2019s hits and misses

Photo: The BRP Conrado Yap ushers our Navy into the missile age (PNA)


We catalog a list of the top hits and misses in terms of government programs and other happenings in the Philippines that have had an impact on a good number of Filipinos. While there may be others that should have made the list, this, according to our editors, are the most significant.



1.The Innovation act and the Startup law both laws promise funds for start ups and innovative enterprise. This law will be instrumental in pushing new products and innovations in technology to solve many of our everyday problems.

2. Lower Rice Prices- While controversial to some, especially to the 2 million rice farmers, the rice Tarrification law is landmark in that it enabled rice prices, which are the single biggest food expense of 30 million poor Filipinos (including half of the rice farmers), to go down by about ten pesos per kilo, enabling inflation to drop to about .8%, the lowest in years. Photo: Department of Agriculture

Moving forward, the tariffs generated from imported rice will be funneled into a Rice Competititveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) that can invest in mechanisms and technology that can make our 19th century era rice sector (which sees 30% of our harvested palay wasted) as modern and competitive as Thailand’s (“walang tapon” as they say). At the local level, a good part of this fund has already been released into the farms. We hope 2020 will see the initial fruits of these investments in the form of better seeds and post harvest facilities  .



3. Record Revenue Collection

The Bureau of Internal Revenue announced that as of December 2019, it had already achieved percent of the total collection target of P2.3 trillion for the year, prompting BIR Commissioner Cesar Dulay and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III  to congratulate them for a “job well done.” At 2.3 billion, the BIR already accounts for more than half of the 4.1 trillion peso budget for 2020. This, along with the remittances and dividends from Government Corporations, Customs Duties and other sources like service fees are meant to fund these vital expenditures.

Why are high revenue collections important? Because they lower our need for borrowings to finance what we need to spend for, and allow us to negotiate for lower interest rates if needed.  This, in turn, also keeps our credit ratings high, since it can also indicate a capacity to better pay our debts.






4. 8 million tourists

This is the all time high number of tourists entering the country. A Japanese couple was the 8 millionth this year. As a result of intensive marketing efforts in Asian countries, more tourists arrived in the country, already giving us 12% of our GDP growth, surpassing Business Process Outsourcing companies. Tourism growth is important because like agriculture, it hires many of our lesser skilled countrymen, and thosemin the provinces where the tourist spots are located. Indirectly, they engage local food suppliers and farms, transport services which multiply the benefit even more.


5. Lowered Poverty

The lowering of our over all official 2018 poverty rate from to 16.6 percent from 23.3 percent in 2015 is a strong victory of the Country’s economic team, as the poverty rate is mother of all indicators to show if the economy is indeed improving.

In a statement by the National Economic Development Authority, the Philippine Development Plan  (PDP) target of bringing down poverty incidence to 14 percent by 2022 is therefore achievable. https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1089532


6. Lowered unemployment

More Filipinos had work during the year, as indicated by the rise in the employment rate to 94.9 percent in 2019 from 94.7 percent in 2018. This translates to an unemployment rate of 5.1%, lower than last year. https://www.philstar.com/business/2019/12/23/1979086/unemployment-rate-eases-2019



7.Start up of the BARMM With the Bangsamoro

PUV Modernization: With the recent deployment of Indonesia- made trains on Philippine National Railways Lines, the revival of the once forgotten rail system has been boosted. These are bolstered by New MRT Lines to Cavite and north Quezon city, and the Japan funded Subway system in Manila. Likewise, the proliferation of new e jeeps and Euro 4 compliant minibuses in many cities, and new bus systems in Cebu and Davao herald the entry of more comfortable means of public transport.



8.Horizon 2 of the AFP modernization.

The arrival of the new combat helicopters, attack aircraft and the sea trials of the country’s first of two missile and stealth capable frigates from South Korea will complete the transformation of our air force and navy into a more formidable frontline defense assets. Moving forward, air defense fighters, and missiles for current surface ships, and possibly, two submarines may join our fleets. Along with solider’s pay increased, morale in the military is high. They are no longer the shame of ASEAN.



9.Successful SEA GAMES hosting

Despite being off to a rough start, the hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian games proved a memorable one for the country, showcasing its capabilities as it took the hosting chores on short notice from Brunei Darussalam. Initial hitches prior to the start of the games were fixed, with many journalists apologizing for what were eventually shown to be false reports some of them mistakenly cited.



1. Agri misses the target in 2018

Form an impressive 3.9% growth at the end of 2016, agriculture growth fell to levels reminiscent of the Aquino years at .56% by the end of 2018, a year punctuated by the sharp rise in rice prices due to delayed imports of the staple in that year. Then Secretary Emmanual Pinol was repled  by former DA Secretary William Dar in June of 2019.

Thankfully, agriculture rebounded to 2.87% growth in the third quarter to make .75% growth for the first nine months of 2019 and looks set to sustain it till it reaches the 4% level by 2020. We hope this gain is sustained with the implementation of new funding from the 2020 budget and the tariffs gained from the implementation of the Rice Tarrification law and the uptick in copra prices in the end of Q3 2019. For reference, rice farmers and coconut farmers number at around 2 million each, both sectors easily making up 90% of all farmers.


Photo of a piggery (Department of Agriculture)


2. Budget delays slow down growth

As a result of the delayed approval by the previous Congress of the 2019 budget, public spending, a key driver of growth especially in the rural areas, slowed to below 6% in the first two quarters to about 5.5 and 5.6%. It recovered in the next quarter to 6.2%, raising hopes of a 6% full year GDP figure as predicted by economists.


3.Ocho Derecho

 This team led by former Senators Mar Roxas and Bam Aquino failed to win any Senate seats despite extensive mainstream and social media coverage.  Touting strong opposition against a popular governemtn, their weak messaging that mainly pleased their own crowd of supporters, and the lack of local candidates and campaign events were blamed for their poor survey and eventually, electoral performance


4.The Metro water shortage and their water contracts

Obviously angered by the shortage of water in Metro Manila the President ordered both water concessionaires to level up their game and supply the necessary water to the metropolis. This came to a head late in 2019, as both concessionaires won almost 11 Billion pesos via an arbitral court in Singapore to reclaim lost potential profits.

This prompted a review of their concession contracts, where many onerous provisions were discovered by the Department of Justice. The President’s decision on these contracts will be known in early January.

These discoveries led many citizens to voice their concern on the other Public Private Partnerships (PPP) Projects being proposed under the Build Build Build program, such as the Sangley point and Bulacan airport proposals.


5.Vice President Leni Robredo’s drug czar appointment

Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo’s two week stint as the country’s drug czar was widely criticized as a useless accommodation, even a trap. We leave you to review her widely covered performance. Her chances of being the opposition standard bearer in the 2020 elections are even slimmer as a result.