Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Saturday evening unveiled a “future-proof” strategy anchored on revamping the health sector, pump-priming the economy and ensuring good governance, to guide the country in the New Normal.
Lacson, the standard bearer of Partido Reporma, said the Philippines will need to move forward and fast – or drown in this state of misery brought by the pandemic.
“I commit to offer a ‘Future-proof Strategy’ in the New Normal – one that can stand firm against the many challenges in the coming years and grab the emerging opportunities we have at hand. We need to move forward and fast – otherwise, we will drown in this state of misery,” he said at the “Meet the Presidentiables” forum organized by the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Cignal TV and The Manila Times.
“Our approach to this health crisis must be proactive, not reactive, based only on science and driven by accurate data and not by ‘pandemic politics’ and never motivated by malevolent and unconscionable opportunism to make money out of the people’s difficulty and misery,” he added.
Lacson said this plan – the result of consultations with various groups and local officials – is his preparation should he be elected the next President in the May 2022 elections. “If there is one thing that I have learned from my years of training as a soldier, it is – to never go unprepared in any battle,” he said.
Revamping the Health Sector
According to Lacson, the government should revamp the health sector, allowing local government units and the private sector enough flexibility to conduct vaccination campaigns especially in hard-to-reach and high-risk populations, with the Department of Health providing supervision policy direction; making sure that containment strategies such as contact tracing, testing, and treatment are institutionalized and normalized at no cost to the public.
He added he will make the Universal Health Care Act not only look good on paper but actually serve its purpose of providing healthcare coverage to all Filipinos without any financial burden from out-of-pocket medical expenses.
But most importantly, he vowed to stop corruption in the health sector, which causes continued gaps and inequity in the health system. “Our health system is an agenda not solely within the domain of the Department of Health. We have to fix the very tall and centralized health delivery system by fully devolving not only the functions but the resources to the local government units as mandated under the Local Government Code of 1991,” he stressed.
Pump-Priming the Economy, ‘Filipino First’
Meanwhile, Lacson said the country should pump-prime the economy, which cannot afford further lockdowns – with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) estimating the present and future costs of COVID-19 and the quarantines at P41.4 trillion. Further, in 2020 alone, the country’s economy was bleeding at the cost of P20.5 billion per day when NCR Plus was locked down under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).
He said the key would be judicious spending to benefit those who need it, especially as the national debt is projected to reach P13.42 trillion by next year. He added the government must pay attention to our micro, small and medium enterprises comprising 99.5% of all enterprises and 63.2% of the labor force.
Among the solutions Lacson proposed are comprehensive and targeted fiscal stimulus packages to aid our businesses in reopening and staying afloat; and eviction and foreclosure moratoriums and employee-retention tax credits to motivate businesses to reopen.
But he also stressed Filipino enterprises must be prioritized instead of their foreign counterparts, citing the case of the irregularities involving the procurement of medical supplies by the DBM Procurement Service – “which procured more expensive face masks through wheeling and dealing and favored Chinese traders, made possible by the highly questionable transfer of P42 billion under the regular budget of the DOH.”
Worse, he said the Chinese traders cheated by evading payment of taxes in favor of buying pricey luxury cars, if not stashing their profits somewhere outside the Philippines. “Where Noah Webster failed in inventing the word to describe an evil act of quenching one’s thirst for money out of a pandemic, it took us Filipinos to discover that word. It is called – pharmally,” Lacson said.
Reinventing 4Ps, Internship Programs for the Youth:
Lacson said his administration will bolster and reinvent our Conditional Cash Transfer a.k.a. 4Ps programs, “with the overarching principle that every Filipino should bridge the poverty line with a sustainable livelihood or employment opportunities.”
“Our goal is to get people back to work through Cash-for-Work mechanisms. For one, we can tap the corporate social responsibility arms of corporations in pursuing initiatives to provide cash payments under ‘decent work’ conditions to enable them to get back on their feet,” he said.
Lacson also vowed to capitalize on our able and talented youth sector which he said has the potential to drive our economy through a paid internship program that will “maximize skills development and productivity.” He added his economic roadmap will prioritize the expansion of opportunities for our local farmers and fisherfolk, through government support both at the national and local levels – through technical assistance as well as in the marketing of the local farmers’ produce.
Good Governance, Improving Tax Administration
The Lacson economic agenda also seeks to improve our country’s tax administration to pump up revenue collection, through the cross-referencing of data between our major revenue collecting agencies and the other relevant government agencies like the Land Transportation Office, Land Registration Authority, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Trade and Industry to plug our tax collection leakages.
On the other hand, Lacson said he will uphold good governance by getting rid of overregulation, and boosting the digitalization of government processes through the outpouring of resources for automation and interoperability of government agencies to minimize, if not totally eliminate corruption in government.
In turn, this will lead to improved and higher revenue collection and faster, more efficient business transactions.
BRAVE to Empower LGUs, Boost for R&D
Lacson also seeks to guarantee a historic increase of budget infusion for research and development efforts, which get a measly 0.4% of the national budget.
He likewise committed to empower local government units with his Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment (BRAVE), which downloads resources to LGUs so they can implement their development programs.
Other reforms Lacson vowed include a zero-based budgeting system and fiscal discipline, reinforced by leadership by example that will “break away from the politics of entertainment, double-speak, and lip service and stand for the rule of law, inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability – the very tenets of good governance.”
Amid all these, Lacson said the country would require change in the moral acuity among those in higher office – “Kakayahan, Katapangan at Katapatan” to turn these campaign promises into reality.