Lacson Bares Concrete, Implementable, Future-Proof Strategy before PCCI
Opening Statement at the PCCI's 47th Philippine Business Conference and Expo
November 17, 2021
November 18, 2021 - Good morning, everyone.
In my long years in public office, experience has taught me never to go to ‘war’ unprepared — may it be as a Unit Commander in the defunct PC-INP of the AFP, as the Chief of the Philippine National Police, or in my job as a lawmaker for more than 17 years - whether in exposing corruption perpetrated by the powerful and influential culprits in government, or checking misuse and abuse of the national budget.
Today, we face the most disruptive ‘war’ of our lifetime:
war against the still unresolved health crisis,
war against pandemic-induced bad economy and corruption,
war against joblessness,
war against poverty and hunger.
Filipinos across the country are braving the pandemic and the compounding crises of their lifetime—they commute to work, sweat in traffic, transport their agricultural produce, sell in wet markets— all at great personal risk. In return, our peope ask for a decisive answer to one simple question: paano tayo mananalo sa ating araw-araw na laban sa buhay na walang panganib na matalo pang muli?
Today, I present myself as one of your presidential candidates with concrete, implementable and future-proof strategy — not only on how we can survive— but more importantly how we can thrive as a nation.
I intend to depart from traditional politics and lip service by providing measurable, evidence-based, no nonsense policies that can address the impact of the pandemic, reboot our economy, and pull us from the brink of destruction. I anchor my policies on my own stock knowledge as well as the expertise of some of our country’s known policy-makers, industry leaders, local executives and experts. I intently listen to the demands of our people on the ground. I continue to learn from experience and lead by example, with the ability to make tough decisions — decisions that have withstood the test of time.
I come here with a message of hope. We have the greatest potentials as a country. We have the greatest arsenal — our people — who have proven to thrive from despair.
What we do not have is good governance — one that can restore our people’s trust, one that can lead by example, one that empowers with the values of KKK — Kakayahan, Katapatan at Katapangan.
Before we begin the discourse, I wish to pose a question to each of you: In any war, where the stakes are high and the probability of success is tough — who would you rather turn to? Someone who is job-ready, war-proven, with a good leadership track record and tried and tested honesty and integrity or one who has lesser job experience and who would probably spend a quarter of the presidential term still learning the ropes and making political accommodations?
By the end of this debate, I hope that you will land a good answer. One that can very much set our reasonable chance of winning as a country and people.
Thank you and good luck to all of us.
First 100 Days
My first 100 days will be devoted to providing a more efficient lifeline to our nation in the health and economic sectors. There is no debate that our people must get back to work. But there must be sheer guarantee that the government has a future-proof strategy — one that will insulate our people from the vulnerabilities of sudden outbreaks.
Hence, in my first 100 days, I will ensure that we will fully fund our existing gaps that will lead to the full implementation of the Universal Health Care Act, to provide not just free vaccines to all Filipinos but also free testing and treatment backed by data-driven contact tracing that will enable us to stop all “lockdowns”.
This early, we must harness and prepare our resources for the accessibility and affordability to newly developed COVID-19 pills such as ‘molnupiravir’ and other anti-viral drugs that are scientifically proven to be effective against the Coronavirus. We will do these efforts in partnership with our local executives and the private sector.
My first 100 days in office will also lay the foundation for a clean government.
To ensure our people that “leadership by example” will set the tone of my administration, I will lead the way by signing a waiver of my rights under the Bank Secrecy Law and encourage all the members of the cabinet, down to the rank and file to do the same. This will happen on my first day in office, not in the first 100 days.
This will signal our commitment to restoring the trust of our people in their public officials.
To reboot our economy, our government must spend more for the right priorities. And to do so, we have to aid those who hurt the most.
We must push for recovery start-ups of our MSMEs — comprising 99.5% of our enterprises and 63.2% of our workforce — through various viable mechanisms such as comprehensive and targeted fiscal stimulus packages, eviction and foreclosure moratoriums, “lower-interest-bigger loans” programs from state-run
financial institutions, and/or employee-retention incentives to motivate businesses to reopen. It is also high time that we push for a vigorous “Made in the Philippines” campaign that will drive our market to buy more locally-made and produced agricultural yields, products and services. We may start by ensuring that our government offices prioritize local contractors and manufacturers in its procurement. Imagine how the capital flow will help our economy if say, the great fraction of the multi-billion peso agency funds of the PS-DBM is funneled to our local business sector instead of some favored Chinese traders.
We will get people back to work through Cash-for-Work by engaging both the public and private sectors in providing our labor force with cash assistance for jobs.We must promote a paid internship program where qualified and deserving college graduates and undergraduates, even junior and senior high school students can undergo paid internships in government offices, as well as in private corporations in order to develop their skills and maximize their productivity.
Our goal is clear: we will kickstart our economic activities with Filipinos having their fair share of opportunities to dignified means of living.
Spending on infrastructure provides the best value for government’s money. However, if we are to hit the biggest bang for the buck, we must not only invest in Build, Build, Build which as of the second quarter of this year, has only completed 11 out of 119 flagship projects. We must see tangible gains— to actually ease traffic, reduce transport costs, and connect people.
a. Hence, I will sustain and continue infra spending for our priority projects by realistically setting targets which are time-bound and implementable. These include key projects on transport systems for our food supply chain, inter-island connectivity, regional food terminals and health facilities. Ititigil na natin ang pagbubungkal ng maayos pang mga kalsada. Imagine in the last five (5) years alone, we spent a total of P78 B for Preventive Maintenance of roads which are mostly contractor-driven, not based on need. We will start building climate-resilient infrastructure.
b. Integrity in our infrastructure spending must be built on transparency and accountability. I will institute a geo-tagging system to provide an open data visualization platform containing all public infrastructure projects. Lahat ng proyekto — kahit ghost projects pa — makikita ng publiko. We will impose zero tolerance to erring contractors and their benefactors.
c. In response to the irritating bureaucratic delays, we will embark on monumental digitalization and interoperability of all government processes.
d. For the follow up question - I will guarantee the full implementation of the National Broadband Program as one of the priority projects that will allow connectivity across the country.
Agriculture and Fisheries
My vision for the agriculture sector is best encapsulated through these three points: (1) expansion of opportunities for our farmers and fisherfolk; (2) deviation from the import-dependent mentality; and (3) a corrupt-free agriculture sector.
To expand opportunities, we need to complete our longtime backlogs in our irrigation systems, which at present, stands at 35.8% of the total 3.12 million hectares of irrigable area. I have authored the Free Irrigation Service Act, but much is left to be desired in terms of its implementation. We will also institutionalize the creation of Regional Food Terminals to enhance food production and logistics in our local areas.
Aside from government intervention through technical support and assistance involving three(3) basic agriculture components namely, seed, fertilizer and irrigation,, we can and we will carry out alternatives to lower our reliance on importation.
Lastly, my cross-cutting policy in this sector will target the anomalous and the unscrupulous as I intend to clean the Department of Agriculture from top to bottom ranks. Under my watch, there must be no stench of corruption in the likes of fertilizer scam, kickbacks from distribution of farm implements, and “tong-pats” on imported products, among the many other controversies that have been hampering the progress of our food providers. Under my leadership -- there will be an end to the cycle of abuse, poverty, and food insecurity among our food providers, our farmers and fisherfolk.
The government has to infuse money on the economic engine to keep the wheels rolling -- until such time when the people are ready and confident enough to step in the economic wagon. But the government must spend on the right priorities. Top of my economic agenda is the outpouring of support to our business sector to attract capital inflow in the country.
We have to do away with overregulation beyond our competition policy and ensure that economic reforms such as the Retail Trade Act will make us globally competitive. We also commit to Property Valuation and Assessment Reform, Ease of Paying our Taxes, and promotion of digital payments, among others which will lay the groundwork to reboot our economy.
Most importantly, we invest in our human capital. Our social welfare program should drive our people back to work, not subsist on dole-outs all their lives, and be able partners for revving up our economic activities.
My end in view is a future-proof strategy for economic recovery, stringent accountability measures to protect our public coffers, and Filipinos working together -- doing our fair share -- not only to survive but to thrive as a nation.
I can say with certainty that no one has exhibited the same persistence and intense conviction to digital transformation more than I do. The Senate records will bear this out: as the principal sponsor of the DICT budget, I have vigorously defended in the plenary the full 18 billion peso investment in the National Broadband Program-- a secure and reliable ICT infrastructure system.
My presidency promises the complete investment and implementation of our National Broadband Program to improve the internet speed and affordability all over our country.
This will be critical to connect, unify and automate all our government processes for efficient business transactions, increased revenue collections, and eradication of corruption in all levels of our bureaucracy. I am sure that our digital reforms will not only bridge our digital divide but will also boost our competitive edge as a country of great potential in the digital world. I will fast track the roll-out and full implementation of the National ID System which I authored and sponsored after persistently pushing for its passage into law as far back as 1999 when I was still Chief of the PNP and yet to become a Senator of the Republic.
I have also consistently pushed for additional funding for our country’s Research and Development programs. Needless to say, I will guarantee a historic increase of budget infusion for our research and development efforts which now stands at a ridiculously pitiful share of 0.4% of the national budget.
With the growing gaps in the Philippine education, I believe that the primary reform to our curriculum should start from the basics, our fundamental foundations: first, good manners, right conduct, family and citizen responsibilities, second, digital literacy and navigating a world full of of misinformation and distraction, third, financial literacy and finally, gender development and women empowerment. Studies show that 69% of young Filipinos stop their “growth mindset”. This is totally unacceptable.
We can learn from the success of Malaysia’s educational program in the 1970s when then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad initiated scholarship programs for the youth, especially for Bhumiputras, in science and technology, education, sports and management. This will better prepare our youth sector for leadership roles in business and government.
In the same way, we will implement a sustainable Employment Deal. The Employment Deal means an uninterrupted drive for skills matching with job opportunities. We must create a universal database of our pool of skilled and technical manpower suitable for employment at all sectors, for all levels of governments and business enterprises.
We should also capitalize on our able and talented youth sector which has the potential to drive our economy. We must promote a paid internship program where the youth sector can undergo internships in government offices, as well as in private corporations and businesses, in order to maximize our productivity.
Win or lose, how do you want to be remembered by the Filipino people after the elections?
I wish to be remembered as a public servant who had uncompromising principles. One who can walk the talk, and break away from the politics of entertainment, double-speak, and lip service.
If I win, I want to be remembered as someone who won the election in spite of being the most “boring” candidate who insisted on campaigning on hard data of issues, not by TikTok entertainment and occasional feeding program and dole-outs, and certainly not by making false promises, preying on the gullibility of our hapless and desperate electorate for instant cash assistance also known as vote-buying.
I wish to be part of a greater story of every Filipino — someone with humble beginnings who took to heart the teachings of his parents to uphold integrity and honesty at all times, especially when no one is looking, in an environment so ridden with corruption, and someone who uncompromisingly adhered to his personal credo, “What is right must be kept right. What is wrong must be set right.”
In my opening statement, I asked you to answer a question of who to choose between a war-veteran of tested integrity and an apprentice.
Between Senate President Vicente Sotto III, my vice presidential candidate and me are 83 years of government service experience, including 42 years of legislative work as Senators of the Republic.
Modestly speaking, we have long prepared ourselves for this battle. All we humbly ask is for our people to join us in this quest.
Together, we must win the most disruptive ‘war’ of our lifetime. Together, we must win the war against the existing health crisis, war against pandemic-induced bad economy and corruption, war against the instability of peace and order, war against joblessness, war against poverty and hunger.
Again, I thank you all for this opportunity. Mabuhay tayong lahat!