Table Talk: City government: Why save instead of spend? PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 06 September 2011 14:17

BY Mike S Apostol

It’s nice to be back writing after almost five years of getting lost in the minds of Zamboangueños. My reason for getting lost; is public service in the national level, serving the almost forgotten peoples in the country, the 110 ethnic tribes in the Philippines, which comprise almost 10 percent of the enrire Filipino population or roughly 13,000,000, IPs from Northern Luzon to Mindanao.  Thirty seven tribes are found in Mindanao, with Subanens in Zamboanga Perninsula as the biggest tribe in the country. From Zamboanga City to Zamboanga Del Sur, Sibuguey and Del Norte then to Misamis Occidental and part of Lanao Norte, more than three million Subanens are scattered throughout these provinces and can still be found to-date, but, don’t be surprised, it is hard to imagine that these people who once ruled the peninsula with their own crude laws and government, customs and tradition, music, epic, weaponry, and all elements that make up a crude civilization, are impoverished. Most of them wallowing in poverty, deprived of education, whose male population are made laborers with the meanest jobs and with starvation salaries and most of their women find themselves as domestic help and sometimes you find them in the flesh trade of the big cities, their innocence and ignorance are exploited by unscrupolous migrants who like magots eat their way into their peaceful communities and with glib tongue convinced Subanen parents with a bright future in the city, for them to let go of their innocent girls. Maybe it’s the “wheel” of life from masters to servants, but should not have happened if the government took care of them earlier. It was only 10 years ago that the government took notice of the historical injustice by adopting a Special Law, the Indigenous Peoples Right Act (IPRA) of 1987, a little bit late, because majority of today’s Filipinos cannot accept that once upon a time their gardener or maid, were owners of those lands they now claim to be theirs by virtue of a government grant. Nobody can legislate tradition and a time immemorial possession cannot be sold, titled or granted. If it can be than Congress or government might as well legislate conscience.)
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This brings us back to the idea as to why, Local Governments tend to save more, for “savings” rather than spend for development. Is it not that management and economics believe in the principle of “ Return of Investments”? How can the government expect to exact more taxes and more people to pay taxes, when the factors for growth, like good roads, bridges, markets and agriculture in the countryside are underdeveloped because the budgets given by the government to the countryside are not prioritized as to its urgency? That priority is given more on vehicles to run on those rough and rugged roads and just after its warranty is terminated (if vehicles are brand new) the government again budgets for repairs whose cost is almost the same as its price when bought? Why is the government giving seedlings to landowners who are the actual tillers of their lands and then during harvest time corners the produce from the tillers,buying at their own price, leaving the tillers and tenants nothing but accumulated debts. Or why is the government distributing seedlings to the farmers through the banks on loan and when there is a bumper harvest they are left alone to look for markets for their produce. Many times the buyers command the price per kilo and most of the time, the sale from their produce is not even enough to pay for their loan and the poor farmer is having trauma for loans they did not dream of after harvest. It is happening now in Zamboanga Del Sur, farmers are given P10,000  to P30,000 for yellow corn seedlings, after six months of hardwork and waiting if they have a bumper harvest and yellow corn is all over Zamboanga del Sur but the price is horrible. What used to be P 20 per kilo of corn, merchants dropped it down to P4.50 per kilo. Some farmers who are already in misery without the loan are now going crazy with the idea that their lives are made harder by the government because of those “corn loans”. Go to Zamboanga Del Sur and you will know what I’m talking about.
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Billions of pesos are being distributed monthly by the government on this so-called 4 P’s. Each family received from P4,500 to P6,000 depending on how poor and how many students. It is a brilliant idea if it serves it purpose, but, what is happening is benificiaries treat their allotment through ATMs like a coconut harvest. While the money for the 4P’s is not yet released, they pawn their ATM card to businessmen who collect the 4P budget with interest. Poor government, sometimes the benificiaries are local government employees, teachers, etc.etc.  After reading this, don’t ask me, ask DSWD, go to the municipalities and see for yourselves what is happening. there. Don’t you know that the 4 P’s in the provinces has now a new name, Pamahao, Pani-udto, Panihapon, Pang snack. From this layman’s expression you will know how the 4P’s is treated in the provinces.
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The city government has billions of pesos as savings in the bank. Some say it is already alloted for projects but not yet implemented. Sheakespears says “ a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” So the difference is the same. There are so many barangays in the city that lack bridges, good barangay roads, undeveloped ricelands and paddies, no water system, no irrigation system, no road canals, what is surprising is the city government destroys and construct. Look around you: Good and serviceable concrete roads are layered with asphalt coating. The DPWH says, what we see in the surface of the road is not actually what the result of their test made on those roads. Granting it is true but why destroy it when some portion of the highways are not even completed for many years now? See that portion in just after the boundary of Sibuguey and Zamboanga City going to Texas near Licomo, east coast. I have been travelling that area for many, many years maybe 15 years now. That portion has never been completed, but some portions of the highway has undergone asphalt overlay, maybe twice already. I don’t think that portion of tha road is only illusion, because it is real, it can be seen and it can be touched. While many of the barangays are not really progressive because of lack of city government support, the city government is continuously saving money, billions of pesos in reserve, in local banks. May I ask? What percentage of those time deposits are reflected in the city’s book of accounts? How much percent is given by the banks on those time deposit? Is it all given to the city government? The city of Zamboanga must choose where it is going. Shall the city be a tourist city? Then by all means, all objectives must be geared to that aim. Are we going to be a trading city? an agricultural city? and industrial city? We must choose but never can we compete with the banking system. The city produces money for the banks to keep and save. But if the city chooses to produce and save its money in the banks, we are killing development for the city but we are enriching local banks, because they can always use the city’s billions in reserve to fund their loaning schemes in all their branches nationwide. In this case the city forgot that “charity begins at home.”