Early bumps in Digong gov’t
by Bingo P. Dejaresco

AS EARLY CONTRADICTIONS in the anti-drug surface, certain bumps also occur in other areas.

Agriculture, the least contributor to the national GDP thus far, has always stunted the rural areas where most agri activities thrive.

Lifting agriculture from the morass of decay, however, shall remain a “lip service” in the Digong era if the anti -smuggling drive at the BOC ( Bureau of Customs) remains anemic. Why?

How indeed can our local producers and farmers compete with the agricultural goods from abroad which dodge taxation?

SINAG, an activist agri-NGO deplores that since the 2010 (when president Noynoy Aquino took office) up to the present-a whooping P200-B in agricultural products have been smuggled. That’s rice (P94-B), pork (P40-B) and sugar (P25-B).

The rest of the P 4o-B covers smuggled chicken, vegetables and even spices. No wonder the government estimates that the BOC losses P300-M in revenues per day from smuggling.

Have we heard of smuggling arrests lately? Why not start with those granted quotas to import rice? Logic 101?

Next, there is mining, And for as long as environmentalist-activist DENR chief Gina Lopez holds sway, mining companies who ignore environmental caveats,debase the community and squirrel inordinate profits abroad will not see the light of day.

Black propaganda paper trying to soil Gina’s mantle of rectitude is not going to work with president Digong. No arm-twisting here, he says, as the country can do without mining. The issue of environmental preservation is non-negotiable in the Duterte regime.

Not even the humongous P6-B Tampakan copper project-associated with the world’s biggest will get past Lopez’ cutting scissors.As a result -some mining stocks in the Philippine stock exchange had tumbled to a fourth of their value from the previous levels. But so what?

Quo vadis,mining ? Indeed.

Duterte, in the meantime, is a leader who aches to leave a legacy as a “peacemaker” -particularly in his being able to write finis to two two decades-long rebellion: the NPA ( National Peoples Army) and the Muslim secessionist movement.

When the Oslo–based Red leaders: Jalandoni- Sison and the RP-based Dureza-Belo group took giant steps towards rebellion-ending talks, two violent groups apparently held no fealty and allegiance to their “formal leaders” wishes in Oslo.

In the midst of a ceasefire declared by the government – the enemies ambushed the government-CAFGU unit and separately threw a grenade to a passing-by tricycle, both occurring in Davao, Digong’s turf, as if to taunt the president.

However, accordingly a joint GRP-NDF panel will declare a ceasefire on both sides before August 20- a new number on “peace talks ” target date.

Will the communists ever really change? Fireworks are raging already with Sison openly declaring Duterte as a “butangero” when the latter cancelled the ceasefire.

Can one really erase the stripes of a tiger? People often ask.

Lately, there have been efforts to realize,actualize Digong’s “pet project”- the government’s change into Federalism.

The idea about a constitutional convention , which would have gathered the “experts ” in the subject matter from all over the country towards a Constitutional Convention” with the establishment of a Federal government as an avowed goal is dissipating.

In its stead, the political wind, in the guise of a concern for fiscal burden of an expensive price tag of a P6-B for a Concon, is blowing towards convening congress as a Constitutional Assembly to decide this “game- changer” constitutional changes.

The danger with this route is that people are now genuinely suspicious of anything that Congress conks out of its chambers that touch on constitutional change.

There is, therefore, that high possibility that the Filipino nation- derisive of congress – will vote down Federalism, blessed by the benediction of a Con-Ass (ironic pun) during a resultant referendum.

We must note that a recent Pulse Asia survey showed more people (44%) disliking charter change compared to only (37%) favoring it, and 19 percent undecided.

One might ask- what is Digong without Federalism? Would he be like a spurned suitor who puts everything on the line to get a “yes” only to get a “no” in the end? So what would be next , Mr President?

Finally, there seems to be a great fiscal shift in style from Pnoy to Digong.

Whereas Aquino’s mantra was “we’d rather not spend the budget than for it to run the risk of being corrupted.”Under-spending, thereby, became its middle name.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court had outlawed the PDAF ( developmental assistance fund) and the DAP ( development acceleration program) and further curtailing the facility of using then programmed budget expenditure funds .

The Digong government is having none of that and will steamroll for a (GMA ideal) high 7% GDP growth or better- with “G” or government spending on gung-ho mode with all expenditure-barrels blazing.

We just have to make sure, however, that this fiscal tendency which we shall baptize as ” frenetic intemperance” does not lead to notionally hastily-conceived mega projects that only do not make sense in the socio-economic prism but also do not pass the sieve of the gatekeepers like the COA ( commission on audit) and the Ombudsman, post facto.

Do we really have the revenues – or are we back to debt-financed expansion- to funnel this breathtaking economic growth goals? And more importantly, do our executive agencies and LGUS truly have the “absorptive capacity” to plan and execute optimum projects that address both the “poverty” and the “inequality” angles at the same time?

Birth pains are what the above are normally called at the start of the honeymoon period with an incoming New Administration. Or are they?

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