MANY Filipinos are probably unaware that their national government has a grand vision of eliminating poverty by 2040.
Recently, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and the National Security Council (NSC) released two interesting documents that spelled out the plans of the Marcos Jr. administration: the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028, and the Philippine National Security Policy (NSP) 2023-2028.
“By 2040, the Philippines shall be a prosperous, predominantly middle-class society where no one is poor; our peoples shall live long and healthy lives, be smart and innovative, and shall live in a high-trust society where families thrive in vibrant, culturally diverse, and resilient communities,” Neda wrote about the PDP.
The NSC, on one hand, incorporated for the first time its vision for the Philippines as an archipelagic country: “A free, resilient, peaceful, and prosperous archipelagic and maritime nation, at peace with itself and its neighbors, enabled and protected by reliable defense and public safety systems.”
The policy-making body on the overall security of the country finally declared that the core of Philippine existence and consciousness lies in its being a group of islands.
“We are a maritime nation. [We stand for what we are.] This is a big shift of how we see ourselves,” Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya of the NSC said in a seminar by Waypoints Project to the media last September 8.
Can this new realization of national identity as a maritime nation steer the economy toward the middle-income bracket?
The blue economy
THE maritime space is bigger than the “land space” in the Philippines. But most of the country’s laws, policies and economic activities are focused on land, lamented Dr. Julio Amador who is the founder of Amador Research Services.
No wonder, despite our vast natural marine resources, the fisherfolk sector is the poorest among the poor in our nation.
Based on the 2022 survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority, the poverty incidence among fisherfolks is at 30.6 percent. Dr. Rosalie Hall, University of the Philippines-Visayas professor, said almost 2 million of these small-scale fishermen are engaged in capture fishing as livelihood. They use non-motorized boats and with that limitation, they can only fish in municipal waters, and not in the exclusive economic zone—including the Kalayaan Island Group.
The solution? Develop the country into a “blue economy.”
The terms means the country will employ the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth. The key word is “sustainable,” as simple exploitation of marine resources would also deprive the next generation of such in the future. Blue economy consists of fisheries and aquaculture on one hand, and maritime transport such as ports, containers, ships and tankers on the other.
To achieve a state of blue economy, the departments of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Environment and Natural Resources, Science and Technology, as well as other “relevant agencies,” must “allocate the needed resources to harness the full potential of the blue economy.”
By how much? It didn’t say.
Dr. John Paolo Rivera, who is Oikonomia Advisory and Research’s president and chief economist, acknowledged that these plans are “good,” but said “there are policy challenges reminiscent of what we have experienced in the ‘green economy.’”
He thinks the public has to be, first and foremost, aware of the need to save the oceans and seas to bring food to the table: “Conservation and preservation efforts should be part of our system. Sustainability must be a part of our economy, politics, society, way of living.”
I also could not find specific plans about research and development; more so, scientific research on minerals and marine environment. R&D is the most important investment that can identify one’s most important asset, ways to harness such, and how to beat the competition.
Can PHL beat the deadline?
NEDA targets that the average family income of farm laborers and fisherfolk would improve by 20 percent to 30 percent by 2025, and the same by 2027 compared with 2015 to 2018 levels.
But what is the 2015-2018 level? “Baseline and targets will be updated upon the release of the official 2021 data from the ‘Family Income and Expenditure Survey’ in the 1st quarter of 2023,” the footnote reads. (Now, forgive me. I can’t find data on the FIES that was supposedly released this year.)
Neda plans are not specific with timelines and target numbers. Just generalizations, and they would not even pass the S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) method of goal-setting.
Dr. Rivera said beating poverty in 12 years can still be achieved. But we should have done concrete actions “yesterday.”
“Tomorrow might be too late. Enough of unnecessary debates in government if we want the blue economy to happen by 2040,” he concluded.