It can be done in 2 weeks

Cebu Daily News - - OPIN­ION - PETER WAL­LACE

Last week I rec­om­mended split­ting the DENR into two de­part­ments: one on En­vi­ron­ment and the other on Nat­u­ral Re­sources. You can’t find one per­son who is, first, a strict en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, and, se­cond, a sup­porter of re­spon­si­ble ex­trac­tion of the nat­u­ral re­sources we must have in the mod­ern world.

So I did some quick re­search. Aus­tralia and Canada, the coun­tries with min­ing poli­cies and op­er­a­tions we most re­spect—and the Pres­i­dent has said we should em­u­late—have sep­a­rate de­part­ments. Aus­tralia has a depart­ment on En­vi­ron­ment En­ergy, and an­other on Re­sources. Canada has En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change in one depart­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources in an­other.

Brazil and Chile, two other ma­jor min­er­al­pro­duc­ing coun­tries, have dif­fer­ent de­part­ments for Min­ing and the En­vi­ron­ment. In­done­sia, also an­other ma­jor min­ing coun­try, has two sep­a­rate de­part­ments on En­vi­ron­ment and Forestry and on En­ergy and Min­eral Re­sources. Viet­nam and Thai­land merge en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues and min­ing in one depart­ment—a Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­ment—but min­ing is much less in those coun­tries. Rus­sia merges en­vi­ron­ment and min­ing into one depart­ment, but that’s Rus­sia: we don’t par­tic­u­larly use it as a model. So the ones we do split it.

What all this says is that split­ting it seems to be the way to go. Pres­i­dent Duterte promised a new regime with rad­i­cal change. Here’s one such change that could greatly ease the nev­erend­ing con­flict in a con­tro­ver­sial sec­tor. Where two sec­re­taries end up butting heads, the Pres­i­dent would be the fi­nal ar­biter be­tween the two.

And in re­gard to change, gen­er­ally the world is talk­ing in a very loud voice that it wants a change in the way politi­cians run demo­cratic coun­tries. It’s a voice Philip­pine politi­cians are not im­mune to. Their re­elec­tion in 2019 de­pends on lis­ten­ing to that voice clam­or­ing for change. What hap­pened in France is just the lat­est in send­ing an­other chill­ing mes­sage to tra­di­tional politi­cians: The peo­ple don’t want them. Em­manuel Macron is not some­one from the long-es­tab­lished po­lit­i­cal par­ties. And Ma­rine Le Pen is a way-out right­ist. The tra­di­tional politi­cians were trounced by th­ese two.

In coun­try af­ter coun­try, peo­ple are clam­or­ing for a new style of lead­er­ship, for one where rad­i­cal think­ing be­comes the norm, for one where end­less de­bate and nit­pick­ing over ir­rel­e­vant de­tails are not ac­cept­able. Yet too many in Congress don’t seem to have got­ten the mes­sage. Pres­i­dent Duterte was a har­bin­ger of this grow­ing trend—a call for real ac­tion, not in­ter­minable talk and un­ful­filled prom­ises. I ap­peal to Congress to give the peo­ple tax re­form, and to do it in this ses­sion, be­fore the Pres­i­dent’s State of the Na­tion Ad­dress, so he can praise a joint ac­com­plish- ment, not wail over a lost op­por­tu­nity.

Im­por­tant bills are still pend­ing while unim­por­tant ones get at­ten­tion. If the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives can pass a bill in two weeks for an ill-con­sid­ered 2-tier tax sys­tem, is there any rea­son it can’t pass the far more wor­thy, sen­si­ble and hugely ben­e­fi­cial to all tax re­form pack­age that the Depart­ment of Fi­nance wants in the re­main­ing two weeks of this ses­sion? The House should not sit in­ter­minably on it, ar­gu­ing in ways that will only end up weak­en­ing it into far less ef­fec­tiv­ity if those changes are ac­cepted.

For those de­cry­ing that it will hurt the poor if oil is taxed more, etc., read my two pre­vi­ous col­umns, study the Depart­ment of Fi­nance’s paper more care­fully, or just read its lat­est press re­leases. The poor and the low-salaried will ex­pe­ri­ence lit­tle, if any, in­crease in their daily costs of life. It’s those with enough who may end up pay­ing a bit more—a bit more that will be well worth it for the greater ben­e­fits it will bring. In fact, the salaried worker with a higher take-home pay will be bet­ter off. Noth­ing worth­while comes for noth­ing. We des­per­ately, des­per­ately need in­fras­truc­ture, trans­port ser­vices, health costs cov­ered, our kids schooled, and on and on.

Funds are needed to do it. Congress is needed to act. The Speaker can use the power of his of­fice, and the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity who sup­port the DOF rec­om­men­da­tion to vote this through now.

LIKE IT IS wal­lace_­likeitis@wbf.ph

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