The last two years have been a rather wild ride for us and government. This is partly because government has implemented bold reforms that are considered game changers for many of us, affecting us in many ways. Apart from the war on drugs that has been controversial yet remains widely supported by 7 out of 10 pinoys due to the reduction in crime at the community level, here are other changes implemented over the past two years that have an effect on many Filipinos:
1. EASE OF DOING BUSINESS ACT. This law prescribes streamlined procedures for the procurement of permits and other government documents.
With more teeth than the Anti Red Tape Act, this prescribes a maximum time for processing and gives business affected by delays a venue to air grievances and hail the errant officials to a hearing, where penalties for errant officials who fail to comply with the stipulations may be meted.
2. 10 YEAR PASSPORT AND 5 YEAR DRIVERS LICENSE
GAME CHANGE: This will reduce the long lines for renewal of these basic documents that millions of Filipinos need to have in order to travel, eventually shortening long lines. Already reports of shorter processing times and online appointments have delighted citizens.
3. FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL REFORMS AND FREE IRRIGATION Administrative Order 13, Series of 2018. Removal of non tarriff barriers for imported agricultural products. This allows the freer importation of agricultural products to boost supply and lower food prices. The free irrigation law also removes about 10 percent of farmers expenses, enabling them to reduce debt and plow more resources into expanding production to meet rising demand
Despite this protectionism, prices of food, however, have remained higher than our ASEAN neighbors over the last 20 years. This measure, followed by a proposed rice tarrification law, hopes to increase supplies. Experts say this follows after the Malaysian example that desired food sufficiency, not self-sufficiency, as a policy.
GAME CHANGE: This is the first time such a measure was implemented, given the traditional protectionism of past Philippine governments for its agricultural products and the use of quantitative restrictions meant to protect local farmers,which is also blamed for persistent corruption in imports.
4. RAISED SALARIES OF POLICE AND MILITARY. The armed forces and police have languished with subpar salaries and benefits, even required to pay for their own gun licenses.
GAME CHANGE: This is meant to correct that and lessen corruption and the possibility of abuse, and is seen by some to consolidate political power and prevent the possibility of destabilization from within the ranks of the military. In a recent Pahayag Survey by Publicus Asia, the public reputation and trust for the police and military exceeded that of the media and NGOs.
5. BORACAY CLEANUP. The closure of the popular tourist island of Boracay was widely protested by local businessmen but supported by the larger public. Sentiment for the closure and cleanup followed the discovery of high levels of coliform in the once pristine waters, despite the presence of government sponsored wastewater treatment systems that many establishments failed to connect to after an initial controversy over the same problem in 1997.
GAME CHANGE: The ripple created by this effort has been felt in other tourist islands, who now are.involved in their own sustained cleanup, like Siargao, Bantayan and El Nido, where groups of hotels and resorts have banded together to learn how to better manage their wastewater in coordination with government environmental agencies.
6. FREE STATE COLLEGE EDUCATION. This gives thousands of deserving students the chance to study, and enables State colleges and universities.
GAME CHANGE: This enables more students to study for free and complete their studies, as the failure to pay even meager fees forces poor but deserving studies to quit school. This also enables schools to pick the best among the deserving.
7. TRAIN Law- despite false criticisms blaming it for inflation (global fuel prices are the real reason, according to the Asian Development Bank). It has several provisions which lower many taxes.
GAME CHANGE: The game changer here is the removal of personal income taxes for 99 percent of Filipinos shifting the burden to those who can pay more (more moneyed individuals and larger corporations).
8. RENEWED FOREIGN POLICY. Taking the Philippines out of America's orbit of influence.
GAME CHANGE: This allows us better relations with our neighbors given the more inward looking foreign policy of the United States. This also allows us more credibility when dealing with countries suspicious of US interests, particularly within ASEAN, where many neighbors have always seen us as a US lackey.
OTHER POSSIBLE GAME CHANGERS. These are proposed policies that will change the way certain things are done in government.
1. Security of Tenure Act- this proposed law will outlaw improper contractualization of labor once and for all, following after a May 1 Executive order.
GAME CHANGE: This will foreover remove important loopholes in the labor code that past governments were unable top plug, and allow businesses to exploit.
2. FEDERAL SHIFT. By organizing new political structures in federal states.
GAME CHANGE: Organizing new federal states around more traditional ethnolinguistic and geographic groupings theortetically allows better administration and stronger localized democracy, and therefore, stability, as seen in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. The transition, though, needs to be worked out since this will entail some expense.