Revisiting plans

Planning, by definition, is a process of deciding in advance where people want to be (i.e., their goal) and how they will get there. It is important for several reasons. It helps people identify their goals clearly. It makes them decide concretely what they need to do to have the effect on society that they want.

It helps them make sure that they all understand their goal and what they need to do to reach it by involving everyone in the planning process. It makes all participants work in a goal-oriented way rather than in a loose or ad-hoc way where they just respond to issues and crises with no clear plan or goal. Planning helps people decide how best to use their scarce resources (e.g., labor, time, money, information, equipment) so that these make the most significant contribution to achieving their goal. Planning lays the basis for people to assess and evaluate their achievements effectively.

Indeed, the Philippines has a rich, well-articulated vision in AmBisyon Natin 2040, on which Philippine Development Plans across five administrations (starting with the Benigno Aquino administration, followed by the Duterte administration, and then the current Marcos administration, and then two more future administrations) are anchored. AmBisyon Natin 2040 is the result of a long-term visioning process that began in 2015. It describes the kind of life that Filipinos want to live and the state of the country by 2040.

In a nutshell, the vision is that by 2040, Filipinos will enjoy a strongly rooted (matatag), comfortable (maginhawa), and secure (panatag) life. Filipinos will enjoy a stable and comfortable lifestyle, secure in the knowledge that they have enough for their daily needs and unexpected expenses, that they can plan and prepare for their own and their children’s future. The typical Filipino family lives together in a place of their own, and they have the freedom to go where they desire, protected and enabled by a clean, efficient, and fair government.

As stated in the Updated Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, the long-term vision remains the same; in fact, it has become even more pronounced with the emergence of new threats, most notably the Covid-19 pandemic. The latest directive is to focus on the recovery and resilience of individuals, families, businesses, government, and society under the new normal through five major programs: 1) health system improvement, 2) food security and resilience, 3) learning continuity, 4) digital transformation, and 5) regional development through the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program (BP2).

On health system improvement, the Universal Health Care Act provides a comprehensive framework for health system improvement. The reform calls for a paradigm shift in the provision of care, from being fragmented and facility-based, to having a network of care with primary care facilities acting as the gatekeeper.

On food security and resilience, policies and programs will be guided by a food value chain approach, from farm to plate. In addition to programs to improve agricultural productivity, there will be investments in storage facilities, post-harvest, cold chain, and even technologies that prolong the shelf-life of food. Urban residents also need to attain some level of food sufficiency.

On learning continuity, education sector agencies will design inclusive mechanisms that deliver quality education. Lifelong learning will remain a priority strategy, especially focusing on digital skills training.

On digital transformation, the government will accelerate its digital transformation agenda, beginning with the implementation of the National Broadband Plan and the Free Wi-Fi Program. More government transactions will be enabled using the digital platform. Similarly, there will be technical and financial assistance programs to help businesses transition towards greater digitalization. In parallel, government will ensure the safety and security of digital transactions, including digital payments. The framework for consumer protection will also be reviewed to encompass the new normal way of transacting.

On regional development, a major initiative to decongest urban areas is the BP2. The program encourages Metro Manila residents, especially informal settlers, to return to their home provinces. BP2 will assist with transportation expenses, livelihood, housing, and education, among others. Over the medium term, there will be various investments in infrastructure, agriculture, business, transportation, and access to health care. These investments will reduce inequality in the quality of life across the various regions.

Yesterday, as its humble contribution to the crafting of the next Philippine Development Plan, the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development conducted a briefing entitled “Moving On and Moving Up: Bold New Directions for the Philippine Economy.” With heightened inflation and diluted jobs, there are short-, medium-, and long-term goals that the Marcos administration must pursue in the face of persistent, new, and emerging challenges. A forthcoming Eagle Watch column will share some highlights from this briefing.

Dr. Ser Percival K. Peña-Reyes is the Director of the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development.