Monday, June 30, 2014

Land Use Conversion

by Antonio C. Antonio
June 24, 2014

Several decades ago, these communities did not exist and all that was there is one vast forest.  (Please see images.)  As man inhabited this area, it became necessary for him to convert the flat/low-lying area from forest to agricultural production for two justifiable reasons: (1) Timber was necessary to build houses; and, (2) Crops, therefore food, was needed to survive.

The images clearly show the distinct effect of land use conversion.  The residential/commercial areas (red circles) continues to expand into the agricultural (brown circle) and forest (green circle) areas because of the need to build more houses.  The yellow circles are forest areas presently being converted to either agricultural or residential areas.

“Land use conversion is the most significant cause of deforestation. Agriculture and cash crops plantation establishment, considered to be a more economically viable business activity than tree plantation establishment, has been the single most common land use conversion.  Vast tracts of forest lands have been converted to palm oil plantation in recent years. Conversion of forest lands to residential housing purpose has also been very common especially in countries where real property development is a lucrative business.  A lot of countries have also encouraged industrialization especially traditional agriculture economies.  Forest areas have been cleared to develop and establish areas dedicated for commercial and industrial use. Infrastructure development particularly the construction of roads, have also caused deforestation.” (Antonio, 2013)  Additionally, allow me to mention the following research information also gathered: (Deforestation: “According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat, the overwhelming direct cause of deforestation is agriculture.  Subsistence farming is responsible for 48% of the deforestation; commercial agriculture is responsible for 32% of deforestation; logging is responsible for 14% of deforestation and fuel wood removals make up 5% of deforestation.”

“Population growth or overpopulation exerts pressure on land use. As the population grows bigger, (a) more land is dedicated to agriculture for food security purposes, (b) land is allocated to establish more housing and residential units that are needed to house and settle the additional population, (c) more business and livelihood establishment are constructed and established to provide employment for the additional population, (d) more roads and bridges will have to be constructed to provide mobility and access between growing communities, (e) more power and energy will be needed to provide and support the growing communities and industries with the necessary utilities (just to name a few.)” (Antonio, 2013)

Although the UNFCCC attributes land conversion to agriculture as the larger cause of deforestation, we should also realize the land use conversion is just the effect of an original cause which is an abnormally high population growth rate.  Addressing the population growth issue will be the only significant solution to the problem of land use conversion.  Otherwise, the next picture that will be taken of this place (decades from now) will no longer show any forest whatsoever.

Just my little thoughts…

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Incredible Hulk

by Antonio C. Antonio
March 14, 2014

A lot of us find it hard finishing tasks at work and often find ourselves bringing home the unfinished papers.  This is what normally happens when the atmosphere in the workplace is not too ideal for productive thinking, when there are too many distractions from officemates and when we are pressured by a slave-driver boss who always wants to see things done “last week”.  At the home front, however, it is also quite difficult to motivate ourselves to work because we are too physically tired and the bed is too comfortable and inviting.

When we feel we are burdened with too many tasks to finish with the limited number of hours in a day, here are three simple steps to take the pressure off our system:  (1) Take a few deep breaths; (2) Shout until we turn green; (3) Then stop when everyone in the house have begun thinking we’ve gone crazy and we can no longer hear our own screaming because all the dogs in our neighborhood are barking louder.

We then could sit down, turn our computer on, plug-in our jump drive, click on our unfinished files and start working again.  After the task is done, we will realize that working is a lot more fun than making fools of ourselves.

Just my little thoughts…

Friday, June 27, 2014

PET Bottle

by Antonio C. Antonio
June 14, 2014

PET bottles got their name from the material used in manufacturing them: Polyethylene terephthalate.  Introduced in 1947, PET bottles were not popular because they were quite expensive.  But by the 1960s, with the introduction of high-density polyethylene and as production for PET bottles became more cost efficient, PET bottles became the accepted container for most commercial products… water, soda, milk, motor oil, cooking oil, medicine, shampoo, etc.  The breakable glass bottle became history for the lightweight and more durable plastic bottle.

PET bottles, however, are non-biodegradable and, rather than recycled, most of them found their way to dumpsites.  This has become a major concern.  Reuse and recycling of PET bottles is now the order of the present and future too.  Although seemingly limited, alternative use for used PET bottles is an important measure that should be the concern of everyone.

My personal research brought me to some novel utilization solutions to the used PET bottles problem.   Flooding in urban centers in our country is largely caused by clogged sewer and drainage systems.  A close observation of the waste materials that are found in our canal and drainage systems are plastic materials… in large quantity are PET bottles.  Here are some simple sample solutions:

  • Utilize used PET bottles in making light water crafts that can be used to evacuate and ferry people during the flooding season.  This will also reduce the amount of plastic materials in our already clogged waterways.
  • Utilize used PET bottles in building low-cost housing for the homeless.  The victims of Typhoon Yolanda might be interested to use these to re-build their homes.
I’m certain there will be other alternative use for PET bottles.

Just my little thoughts…

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Odd People

by Antonio C. Antonio
June 5, 2014

“Environmentalism” and “environmentalists” are enigmatic words and terms that still gives cold chills down the spines of a lot of people.  Environmentalists and environmental advocates are, perhaps, one of the most misunderstood groups of people in the world.  Environmental issues and concerns are seemingly not that popular, are not the “in” things and are ordinarily brushed aside as immaterial or inconsequential to people’s daily lives.  Pro-environment people are often described as “odd”.

This is not to say though that people generally do not care.  The underlying stake of everyone is for a better future for tomorrow’s generations.  Undeniably, all human beings are concerned, even in varying levels, about the future.  Therefore, it will not be fair to assume that people, in all their goodness, will deliberately harm Mother Earth.

Global warming, protracted winters, abnormally strong typhoons and flooding caused by torrential rains are enough warning signs to mankind that something is terribly wrong.  There are those who are of the opinion that people will only react when they could already feel the effect of any inconvenience in their lives.  Changes in weather conditions provide the impetus to generate reactions.  After Typhoon Yolanda, now is the best time to engage the public in the re-examination of their roles and contributions to these dire and troublesome changes.  But engaging the public is not everything… people should understand the consequence of environmental abuse.

“Normal” people have a tendency to look and treat “odd” people in a condescending way.  Their behaviour is often seen as eccentric because the manner by which “odd” people show concern for the environment, process present situations, then engage others to some kind of individual or collective action is not commonly understood.  We should bear in mind that what is more important is why “odd” people show concern for the environment… that “odd” people only want a better world for the future generations.  Do we share this concern or not?  If we do not share their concern for the environment, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are “normal”.  If we do share their concern for the environment, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are “odd”.

Just my little thoughts…

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Powerful Mediums

by Antonio C. Antonio
June 6, 2014

A medium is a means or instrument by which something is conveyed or accomplished.  Surrounding conditions or influences such as the environment has traditionally had a conveyance problem because of its relative cost.  Popularization remains to be the biggest challenge in any advocacy… especially pro-environmental advocacies.

Mankind has gone a long way from using drums and smoke signals to convey messages across earshot and visual distances.  And nowadays, the Pony Express of the U.S. Old West seems to be a very inefficient way of delivering messages.  The telegraph likewise pales in comparison with the telephony systems of today.  Advancement in technology has created powerful mediums aimed at reaching out to as many people as possible.  Examples of these powerful mediums are as follows:

JOURNALISM – Journalism is the most powerful medium as it involves print and broadcast at the same time.  At present, broadcast media (television and radio) remains to be the most accepted outlets for news and information the world over.  Journalism is written literature designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest; writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without any attempt at interpretation; and, a writing designed for publication in a newspaper, magazine or narratives to television/radio news items.

Journalism seeks to present facts and truths as the reporter or author sees them.  There is no attempt on the part of the writer to present his/her personal opinions or use their own sets of values in the event.  A lot of present-day so called “journalists” often cross this line and make a quasi-editorial (using their own opinions) after each news item.  There is a means to do this through an editorial where in the publication or the broadcast network infuses its own conclusion on the current event.

Then there are the “AC-DC” journalists and news reporters.  “AC-DC” stands for “attack and collect” – “defend and collect”-type of journalism.  These are the media practitioners who think they are journalists but are in the wrong profession and belong to the next medium.

PUBLIC RELATIONS – Public Relations is the practice of creating perceptions.  It is a profession of creating and maintaining the goodwill of an individual or organization usually though the use of mass media (print and broadcast).

The Philippines, where elections are held every three years, is a perfect place for political operators, propagandists and PR outfits.  Politicians need to create the perfect image for the electorate to vote them into public offices.  More often, the image they want to project is simply not who they really are… so the need for character re-engineering which is more effectively accomplished through good PR.

ADVERTISING – Advertising is a form of brainwashing to create name or brand recall on the minds of a certain market segment.  It is a written notice in a paper of mass circulation to make an announcement or a short film that is shown to the public to help sell a product, goods or services.  Political advertising is a specialized field, very much the same in concept as product advertising, although it sells a political party, a politician or a political platform of government.

SOCIAL MEDIA – Social Media is composed of websites and internet applications that enable users to create content or to participate in social networking.  Social networking is nothing more than spreading goodwill and friendship among netizens (citizens of the internet).  Social Media remains to be the cheapest means to popularize anything.  The only drawback is its scope and reach.  Not all households have computer hardware and internet connection is also another drawback.

In the case of environmental advocacies, the situation is even more pathetic.  There really is a very low level of awareness for what is good for Mother Earth.  Journalism, public relations and advertising are on the business end of things and, therefore, fuelled by money and sponsorships. Social media, therefore, remains to be the only viable medium to popularize environmental matters and concerns.

Just my little thoughts…

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Flood Hazard Map

by Antonio C. Antonio
September 23, 2013

This article is about the simple but practical application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

As I write this, Typhoon Odette has been pouring an abnormally heavy volume of rain on Metro Manila.  Television footages and radio reportage carry nothing but news and footages of the many flooded areas in the metropolis together with the sacrifices and inconveniences people have to go through (and, sometimes, wade through) to reach their respective destinations.

Most of the people presently residing in Metro Manila are migrants from other provinces.  I was born in Tarlac City, had my primary education there but migrated to the Big City for my secondary and college education.  I met my wife during my college days and after graduation and having our first jobs, we decided to tie the knot and migrate back to Tarlac City.  Later, as two of our children were already I college (UP), we found the need to build a house in Metro Manila… in Parañaque City where the family of my wife lives.  Still later, we decided to migrate back to Metro Manila if only to be with our children everyday.

Like most couples, we all dream of building homes for our children… our family.  Oftentimes, the reasons where we build these abodes vary --- from affordability and financial capacity to proximity to our day-to-day destinations, etc. --- but, most likely, NOT for geo-hazard reasons.  Personally, as I’ve already mentioned, the only consideration for my wife and I was: “it’s where my wife’s family live.”  But now that I’m getting wind of new knowledge about environmental matters, things have started to become more processed for me.  I’m more deliberate with the use of GIS information too… and I’m glad that I, even unconsciously then, chose a good location to build our house (north eastern part of Parañaque City).

A quick look at a Flood Hazard Map of Metro Manila would reveal the flood-prone areas in the metropolis and the degree of risk some areas present.  There are several links in the Internet where GIS maps on flood-prone areas can be viewed.  Geospatial information is very important in our lives.  Flood Hazard Maps could be used for other practical applications such as (to name a few):

1.     Processing decisions to purchase a property and build a house;
2.     Identifying sites to establish a network for a (food, goods and services) distribution business;
3.     Suggesting schools where (your) children could go;
4.     Suggesting business districts where (your) children could look for employment; or even,
5.     Mapping out routes to take after a long and heavy downpour.

Other GIS maps and accompanying data will definitely have more technical use and influence in making more complex decision than the ones listed above.

Just my little thoughts…



Author's Prudence

by Antonio C. Antonio
February 3, 2014

The book “Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Current State and Trends” really discussed a lot of interesting scientific findings and observations.  The authors, contributors and editors line up is also impressive.  It’s quite a lengthy read but please allow me to focus on a particular section:  Chapter 24, Mountain Systems, Social and Economic Conditions.  I’ve taken the liberty of re-printing the entire section…

Coordinating Lead Authors: Christian Korner, Masahiko Ohsawa
Lead Authors: Eva Spehn, Erling Berge, Harald Bugmann, Brian Groombridge, Lawrence Hamilton, Thomas Hofer, Jack Ives, Narpat Jodha, Bruno Messerli, Jane Pratt, Martin Price, Mel Reasoner, Alan Rodgers, Jillian Thonell, Masatoshi Yoshino
Contributing Authors: Jill Baron, Roger Barry, Jules Blais, Ray Bradley, Robert Hofstede, Valerie Kapos, Peter Leavitt, Russell Monson, Laszlo Nagy, David Schindler, Rolf Vinebrooke, Teiji Watanabe
Review Editors: Blair Fitzharris, Kedar Shrestha

24.1.4 Social and Economic Conditions

Twenty percent of the world’s population—about 1.2 billion people—live in mountains. Most of them inhabit lower montane elevations, and almost half are concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region. Of the 8% living above 2,500 meters, almost all—about 90 million—live in poverty and are considered highly vulnerable to food insecurity. However, they have significant impact on larger populations living at lower elevations through their influence on catchments.

Low temperatures become prohibitive for people above 2,000 meters in temperate latitudes and above 3,500 meters in tropical latitudes (although there are exceptions up to 4,200 m), and human activities rarely occur above 4,500 meters. Special efforts and techniques are required to sustain agricultural production at altitudes close to the upper tree line level.

There are many historical examples of flourishing mountain economies based on mountain ecosystem services (including Berbers, Afghan and Caucasian tribes, Tibetans, Mongolians, Highland Papuas, Incas, and Aztecs), and many of these cultures still survive and in some cases even thrive. Lowland economies have generally dominated, however, because of intensive sedentary agriculture, manufacturing based on larger scales, easier transportation and trade, urbanization and associated better education, and the broader reach of common language and culture.

In most parts of the world, mountain areas are perceived as economically backward and culturally inferior. But there are some exceptions. In industrial countries, mountain areas have been rapidly transformed economically with improved access and the proliferation of recreational activities. In Africa, for instance, highland areas that grow tea and other high-value crops are more prosperous than lowlands. More often, however, mountain resources are extracted without benefit to local communities in order to support lowland economies, thereby contributing to the further marginalization of mountain people. Where extractive industries have been developed, mountain communities have often become dependent on wages for their livelihoods, and asset values and rents are usually allocated elsewhere.
With notable exceptions, particularly in areas where tourism and amenities migration (the movement of people because of a perceived high incidence of attractive or cultural resources) have created pockets of wealth, mountain communities suffer disproportionately from poverty and often lack even basic social services such as education and health care facilities. This, in part, has caused a counter movement in several mountain areas (the Andes and Himalayas) that is strongly linked to control over mountain resources (such as the movement of water in Bolivia). Mountain communities are also insufficiently recognized as rich reservoirs of traditional knowledge and cultural and spiritual resources.”

The conduct of a study or research for the purpose of completing a book entails serious and diligent detailed work.  From the different information, generalizations are extracted.  Chapter 24, Mountain System – Social and Economic Conditions, of the book is also full of these generalizations.  The statement that “mountain areas are perceived as economically backward and culturally inferior” does not seem to be accurate.  Of course, for safe measure, the authors also stated: “But there are some exceptions.”  In the Philippine setting, I would readily agree that mountain areas are “economically backward” but would seriously disagree that upland communities are “culturally inferior.”

There are numerous tribal groups in the Philippines.  Usually living in remote and isolated areas, they have managed to retain most of their cultural traits.  Some of these distinct tribal groups are:

1.     The Igorots who are primarily located in the highlands of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
2.     The Ilongots who are a head-hunting tribal group living in the Caraballo Mountains.
3.     The Lumads of the Island of Mindanao composed of several tribes like the Manobo, the Tasaday, the Mamanwa, the Mandaya, the Bilaan and the Kalagan who inhabit the uplands of the Caraga and Davao regions.
4.     The Mangyans of Mindoro Island.
5.     The Palawan tribes which are a diverse group of tribes inhabiting the elongated strip of Palawan.
6.     The Negrito, Aeta and Batak tribal groups which are spread all over the Philippine archipelago.
7.     The Kagayanen tribe which also live in Palawan.
8.     The Molbog tribe which can be found in Balabak Island and other islands in the Palawan group of islands.
9.     The Tausug tribe in western Mindanao.
10.  The Tagbanwa tribe who are also scattered in different islands in the Philippines.
11.  The Taaw’t Bato (people of the rock) is another distinct tribal unit in Palawan.
12.  The Tumandok tribe which inhabit the Island of Panay.

Due to the steady increase in the population of tribal groups, they, especially the younger ones, have a tendency to migrate to the urban areas in search for livelihood and employment opportunities.  In this migration, they mix and integrate with different cultures in a process called acculturation.  Acculturation explains the process of cultural and psychological change that results a meeting between cultures.  The effects of acculturation can be seen at multiple levels in both interacting cultures. 

Acculturation often results in changes in culture, customs and social institutions.  Noticeable effects of acculturation often include changes in food, clothing, and language.  At the individual level, differences in the way individuals acculturate have been shown to be associated not just with changes in daily behavior, but with numerous measures of psychological and physical well-being.  Cultural assimilation is the end result of acculturation.  This occurs when there is a fusion of cultures so much so that we can hardly tell which cultural traits came from which culture.

The process of cultural adaptation, acculturation and assimilation have somewhat diluted the culture, custom and tradition with the members of migrant tribal groups.  However, the original upland and coastal tribal communities where they come from still maintain the strong foundations of traditional cultural traits of the different ethnic groups in the Philippines.  The fact remains that the pure cultural traits, untouched by influence of modern society, are still evident and strong in these remote and isolated tribal communities.  It’s quite evident that the authors failed to conduct a deeper research and study in the Philippine setting where tribal groups are numerous and exhibit strong (however diverse) traditional customs, traits and cultures.  Again, the authors should be mistaken in stating that these upland communities are “culturally inferior.” 

Just my little thoughts…

A Good Question

by Antonio C. Antonio
June 6, 2014

“How would you popularize Landscape Ecology to the ignorant and illiterate?” is more than just a question… it actually is a challenge in its purpose and objective.

I seriously took up the challenge.  At first, I was at a loss for ways and means to put my finger on the right method in popularizing Landscape Ecology to the ignorant and illiterate.  I initially had some ideas but was not too comfortable with them.  So I did a quick survey to gather more useable information.

The survey question was straight-forward:  “Ano ang naiisip mong paraan upang ipabatid sa mga hindi nakapag-aral ang Landscape Ecology?”  I was tempted to use “mangmang” and “ignorante” (as translations for ignorant and illiterate) in the question but felt it was not appropriate… so I chose “hindi napakag-aral” instead.  Here are the survey results:

In the conduct of the survey, I noticed that the respondents had a tough time answering the question or making suggestion especially after they are made aware that the “target” subjects are the illiterate and ignorant.  One elderly respondent, with her religiously veteran smarts, offered an alternative:  “Ipag-dasal na lang natin sila.”

The most suggested way was a Music Video on Landscape Ecology (13%).  But I felt that a music video was hard to conceptualize along the lines of Landscape Ecology.  It will also be a logistical and production nightmare.  Besides, I might only end up composing an environmental advocacy song that will not be too effective in communicating Landscape Ecology to a specific target audience.  Another relatively popular suggestion was a Cartoon/Animation film (7%).  This may seem to be a good idea but animation films are harder to make than comedy films with real people/characters in it.  The most practical and plausible way was a short Comedy Film (10%) which also needs logistics and professional help to accomplish.  After the survey was done, I could only conclude that popularizing Landscape Ecology will be a tough and expensive undertaking.  There has to be a more structured way to accomplish any of the suggestions than making it an individual undertaking.

The question also resulted in capturing this disturbing information… a clear majority of 64% of the respondents actually had no suggestions simply because they did not know what Landscape Ecology is all about.  This is another indicator on the level of knowledge and awareness regarding Landscape Ecology.  It shows that there really is an immediate need to popularize Landscape Ecology not only limited to the illiterate and ignorant but to a larger number of people.

Simplifying things… mundane concerns for the environment are hard to communicate to a larger segment of society.  Landscape Ecology, as a multi-disciplinary science, will be a harder sell.  Mundane environmental concerns are already hard to popularize to the educated and learned.  How much harder will it be to popularize Landscape Ecology to the ignorant and illiterate?

Just my little thoughts…

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What is Public Policy?

by Antonio C. Antonio
September 18, 2013

In my simple mind, I personally view Public Policy as a formal written form of perceived Ethical Standards.  Ethics is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defining and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct.  The term “ethics” comes from the Greek word “ethos” which means “character.”  In Philosophy, Ethics is a study of the moral behavior of humans and how they should act as they interact with society.  Ethics is defined as a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behavior helps or harms us.  The general meaning of “ethics” is the rational, optimal and appropriate decision made on the basis of common sense (the feeling of right or wrong) or a set of moral principles of a particular tradition, group or individual.  Ethical Standards, however, are strongly influenced by culture, background, religion, traditional beliefs, environment and (even) economic conditions.  Human reproduction, for example, is a contentious issue in the Philippines because the population is predominantly Catholic (whose hierarchy is adverse to the idea) while population control is a mundane concern in western societies.  Public Policy in the Philippines that has something to do with reproductive health is largely influenced by religious beliefs.  Philippine Public Policy, therefore, is a simple reflection of who we are as a people, a race and a nation.

In the Philippines, the primary example of Public Policy is the Constitution… a Public Policy Statement… the Fundamental Law of the land.  This is the “bible/commandment” by which subsequent legislated laws (Bills and Republic Acts), implementing rules and regulations (IRRs), executive orders (EO), governmental agencies guidelines, orders and memoranda, agreements and other related policy statements are based and draw guidance.  On the local scene, Local Government Units (LGUs) are tasked to formulate local community-centered ordinances that fit their respective localities and constituency.  I should mention that even non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as business enterprises (corporations) and profit and non-profit foundations have their own Constitutions and By-Laws.

In our political system/structure wherein there are three branches of government, Public Policies are studied, conceptualized and drafted by the Executive Branch while the Legislature (Congress: House of Representatives and Senate) deliberate and pass them in their final form… from draft bills to laws.  The President, however, is the one who signs them into laws.  The main function of the Judiciary is to interpret the “constitutionality” of these laws and have the power to declare then “unconstitutional.”  Again, the Constitution remains to be the “mother law” by which all other laws are judged for their propriety.


A process by which Public Policy can be more responsive to the needs of the citizenry is through the adoption of this methodology:

1.     Create an atmosphere where a “bottom-up” mechanism of issues and concerns from the citizenry is institutionalized.  People Empowerment is a Public Policy encouraged by Pres. Fidel V. Ramos;
2.     Gather, classify and make a thorough and in-depth study of these issues and concerns and narrow them down to legislative proposals;
3.     Get Congress to deliberate on these issues and concerns with the aim of coming up with the appropriate legislative measure/bill to be signed into laws by the President;
4.     Cascade these laws to the appropriate government agency for the crafting of the IRR and other subsequent (but related) instruments; and,
5.     Honest-to-goodness implementation of these laws to maximize their benefits for the citizenry.

The purpose, objective and goal of Public Policy, therefore, is to be responsive to the needs and wants of the people (present and future generations) whom government is duty-bound to serve. 

Most laws or Public Policy often, through time, become irrelevant and non-applicable because of the ever-changing order of governance and needs of the citizenry.  It is also the expectation of people that their government have “oversight” functions.  This way laws could be revised, updated and upgraded to be more responsive to situational changes.


There are several stages involved in the crafting of Public Policy or the Public Policy-Making process, such as: (1) agenda setting; (2) policy formulation; (3) legitimization; (4) implementation; and (5) evaluation.  The critical participation of governmental institutions in these stages includes: (1) the manner in which problems get conceptualized and brought to the government for solution; (2) the formulation of alternatives by governmental institutions; and, (3) the selection of policy solutions.  It is also the role of government to implement, evaluate and revise such Public Policy as they become non-applicable and irrelevant.

Involved in the Public Policy-making process are agencies in the government structure… examples of which are:

1.     The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) for socio-economic policies;
2.     The National Security Council (NSC) for national security and defense concerns;
3.     The Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) for general legislative agendas; and,
4.     Local-level agencies such as the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) for concerns affecting basic services within Metro Manila.

While the last three agencies mentioned do perform certain stages of the Public Policy-making process, none of them have a more defined and extensive mandate and a more permanent structure than the NEDA.  Economics, being the backbone of Philippine society, also has influential effects on other facets of the Filipino life… culture and tradition.

NEDA is the highest policymaking body responsible for all aspects of the development program. The NEDA Board is headed by the President with a select number of Cabinet Secretaries and other executive staff officers as members.  On the other hand, the NEDA Secretariat is the research arm of the NEDA Board.  It provides technical support on matters involving policy development, policy formulation, implementation and evaluation. The NEDA Director-General heads the Secretariat, and is concurrently the Cabinet Secretary for Socio-Economic Planning.

Raw issues and concerns from the citizenry are filtered to come up with an agenda which is normally set after evaluating certain indicators and statistics fed by other government agencies such as the National Statistics Office (NSO), National Statistics and Coordination Board (NSCB), Population Commission (POPCOM), Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and all the other departments.  This agenda would take into consideration the following: (a) the actual performance during the preceding year; (b) new developments and emerging issues in the local and international economies; and, (c) shifts in the policy emphasis of the administration.  To ensure agreement in policy formulation, the NEDA Board is assisted by six inter-agency committees, each responsible for specific areas within the development program… one of which is the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) which serves as the link between planning and budgeting to guarantee conformity of the national budget with the development plan.

In formulating the Public Policy, NEDA utilizes several methodologies classified in the following categories: (a) Econometric Models; (b) Input-Output analysis; (c) Accounting Frameworks; and Project Evaluation and prioritization techniques.  These tools have significantly increased the policy analysis and forecasting capabilities of the NEDA as policy research and analysis are the foundations in the policy formulation processes.

The policy issues covered by the NEDA are:

1.     Social development which includes education and manpower development, social welfare and community development, health and nutrition, and housing;
2.     Investment which includes evaluation and approval of public sector projects;
3.     Infrastructure development;
4.     Trade and tariff matters; and,
5.     The generation and use of official external assistance.


Public Policy implementation is the duty and responsibility of the Executive Branch of Government.  As soon as a Bill is enacted into law by the President, such Law is referred to the concerned Department for implementation.  Subsequent IRRs and other such instructional orders are then crafted on the Department-level and cascaded to regional, provincial, city and municipal agencies (including the LGUs) for detailed implementation.  The only time the implementation of a Law is stopped is when the Supreme Court (Judiciary) declares it “unconstitutional.”

The numerous political scandals and issues that have been exposed --- the Fertilizer/Jocjoc Bolante scam, the ZTE-NBN scam and PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund)/Napoles scam (to name a few) --- there has been a renewed interest in political matters and governance by Civil Society.  The almost-weekly rallies and demonstrations lately is a testament to the growing awareness of the populace.  Although the implementation of Public Policy rests squarely on the shoulders of government (the Executive Branch in particular), Civil Society has taken a more pro-active role.  This will have a significant effect in the implementation of Public Policy.  With Civil Society vigilantly watching, Government will have to “come clean” this time.  In effect… Civil Society has (somehow and somewhat) dipped its hand in the actual implementation of Public Policies.  Personally, I find this situation/condition ideal and should be encouraged.  Let’s just hope it is sustainable.

Just my little thoughts…