By Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan
1. We are strategically located at the heart of East Asia.
Northeast Asia (Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong) and Southeast Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos) combined makes East Asia. We are only at most four hours away from every major city in East Asia. If the Philippines were a real estate venture in a commercial area, ours is a location to die for. We can be the shipping and air transport hub of East Asia. We can be the top tourist destination of the region. We can be the cultural center of the region for performing arts.
2. We are No. 1 in aquamarine resources worldwide.
“We have the most diverse aquamarine ecosystem in the entire world which, if managed properly, will feed not only our hungry people but will be a source of huge revenue coming from a world in dire need of aquamarine resources such as fish, seaweed, and other similar products. We can be the seafood basket and aquamarine resource center of the world, the aquamarine resource powerhouse of the world.
3. We have a huge tourism industry potential.
Our people are by nature extremely friendly and hospitable. We only have some 3 million tourist visits every year, while our neighbors are doing 4 or 5 times more with 12 to 15 million tourist visits annually. It has been said that other countries in the ASEAN are doing so much more with so little in terms of natural wonders and beautiful sites while we are doing so little with so much. With the right infrastructure such as highways and airports and seaports in place, we can be the number one tourist destination in ASEAN if not Asia.
4. We are now No. 2 in the BPO industry worldwide and can become No. 1.
We are, I am told, currently second to India in the business process outsourcing industry. I am told as well that this industry expects 30 percent growth this year despite the worldwide recession as foreign companies look aggressively to lowering costs of doing business and therefore look to business outsourcing.
5. We are extremely creative and artistic people.
We have been called the songbirds of Asia. Our reputation as performers is legendary throughout the world (although we have never been boastful about it). We can be the center of performing arts in Asia wherein millions would visit the country annually to marvel at our cultural performances and our artistic productions.
6. We have the emergence of a new generation of progressive and results-oriented public sector leaders.
Since the restoration of democracy in 1986 and the passage of the Local Government Code in 1991 (or some 20 years now), public officials have began to work with new resources (40 percent of national taxes are now plowed back to local government units compared to less than 10 percent in 1986) made available by decentralization. Today a new generation of public sector leaders is emerging, one that is empowered, that is vision driven and results-oriented. This explains why we have successful local government initiatives in Marikina, Makati, Naga City, Davao City, Iloilo City, Cebu City, Calbayog City, and General Santos City, among others. Hence from a generation of public sector leaders that by and large was corrupt, lacking in vision, creativity, and innovation, we now have the emergence of a new generation of public sector leaders with integrity, with proactive leadership, and with a commitment to reform and genuine change. New governance models and templates that are solving age-old problems in the field are being forged, being tempered as we speak. A new brand of political leadership is emerging focused on solving age old problems in governance. The old, failed methods utilized by the trapos will soon be crushed and defeated.
7. Information and communication technology advancement is enhancing our sense of nationhood.
Rather than a country of many languages and many islands, we are fast becoming one nation, connected by information and communication technology. The ethno-linguistic barriers that used to keep us divided are being shattered by the interconnectivity of information technology. Today an entire generation of Filipinos fully understands, and can connect with, the Filipino language because of two decades of television news in Filipino (all TV news used to be English until 1986). The three elements of nationhood are: common language, common territory and common economy. We are now becoming a nation because information technology is breaking the barriers that have prevented us from becoming united as a people. It is also now reconnecting some 10 million Filipinos overseas to the motherland. We are becoming one nation and one people.
8. We have a re-emerging middle class mindset.
After over three decades of the OFW boom, we now have a new generation of citizens steeped with modern ideas coming from the highly successful host nations like Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United Sates. Europe too has become host to hundreds of thousands of OFWs. The OFWs who have experienced life in these highly developed nations can now compare and contrast these experiences with the experiences in the motherland. In highly developed nations there is, to a greater extent, a greater sense of accountability and a greater sense of justice and fair play. Our OFWs bring all that back home and having been enlightened by the experience will demand greater of their leaders back home. People are beginning to say enough is enough and are actually doing something about it.
9. We are a young nation.
Close to 30 million of our 45 million voters are 18 to 35 years old. Very young. If harnessed effectively, these young voters can usher in the political and electoral change that we need to happen for genuine political and economic reforms to take place.
10. We are a people who love to laugh, who love our families.
We are a resilient people. We can draw unimaginable strength and fortitude in times of difficulty in order to move ahead. We know how to survive despite so much pain and suffering. We know how to cope. We are willing to sacrifice so much of ourselves in order to provide for our family, our loved ones. This strength will not only bring us out of the mess we are in but will ensure that we are able to reach greater heights in our collective desire as a people to have a better life for those we truly care for, for those who mean the world to us. Our resilience in the long run will not only make us survive but will also ensure that we will triumph in the end.
We have enough reason to hope. We have, as a people, enough reason to act on these hopes and when we do, the genuine change we all seek will finally see the light of day and yes, by all means, in our lifetime.