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V Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC)

V National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC)



Kabayan Forum


Forum on Equity and Development

DAP, Mandaluyong City

18 November 2005

Ladies and gentlemen, Good morning.

I am pleased to join you today in this opening session of the Forum on Equity and Development. I congratulate the sponsors of this activity, namely the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development, Development Academy of the Philippines, Philippine Institute for Development Studies, and the World Bank.

Thank you for taking the time out from the day-to-day problems of our nation to reflect on the real issues that affect Philippine development. At least, in this forum, we do not have to worry about who is pro and who is against. I am confident that all of us here are one in saying that we are all pro-equity, pro-development, and pro-people.

I understand that the rest of the day will be devoted to various topics pertaining to equity and development. These topics are connected by an overriding theme focusing on the importance of equity in achieving sustainable human development for the Philippines. This is indeed a big task and I am happy to contribute my thoughts on these issues.

The Meaning of Equity on the Ground

Among the reading materials provided to me for this forum was a thick document entitled World Development Report 2006, Equity and Development.

You would not believe me if I tell you that I have read the entire 320-page report, including the index.

I would be honest with you and tell you that I have only read the 18-page overview, which I understand contains the major points in the thicker document.

Why am I telling you this? Because as I was reading the overview, I realized that at our level, at the level of the policy-makers and the academicians, we may all agree on general principles and strategies, and even on institutional arrangements and specific programs and projects.

But the real test of whatever we do is how well our actions really touch the lives of the people on the ground.

After all, the ideas contained in these papers will not mean anything if at the end of the day, the poor remain poor and the hopeless remain hopeless.

I take note of the nuances between equity and equality, of the former pertaining to opportunities to pursue a life according to an individual’s choice and the latter to outcomes in the distribution of income and assets.

But for the ordinary urban poor, who has to deal with the threat of deprivation day in and day out, such nuances would not really matter.

For them, the effect of inequality in opportunities and incomes is very real --- in fact, it is as real as the absence of a hot meal or the inability of their children to go to school.

Perhaps this reality is also the reason why we are all here today. We want to see how we can translate all these good reports into policies that work on the ground and projects that can improve the lives of poor Filipinos.

Government’s Housing Initiatives

Let me digress a bit and talk about a more familiar sectoral concern: that of providing housing for the informal settlers.

You are all aware that as Chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, I am tasked to oversee the relocation of squatters along the Northrail right-of-way.

The relocation is needed in order to pursue the development of the railway system north of metro manila, which will make the growth corridors in Central Luzon more viable.

For me, however, the relocation of informal settlers is more than just an appendage to a major development project.

This is actually an opportunity to mobilize massive public and private resources to provide greater opportunities for the urban poor. With this in mind, I approached the relocation along three dimensions.

The first deals with providing tenurial security. We developed housing sites in areas that have been identified by the beneficiaries themselves. In most cases, the beneficiaries wanted in-city relocation. We agreed to their request, knowing fully well that if we transfer them to places where they do not want to go, they will end up returning to Metro Manila as homeless families.

The second dimension is total community development. We have stopped creating resettlement sites. Instead, we are building communities, places where the resettled families will feel happy and secure. In the end, these families themselves will contribute to their own development.

The third deals with economic and social upliftment. With the support of the private sector, particularly business organizations like the the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the developer groups, cause oriented groups, and other private stakeholders, we are able to harness resources and open economic opportunities for the resettled families.

To date, we have been quite successful in developing the Northrail communities.

of course We have not been spared our share of issues and problems. but I believe that these will all be addressed as long as we continue to work together with the real stakeholders in the program --- THE BENEFICIARIES THEMSELVES.

The Northrail communities are not only community-based projects. They are in fact community-led initiatives, with government and the private sector providing support and resources. the people themselves charted their own destinies --- and they have been doing very well.

Equity and Development

My friends and co-workers, I have not worked in government long enough to have an inside view of the long-term outcome of policies and programs.

Most of my professional life was spent outside of the government, primarily in public service and public communication. But I assure you that I am fully exposed to the effect of all these policies and programs on the common “tao”.

I have seen the politics involved in crafting these interventions by the State. And pushing for equity and development will be no easy and fun ride in the park.

but i remain optimistic. while political forces in this country may differ on positions regarding personalities, there remains a broad consensus on the need for equity and development.

Perhaps, as the political economist would say, the political groups have realized that equity is not only a requirement for economic development. It is a moral imperative. it is a prerequisite to the establishment of a social order where every individual can reach his or her full potentials.

let us, therefore, remain focused on our goal.

Let us not allow political issues to divide the unity of purpose that gatherings like this generate.

This is the challenge for all of us, whether we support this government, or the next.

           Thank you and good day to all of you.                                                                                   HOME | back-to-top  

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