President's Message
Ma. Victoria C. Españo Message from the President:

Ma. Victoria C. Españo


PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

Year 2018 is indeed a special year for FINEX: it marks our 50th anniversary as a leading organization of finance professionals. Through the able leadership of our past presidents and the multitude of members who have actively participated in and supported our different initiatives, we have made significant achievements in supporting the professional development of finance executives,

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The Urge to Build Free Enterprise
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Jose Ma J. FernandezBy Jose Ma J. Fernandez

Business Mirror (FINEX Free Enterprise)
May 17, 2017

THE URGE TO BUILD FREE ENTERPRISE

Finex Free Enterprise is a rotating column of members of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines appearing every Wednesday & Friday in BusinessMirror, banking & finance Section.

For as long as Man has existed, he has felt a need to expand frontiers, build monuments, or simply master all that he surveys. Thus, we find the ill-fated attempt to build a tower reaching up to the skies, the Babel of history, remaining as a distant memory when it should, in fact, be a lesson on what not to do.

After the disastrous coup attempt of December 1989, a frustrated President Cory asked a small group for solutions. At that time, I was helping out one of my bosses in the private sector, who had transitioned into government as head of the Coordinating Council for Philippine Assistance Program (CCPAP). I got a call from a close friend, a relative of the sitting president, and got assigned to write a paper on the problem. I submitted a short memo, and it defined two possible courses of action. Before writing the memo, however, I did some research.

The first course of action suggested the promotion and putting into place a line of top military and police brass who would not be prone to supporting further coup attempts. I will not dwell into this because the proposal was followed and we were able to work out a succession plan that also promoted certain persons and PMA classes, while holding back others.

The next course of action, based on our group’s perception that many of the coups’ deadly support usually emanated from Ft Bonifacio, was to put the base into play…to convert it to commercial use. Before recommending this direction, I had sat down with many of my brods and good friends holding top positions in the military and police, and they generally agreed, especially when I suggested that the proceeds be used to buy them “new toys”, i.e., weapons programs. We also agreed then not to touch Camps Aguinaldo and Crame. Before that, I had requested a good friend to check the underlying papers of the various camps and government properties within the metro area for impediments or restrictions. Ft Bonifacio passed scrutiny, and so did the Livestock Farm property of DA in Alabang. With no government office then tasked to privatize these properties, I arranged for them to be placed under the then reclamation authority, PEA, simply because it was headed by a friend and dealt somehow with land.

But one caveat that I wrote into the memo was that we learn from the mistakes of overcrowded Makati and build a better city, preferably one that kept as many of the trees and open spaces available in the lush Fr Bonifacio area. The memo envisioned wide boulevards and and public transportation, etc, with lots of room for pedestrians and bikers. Well, take a look at the Fort area today and seen if any of these caveats in our wish list made it into reality. First of all, the Fort area shows promise to be worse than the present commercial areas of Makati. If you have doubts, go to the BCDA office and see the built-up scale plan for BCG and you will find nothing but towers and more towers, with token open spaces that conduct heat more than provide shade.

A few years back, I was with two friends, one of them then a Director of BCDA, and we tossed around a few ideas about what to do with the open areas around the Clark reservation. I was then in the Board of Clark Airport. What emerged was a rough sketch for a new city to be built in these open spaces, but one that would, hopefully, put into play many of the environmental and green plans that we had hoped for in the past. That night, I fashioned the first of a series of emails and even had a name for the new city: Clark Green City. The emails following espoused green methods and technologies, lots of urban green forests, our favorite wide avenues of about 5 to 6 lanes per side with lots of trees in the middle and the sidewalks, jogging lanes, public transportation, et al. We even said that no polluting industries or vehicles would be allowed in. The email exchange was with my friend the BCDA director and the agancy’s head then.

I mentioned the idea to a good friend, Charlie Rufino, and he immediately latched on to the idea and organized an international session with his buddies in the Urban Land Institute. Guess what? Our head of the agency then proceeded with the plan that we had hatched and made it his, and didn’t even invite me to the international session. Fortunately, my friend Charlie saw fit to invite me.

The real idea behind the Green City is to avoid the mistakes of previous attempts to urbanize, and create a very clean and green city that would also become the new administrative capital of the Philippines. A very large and well planned new government area would be a centerpiece of the project, avoiding the congestion, traffic and flooding problems besetting the metro capital. But the plan also looked at going up the nearby mountainous area, replicating the Baguio experience. In talks I had with the then heads of DND, they said they would be willing to throw in Crow Valley, which would be our new summer capital similar to Tagaytay and Baguio…minus the congestion.

There is a need to build, of course, but my earlier talks with some ODA agencies showed that such a venture will be possible if we avail of assistance like those we had from our CCPAP experience. We should eschew offers of assistance from countries that carry onerous commercial rates, which will only serve to deepen our dependence and debt problems. Furthermore, I have heard of know of certain groups that are willing to do the projects at no cost to the government and also have deep pockets that allow them more leeway.

The mantra to build is there and it is good. Just let the process be above- board and transparent. Otherwise, we will end up with questionable projects with lousy quality, high interest rates, with only the commissioners winning out.

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