Poverty has been one of the broadest terms in human language and most tackled issues in the international community. It encompasses every aspect of people’s lives whether it is social, cultural, economic, and political, and brings detrimental implications to them. Poverty has been so degrading in the life of human beings that it hinders them to develop and achieve their full potentials, and in the long run it will negatively affect and prevent the whole nation in attaining development. For this reason, several actions and policies were implemented in order to address this problem, and one of those is to include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger in the MDGs (8 Millennium Development Goals) presented by the UN. It is a recognition that poverty is a major hindrance to the development of a nation, and in order for us to eliminate it, according to the United Nations, we have to promote and ‘achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all’. In our country, it is the top concern of our government and all concerned citizens to eradicate or, at least, alleviate poverty in the life of Filipino people. In fact, a lot of our politicians have created beautiful slogans regarding poverty, and a good example will be this: “Erap para sa Mahirap (Erap for the poor people).” And another slogan would be the prime motto of our current president which is, “Kung walang corrupt, walang Mahirap (If there’s no corruption, then poverty will not exist).” Truly, we can win several awards in slogan making because of the loveliness of the slogans of our politicians regarding poverty. But elimination of poverty cannot be and will never be eliminated by mere words. It needs concrete and effective actions. In the Philippines, we have what we called Medium Term Philippine Development Plan, which would always be implemented by the incumbent administration in a certain period of time. But how are going to know if those plans of the government were effective and able to address the needs of our people and our nation?
Last July 22, 2013, we were able to witness the 4th SONA speech of our President Benigno Aquino III. State of the Nation Address is annually delivered by the Philippine President to show his achievements and all the other things or sectors in the government and fields in the country that must be improved. In his SONA last Monday, President Aquino presented to us all the developments that he achieved since his incumbency and the other issues that he needed to address. But the point here is that, are those things that he stated in his speech were able to relieve the disease that corrupts the society of the Filipino people?
In this essay, we’ll dissect some relevant portions of his speech including his actions toward the informal settlers and against the corrupt officials of our institutions, his self-proclaimed achievements in the quality of education and tourism, his opinion towards renewable energy resources, and etc. After this, I’ll try to convince you that despite of the efforts of the current administration, we still failed to address the greatest poverty of all which is, as it was declared by our National Artist in Literature F. Sionil Jose, the Poverty of Spirit.
President Aquino discussed to us how he succeeded, and will continue to be successful in eliminating corruption in every agency or institution such as TESDA (in terms of the high price of utensils), PAGCOR, PNP, and etc. Truly, we’re able to eradicate a few of the corrupt officials of our government because of the anti – corrupt principles and policies being executed by President Aquino, and we have to recognize and honor those efforts.
Corruption has been one of the principal causes of poverty throughout the global community. But just to balance everything, corruption has been always there and will always be there. Even in the rich countries like Japan and Singapore, corruption exists. South Korea was known before as one of the most corrupt countries, but Koreans during that time didn’t allow their corrupt officials to influence them. They’d worked for each other, and didn’t think any more on what their government can do for them but instead they’d thought on how they could contribute to their country. That’s what you call autopilot people. And I think this is what we need to develop on the attitude of the Filipino people. How? Through revolutionizing and enlightening their minds by means of education, which will lead me to my next point, and this is about the quality of education. But before moving on that, let us remind ourselves how powerful the change that education can do to the mindset of the people. The knowledge and wisdom that we can convey to them through education can enlighten their minds and guide them to develop not just their own lives but our nation as well.
Quality of Education
Our president also highlighted their efforts (together with his officials) in improving the quality of our education and how they were able to attain their goal. He proved it by showing the records of how the price of each textbook decreased from P58-P30, and because of that every student in 20.7 million students has now 5 books. Furthermore, he stated about his plans in rehabilitating 9502 classrooms, and he also told us that we can now provide for all the requirements of K-12 program.
Ok, so let’s do this step by step. Lowering the price of textbooks doesn’t necessarily mean improving the quality of education. It is a good attempt of providing an access to education for every Filipino student but it will not and will never improve the quality of our education. I remember when I was in high school, some of our books were outdated and a few of their contents were erroneous. It only means that providing textbooks for our students will not really result to a good quality of education. It will still be based on how we teach them the value of learning which will be portrayed by our teachers.
Our president also talked about rehabilitation of classrooms and our sufficiency to implement K-12 program. K-12 is a good start in developing our educational system. But my only concern is that did he mention in his speech something about increasing the salary of our teachers or even improving their skills for them to be better equipped in guiding our students in this advanced era? I don’t think so. We want to improve the quality of our education but we don’t even care about the welfare of those people who sacrifice every day and give their whole compassion to teach the next generation.
Majority of the most intelligent and skillful Filipino teachers have already taken the chance of working abroad because of the high salary that they could receive there compare to what they can gain here. And worst, the government doesn’t even bother to take care of those teachers that were left here. Majority of our teachers were living below the average income and it’s just enough to support their families. And because of that, they weren’t able to widen their knowledge and perspective and further enhance their skills which would result for them not to be able to efficiently guide our student to cope up with the fast-pacing world. But as I’ve said earlier, we should not lean on what the government can do for us but we have to think on how we can contribute to our country. And that’s why despite of their situation, I still believe that they could lead our students and raise a generation that will dream and work for the development of this nation. But still it’s a shame for the incumbent administration if he has no plans to monitor, take care, and improve the status quo of our teachers. Unless he improved the status of our teachers, he has no right to tell us that there’s a development in the quality of our education. We need to value the roles of our teachers because they are in the position to influence and forge the attitudes of our next generation and change the future of this country. What we need to do is to create and establish more policies and programs that will support them financially and intellectually speaking.
Informal Settlers and Agricultural Sector
Another issue that was included in the SONA is the establishment of public housing for the Informal Settlers. Our president told us about the 28,398 families who were once informal settlers but now have, or will have, decent homes. This is a good action by the government to reorganize our community since they are one of the causes of flashfloods because they live and throw garbage in our drainage systems. However, there were some criticisms that were pointed out to this program. According to some critics, the large money that we’ve used in this public housing projects should have been utilized for much relevant things like education. But we have to understand that there are other countries that were implementing these kinds of programs like Singapore. But the problem is that there is a big difference with the way how they conduct it from how we’re doing it. To illustrate it, in 1960, only 44 per cent of the land in Singapore was owned by the government while over 35 per cent of the population then lived in squatter settlements.  In order to eliminate those squatter settlements, they’d passed the Land Acquisition Act. Under this law, the government can compulsorily acquire any land of private and commercial use for public interest. In paying for the compensation, the state will determine the value of land which is sometimes lower than the market value. And because of that, they could establish and provide houses for their people at lower costs. Furthermore, the costs of buying of or renting in these public housing units have been kept low so that people can really afford it while improving their status in life. This allowed several Singaporeans to gain houses much easier. And because of the better environment that the government had provided in these public housing units, more people became much attracted to transfer in these houses. Moreover, according to the Housing and development Board of Singapore, “82.5% of all households living in public housing have indicated that they would be content to always live in those flats.” Today, the poorest 20% of households in Singapore have equal access to housing resources. Now can you see the big difference between how they conducted their housing programs and the way we’re doing it? And worst, those Filipinos that we evacuated from the drainage systems to the relocation site would go back to their former places or houses and prefer to become informal settlers because, according to them, there’s no chance of surviving in those public housing units due to lack of livelihood or job there. With that case, we just wasted our efforts and money. What we need to do is to adapt what the Singaporean government did in their informal settlers. But we have to implement it not here in Metro Manila where crowds of people and buildings already existed. We have to apply it in our rural areas or provinces where several lands are not being utilized and developed. Furthermore, we also need to develop our provinces and create a lot of jobs and opportunities there so that people from those places would not keep on going to Metro Manila. One good example for that is to develop our agricultural sector. I like the idea of our president of persuading our farmers to use the method of intercropping in their farming which can really increase their profits. In this method, the space of land between, for example, coconut trees will be used in planting or farming other agricultural crops. It will really give more opportunities to those living in the rural areas. But I strongly believe that it will be more beneficial to them and us as a whole country if we will be the one to use those agricultural products that our farmers harvest in manufacturing another product. The problem with us is that we are already contented to be an exporter of agricultural crops to those rich countries like US, Japan, and etc. For example, we are one of the top
exporters of the coconut, but we did not even try to think on how we can produce profitable products out of that agricultural crop. In a certain country in the West, there is a product called Coco Water that became very profitable and very famous to every people there and I think being exported now to specific Asian countries. So what a shame for a country like the Philippines that produces and exports coconut? Why are we not doing that? Why are we not using our own agricultural products and manufacture them? Why don’t we support and teach our farmers to manufacture their own agricultural products? Some politicians and other persons who have no vision for our country would say: “Because we don’t have the money to buy the technologies needed in manufacturing.” Now question, so what is the use of the pork barrels of our legislators? Ok, I’ll not go deeper into that subject. As I’ve said earlier, this is a matter of vision. We are poor because we are poor in spirit. We cannot do the things that we have to do for our country because we have no vision as a nation. But I will discuss it in the conclusion part. For now, let’s continue on my next point.
Tourism and Renewable Energy Resources
Another topic that was discussed in SONA is about the status of our tourism. He proudly presented to the new record high of tourists last 2012 at 4.3 million, which is an increase of 21.4% from 2010. And we are so happy about it because it contributed to our economy because it created lots of jobs for many Filipinos. Great! Now we’ve realized how relevant the role of tourism in our country. But let’s not be so satisfied and happy with what we achieved. Malaysia has 25.93 million tourists in 2012; Thailand has 22.3 million tourists in 2012; and Singapore that has no natural resources has 13.5-14.5 million tourists in 2012. While the Philippines that has a lot of natural resources and beautiful places has recorded only 4.3 million tourist arrivals. How come that a country that has no natural resources like Singapore has surpassed a country full of natural resources and beautiful places like the Philippines in terms of tourism? This is all about vision. People in Singapore have worked hard to take care for their country. They have 0% natural resources but 100% human resources; while we, Filipinos, didn’t even bother to take care of our own natural resources, our own country. Sometimes, we are the first ones to throw garbage and destroy the beautiful places and tourists spots of our country. Some of our historical sites are being degraded because of our apathetic attitude towards them. For example, our very own Fort Santiago and Intramuros are included in the top 10 endangered Asian historic sites. This kind of historical sites should actually be a tourist spot in our country but we are not doing to preserve it. Another example of our apathetic attitude is our lack of concern towards the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. The preservation of these historical novels is being conducted and financially supported by the German government that should actually be our duty.
Another important issue that was addressed in the speech of our president is about the use renewable resources for our electricity. He told us that he is in favor of using them but the problem is that it is not applicable to us because of their high-costs. As I keep on repeating and repeating earlier, we are a people of no vision. In an article entitled “Renewable Energy: Economically Sound, Politically Difficult” written by Benjamin K. Sovacool, he stated that “among all those claims, perhaps the most disturbing are those that renewables are ‘high-cost’ power sources.” Yes, the traditional way of generating electricity might be cheaper than establishing or using those renewable energy resources. But we always have to understand the concept of costs and benefits. Conventional electricity generation might be cheaper but ‘it is the largest source of air pollutants that harm human health and injure the natural environment.’ The pollutants that are being emitted by the conventional power plants are carbon dioxides (contributes to climate change), sulfur dioxides (causes asthma, heart disease), nitrogen oxides (causes respiratory illnesses, haze), particulate matter (increases the risk of direct morbidity and mortality when inhaled), and mercury (causes neurological change). A single conventional power plant is emitting a very significant amount of carbon dioxides into our environment. And on the estimation of the senior economist at EPA Alan Carlin, the cost of removing carbon dioxides after it has been emitted is as high as $3500/ton. So, according to Benjamin K. Sovacool, if that estimation is correct, then “the cost of removing all of the CO2 emitted from power plants just in 2007 would exceed $7.7 trillion.” If I will present all of these things to our president, will he still tell us that it is much cheaper for us to utilize those conventional power plants where we used fossil fuels and coal? As I have said earlier, this is a matter of having the right vision to perform your job well. If we really want to attain a sustainable development where we are able to meet our own needs without compromising the ability of the future generation to meet their own needs, then we have to accept the fact that we really need to adapt renewable energy resources. If we will consider the negative implications of fossil-fueled power plants to a country, as it was declared by economists and environmentalists, then we’ll be able to know that they are
economically unsustainable. What we need to do here is to adapt renewable energy resources. It may be expensive at first but in the long run we will observe that it is much cheaper.
President Aquino has tackled so much in his SONA that I won’t be able to discuss them all. But some of the other important issues that he discussed include his opinion against the strengthening of our military forces, his plans to further support our policemen, and his strategies in calamity preparedness, which include project Noah. I agree with his opinion against strengthening of our military forces without even thinking the effects that it can bring to the other sectors of our country especially in terms of education and other social services. I also agree with his plans to further support our policemen because they deserve it. They always put their lives into risk to serve and protect our people yet they receive a very low salary from our government. I also appreciate his strategies to implement calamity preparedness, specifically the project Noah. That’s a good start in preventing so many casualties in our country although it is not the whole answer in securing the safety of majority of the Filipinos. That is why I also agree with President Aquino that he cannot really put us into full development, but he can start, if he has the competency, knowledge and wisdom to do it. Six years is not really enough to make a true development. It’s been proven by a lot of countries that it takes a generation or 25 years before a country can fully attain its development. And the process of attaining that development will be a very long journey and painful process that will require us to eliminate our old bad habits and attitudes and replace it with constructive mindsets and attributes. The poverty inside of ourselves was very well established in our minds that even those politicians who keep on trying to change our country were deeply entrenched into it, which can be seen into their inefficient and ineffective actions, and I’ve proved it to you earlier in the discussion part of this essay. Unless we gain a proper vision for our country, we won’t be able to achieve true development. Just to quote a proverb in the Bible, “People without vision shall perish.”
Based on the theory of another development (anotherness), one of the counterpoint theories to the mainstream development theories, structural transformation is needed for development and the change or the development itself should always come from within and must be rooted from the very heart of the society and from the vision of the people for their nation and for the future generation. Any outside efforts to develop a nation would be useless if the important institutions within the country and the people themselves are not performing well to fulfill their duties and roles. But how can the people fulfill their roles and duties very well if there is corruption and poverty inside of their selves? To paraphrase a quotation from a Singaporean film entitled Ah Boys to Men, “We cannot win the battle outside if we won’t be able to win the war inside of us. This is a battle between you and your selfish desire.” Based on the concept of anotherness, we have to redefine the whole purpose of development, and the focus of it should always be on the development of man. We have to lay down every bad habit that we have in order for us to develop. All the attempts of our president to improve our country are good, but unless he himself and the Filipinos themselves will eradicate that poverty of spirit, we won’t be able to attain a true development. The attitude of ‘Pwede na Yan!’, blaming the government and the others, laziness, crab mentality, and other bad habits should be eradicated within ourselves. All of us should be transformed from the inside out. No other persons can force us to change unless we motivate ourselves to change us.
We were already left behind by our neighboring countries because of our own ignorance and apathy. This is the time to change. Nation-building will be a very hard process and journey but we have to take the risk and endure the pain if we want to attain development not just for ourselves but for the future generation.
- United Nations. We Can End Poverty 2015 Millennium Development Goals. Available at: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/
- Yue, Belinda. Squatters No More: Singapore Social Housing. Available at: http://www.globalurban.org/GUDMag07Vol3Iss1/Yuen.htm
- Sovacool, Benjamin K. Renewable Energy: Economically Sound, Politically Difficult. The Electricity Journal. 2008
Title: To.Message: To. Everyone Who Allowed the Current Me to Exist<Dear. E.L.F>
Hello, this is Sungmin.What words to say first… I thought of it countless times, even just the first sentence.I wrote and deleted countless times, and while doing that, I could remember the thankful faces..and their voices more..I write this letter with a heavy and cautious heart.Everyone, I met a good person, and will be getting married on 12/13.Thinking about you guys who received the news suddenly today, my heart aches.I wanted to give the news to my precious friend, and those who love me, to E.L.F. first, and was thinking about how to say it and when.. Sorry that you guys learned through it first through the news article.To be honest, before I passed this news, because of the decision I am making, and with thoughts about those who have been with me till now…There was a lot of time that I conflicted (within myself) a lot and endured it alone.Not because I was afraid of my decision, but worried how surprised my thankful people will be when they hear this news that they’ve never experienced before, worried about how they could be hurt. It’s a bit late, but with the courage from your big love and trust in me, I announce this news myself.I really want to say that I am truly thankful to you guys, who watched me- like a shadow-grow up from nobody and cheered me on.I am really thankful to those who helped me so far, and members and the company who trust my decision and respect it. I will continue to work harder from now on, and will become Sungmin-ee who repay your love.
CREDITS TO NKSUBS FRO THE TRANSLATIONS :(