangulo or trying to make a Secretary ninong, para lang makapagparamdam so that they can get attention. Di ba?

So here’s a guaranteed stream of development money that the locals will determine. What is it that we want? What is our vision? How do we transform our community? And that example for Marikina, you multiply that simultaneously all over our country.

I just took a few notes about the poorest provinces according to NAPC. If you will take a look at it, they are all some of the most isolated provinces that we have: Lanao Sur, in the mainland of Mindanao but isolated in terms of the flows of goods, and services, of information and so on; Eastern Samar, talagang literally nasa laylayan, facing the Pacific Ocean; Apayao, up in the Cordilleras; Maguindanao; Zamboanga Norte. But imagine anyone of these places where we take the number of people—take Apayao, a third-class province, literally, and I’m not putting them down, but just to give you an indication, rarely, do presidential candidates or senatorial candidates even make the trip to Apayao because it’s so difficult and it’s so diffused. The communities are so diffused that, parang, given the time in the campaign, they don’t go to Apayao. Parang I don’t mean—hindi ko sila minamaliit, pero that’s what… I mean, BF, ran for Vice President or President, I don’t know if you went to Apayao. I don’t recall PNoy and I going up to Apayao. Et cetera. But certainly, when I was running for the Senate, we did not go up to Apayao. Apayao has a hundred and 13 thousand people. So now, Apayao will have a hundred and 13 million every year. So they can all now sit down and figure out, how do we get connected to the rest of the world, the rest of the country? Because if all they’re going to depend on is the money that is sitting in Apayao, then the poverty there is what [inaudible]. The reality is, we need to bring in money from the outside so that the level of income and equality of life goes up.

Now, is that a papogi project? No. We’ve actually done it with BUB. BUB is P23 billion. It’s P15 million minimum per community. We’ve asked the church to partner with us, UBAS, Ugnayan With Barangay at Simbahan so that they can monitor the implementation of these projects. The CSOs and the NGOs and the POs all come together and figure out what is it that we need. What’s notable is that at no time did anybody ask for a […], ‘yung mga “welcome,” “thank you,” “goodbye,” “you are now leaving our town.” Nobody asked for that. There are so many really interesting things that they ask for. You know, a community in Pangasinan, the fisherfolk community asked for fish finders. Who would have thought? Why? They spend so much money on gasoline looking for the fish, and this thing, which is available on eBay, one of their children suggested it. They brought it up and they asked for this little radar thing for fish finders. So now they go and find the fish, catch the fish, and take it home. So the creativity, the dynamism, the good right thinking actually is [there.] They just don’t have the money.

So that was BUB, and so now we’re really giving it […], so to speak, and enlarging it to make sure that all the towns can write and can have their destiny, their future, in their hands and in their control. So that’s something very specific.

Now, for those of you who are conscious about the budget, when we started out in 2010, roughly P175 billion was our capital outlay. Roughly, 1.2 percent of GDP. Nowhere near the standard that a developing country needs to be able to keep up, let alone, catch up. This year, we are at P380 billion, 2015. Next year, we will be at P800 billion of capital outlay. Five percent of GDP, which is the measure that, sort of the global experts say a country needs to keep investing in order to provide the infrastructure necessary for development.

So roughly, we take a hundred of that 800, and we make sure that it’ not decided by Secretary X or Secretary Y or Congressman Z, but it will be decided by the people at the community level, while still provides the national government sufficient resources for all the other huge infrastructure projects that are necessary across the whole breadth of our country.

But we have ensured, with this mechanism, that local communities, every idea, in other words, every idea in the Galing Pook pantheon of bright ideas can now be funded by the local communities. They pick from it with their own local sort of innovation and thinking and development, whatever it is that they needed, and so this is what’s going to happen.

I’m very excited about it because—I’m now going off in a different direction, I apologize, but I just want to give you some perspective. If you take a look at our GDP, total gained income generated […], roughly 60 percent of that is services. What does that mean? When you say services, that’s urban. Di ba? Because services are finance—I mean, you know, it’s urban. Roughly 30 percent is manufacturing industry, and roughly 10 percent is agriculture.

So this is one of the ways—the only reason I bring this up is because this is one of the ways that we ensure that there is money that goes to the countryside so that we can boost up the growth and development in the countryside relative to the cities and the urban areas.

And I’m decided about it because historically… the neoliberal classically is, “if you build it, it will come.” But that takes a long time. That’s why we have this whole discussion about inclusive growth, etc. But all the ways that we’re going to shortcut that and bolster that is to make sure that the money is down below, stay in our community, they are the ones who live there so they can… Let me put it this way: potable water, electricity, access to the world wide web. All the very basic things that communities need in order to participate, in order to be part of the broader part of the Philippines sometimes is not really attended to, but if you ask the people where they would spend their money, most of them would answer they would spend the money there. And so, they in fact ensure, with their national government funding, that they’re part of […]

So let me stop there. That’s one very specific idea: our platform, and some context of where we are. And I look forward to Q and A and exchange for the rest of the day.

Thank you and good morning to all.