Dr. Ernesto Pernia open to discuss impact projects with leaders
Newly -appointed NEDA (National Economic Development Authority) chief Dr. Ernesto Pernia of this city assures he will not forget Bohol in the medium-term developmentÂ program underÂ the new Duterte government.
Pernia woke up last Sunday to calls from Bong Go, a close aide of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte, offering the coveted post of NEDA secretary. Duterte is known to not to talk directly to candidates for Cabinet positions but does it through trusted lieutenants.
Power, irrigation, airports,bridges, hoispitals,Â the BPO industry andÂ theÂ “Bohol-Cebu Friendship” bridge are among the impact projectsÂ currently being discussed by Boholano leaders and private sector businesses , theÂ ChronicleÂ bared to Pernia last Friday.
Pernia confirmed that in a lunch meeting Friday with JICA, it was bared that among the projects discussed for possible funding is the 17 km floating bridge linking Bohol and Cebu at an initial project cost of US2.5-B (about P 103-B). This project has been endorsed by outgoing DPWH head Rogelio Singson -and is a brain child of the late Rep. Erico Aumentado who has beenÂ ably succeeded by his son Aris in the second district.
He said he had planned to visit Bohol leaders and mentioned that he was flying over on June 2 for his final meeting as chair of the Board of Trustees of the HNU (Holy Name University). He would have time on his hands after his meeting that ends at 4 in the afternoon of June 2.
The bridge that connects Cordova Cebu and Getafe will usher in brisker trade and tourism between the two provinces. Interlocked in its dynamics is the possible virtual barter of low-priced power from Cebu and excess supply of water from Bohol, to address both shortages in each respective province.
POWER AND IRRIGATION
Bohol has not added one kilowatt of power since the 2007 connection by cable to Leyte’s geothermal plants of Bohol’s power distribution system. The burgeoning commerce emanatingÂ from the start of the New Bohol airport in December of 2017 alone makes the present power capacity in BoholÂ insufficient.
Pernia dismissed earlier talks that the Duterte administration will put off major irrigation projects in the country in favor of highways, bridges and industrial zones. He said “irrigation is crucial to agricultural development.”
Because of Bohol’s four dams of Malinao in Pilar, Bayongan in San Miguel, Capayas in Ubay and the Talibon dam more than 25 thousand of 47 thousand hectares of rice land in Bohol are irrigated. Thus Bohol is called the rice granary ofÂ the Central Visayas accounting for 75% of Central Visayas production and is as a provinceÂ is self-sufficient in the main staple food of Filipinos.
In the works are the P653-M upgrade of the Malinao dam and the proposed P4.7-B mega dam which will provide irrigation, potable water, catch basins for floods and recreation facilities. It will irrigate 19,000 more hectares and benefit 18,000 farmers.
AIRPORTS AND TOURISM ROADS
While the P7.2-B New Bohol Airport faces new upgrades (and the city airport facing its phase out), the new Ubay airport with a CAAP budget of P56-M for its 2016 Procurement Budget will create a 3 kilometer runway, a terminal building, water reservoir and a fire truck base up to next year.
ThisÂ airport will serve the other “tourism”Â half of Bohol- like the white sand beaches of Anda, the Danao adventure tours and the chocolate hills. Anda, the “new Panglao” is two hours away from the capital city.
Roads leading to tourism sites have been alloted P57-B by the Aquino administrationÂ in 6 years and will continue to rise in Bohol. This is because tourism is the province’s flagship company – and the Department of Tourism is gifted with the distinction ofÂ being the only department having its own “road budget” outside of the DPWH.
THE ROAD TO NEDA
Dr. Pernia traced his odyssey to the NEDA post to a meeting with Duterte in December of 2015 where his economic advice for specifics were sought and given “pro bono”. He traveled at least four times to Davao City to be with the innerÂ circle of the Davao city mayor – to input economics especially during the debates.
With victory at hand, Pernia drafted the 8 point economic agenda of the incoming administration and presented by Finance secretary-appointee Sonny Dominguez. The last two weeksÂ of Pernia were spent in discussing the minutiae of the agenda through media and fora.
It was only, therefore, a matter of time, before the NEDA offer would come. Pernia accepted the challenge of “serving the country” even if it meant less time for golf and family.Â It was trade-off he was willing to take- and his family supported his decision.
THE MACRO -ECONOMIC GOALS
Dr. Pernia who served as Senior Lead economist of the Asian Development Bank for manyÂ years and is Chairman Emeritus of the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines said the ” institution of law and order and layingÂ the strong foundations for the economy go hand and in hand together. It is not one after the other thing”.
He said bringing law and order is not just about stopping “criminality”, it also means puttingÂ order into the chaos generated by traffic gridlocks, red tape, unjust justice system, corruption and the like.
With these slowly put in order, it would be easier to implement the 5% of GDP infrastructure goal (in keeping step with the ASEAN), tax reforms and enhanced fiscal discipline.
Pernia concluded there is stillÂ much to do in bridging the huge inequality of wealth and opportunity here and addressing the poverty besetting still many of the Filipinos.