8 Signs of Hope for our Country

“8 Signs of Hope”
By Alex Lacson

(Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 April 2012, page A-15)

Hope is one of life’s great essentials. A person who sees no future in a company, will look for opportunity elsewhere. A man who sees no hope in a country, will migrate to another place.

Is there really hope for our country?

If we simply remove our blinders, caused by our prejudices and unhealthy loyalties, we will see that there are signs of hope for our country. Some of these signs are obvious, others not too tangible to the naked eye, but they are there, so real, like the invisible air we breathe.

The first of these signs is that the fight against graft and corruption being waged by the President appears to be true. Several corrupt practices had been stopped, including the “pabaon” practice among the generals in the AFP, and many more questionable government transactions involving billions of pesos are being scrutinized. The long arm of justice seems to be finally reaching those who, for many years, were beyond its reach.

Second, there seems to be serious efforts to build a good government, as many good leaders have been appointed to positions. Education Secretary Armin Luistro is on track of wiping out by 2016 our country’s backlog of 66,000 classrooms nationwide. This would be a great achievement by itself.

The third sign of hope is that there are earnest efforts to bring down good governance at the grassroots level. Through the efforts of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and Budget Secretary Butch Abad, the 2011 General Appropriations Act now requires full disclosure of budget, projects and financial activities by the LGU chiefs to their constituents. The information must be posted on websites, displayed on posters in conspicuous spots within the locality, and published in newspapers of general circulation. For 2011, a great majority of the governors, mayors and barangay chairmen complied with the full disclosure requirement. Those who did not comply are facing penalties of removal or suspension, on the ground of gross negligence or dereliction of duty.

Fourth, there is a healthy confidence in our country’s economy. This year, for the first time in our history, the Philippine Stock Exchange index pierced the 5,000 level, our highest ever. The stock market is a good gauge of investors’ confidence in our economy for the next 6-12 months. Our country’s foreign direct investments (FDI) in 2011 rose to P256.1 billion, the highest since 1996 when FDI posted P241.1 billion. The foreign investments for the first 2 months of this year are higher than those during the same period in the last 5 years. This year, for the first time in our history, the Philippines became a creditor nation among the IMF member countries.

Fifth, entrepreneurship is on the rise in the country. Many Filipinos today talk about financial literacy and opportunities for investment and entrepreneurship. Joey Concepcion’s GONegosyo Caravan is doing a tremendous job of promoting start up enterprises nationwide. Gawad Kalinga’s new phase of wealth creation and social artistry works to create livelihood opportunities and small businesses for its villages nationwide. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s program of developing more small agri-entrepreneurs in livestock, vegetables, fruits, rice and corn is also increasing the number of wealth creators around the country.

The sixth sign of hope is that Citizen Leadership is spreading around the country. It is good citizenship when private citizens take the initiative and do what they can to help solve problems in their communities, and in the process help in the task of nation-building. In essence, it is leadership by ordinary people, by ordinary heroes like Tony Meloto, Efren Penaflorida, Josette Biyo, Harvey Keh, Reese Fernandez, Jay Jaboneta, Anna Oposa. The list is getting longer everyday.

Seventh, more overseas Filipinos want to help our country. More of them are reclaiming their Philippine citizenship. Tony Olaes, Boy Abay, Rose Cabrera, Dale Asis, Ruby Veridiano and Eileen Aparis are among the young ones I know. Tony Olaes, one of the privileged FilAms I have met, is spending a lot of his own funds to help our people. Rose Cabrera is building in Intramuros a RestoShop that would promote the beauty of our country. Dale Asis formed a Bayanihan Foundation in Chicago and channels support to our Motherland. Ruby Veridiano of New York and Eileen Aparis of California have great ideas on how to connect the second-generation FilAm youth in America to our Motherland.

The eighth sign of hope is that the Filipino spirit is on the rise. For me, this is one of the most important signs. Not only is there hope in the hearts of many of our people, there is a tangible desire to succeed, to excel, to shine. The spirit of greatness among our people, which has long been stifled, is being awakened and unleashed. We see this in many areas, Filipinos who try to beak Guinness world records, who climb the highest peaks of our earth, who try to excel in their fields. Our people are hungry for greatness. The many unknown potentials of the Filipino are being unleashed.

We should build on the gains we have. But there is one thing history wants to remind us. Lee Kuan Yew was not able to bring progress and prosperity to Singapore during his first six years of his rule. That is also true for Mahathir in Malaysia, for Park Chung Hee in South Korea, and for Nelson Mandela in South Africa. It took at least 20 years for Lee Kuan Yew, at least 15 years for Mahathir, and also 15 years for Park Chung Hee, before the reforms they started bore fruit and changed their countries’ destinies forever.

With God’s grace, technology, the support of more hope builders – yes, our country needs more ambassadors of hope — we can leap frog our path to progress and prosperity.

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