Press Release
December 7, 2016

On the Confirmation of the Appointment of NEDA Director-General Ernesto M. Pernia
Senate Minority Leader Ralph G. Recto

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

It has been said that if the ship of state were an ancient balangay, then it is the president who steers; the Cabinet men, row; but it is the head of NEDA who charts the course.

Or if you want an analogy millennials can understand, he is the Waze that navigates us through the city's chaotic streets.

There is one roadmap no government can do without, and that is the national economic development plan, whether 5- or 6-year medium-term blueprints, or targets that span multiple decades like Ambisyon 2040.

In short, NEDA sets national goalposts. Unfortunately, while it clearly tells us how the destination can be reached in five or twenty years, it has not prevented us from taking costly detours.

We have this predilection to take our own sweet time through the scenic route - past civil strifes, and man-made roadblocks that waste too much energy, yet make too little progress.

The nominee, Mr. President, is in the midst of crafting the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan, which plots the journey we have to make as a people in the next five years.

It should be a must-read from the president down to town mayors, so that we will all be on the same page.

Reading it may perhaps cure us of acute planning myopia, which is characterized by the failure to see or imagine the future beyond five years.

Our planning cycle follows the election calendar. Kung sa local, ang gusto 1,000 day program, so much so that it creates bias for short-gestating projects that must be inauguration-ready in time to be milked for pogi points during the reelection period.

Without the development plan the nominee is preparing, the nation can only listlessly lurch forward, guided by adhocracy.

We will be enmeshed in petty things like the president's fetish with knees when we should be rallied on how we can stand up on our feet.

We need that plan so we will know the important numbers to be tallied; not the rising body count that victimizes the descamisados of our society, but the numbers that truly matter: jobs generated, poor liberated, wealth created and opportunities distributed.

And on this, I can say, without any reservation, Mr. President, that there is no more qualified person to draft the roadmap than the esteemed Dr. Pernia, a first- rate intellectual and a patriot first-class.

He has logged almost half a century of public service in various capacities, the longest of which is being an economics teacher in that public school in Diliman.

The pay is small, but the satisfaction great, that he spends his psychic income with gusto, which is not, by the way, a tall order for a Bol-anon, the proud race known for their parsimony.

Although this Bol-anon is suspected to be a tightwad, he is far from a proponent of austerity. Dr. Pernia, I think, is in the Keynesian school which believes that a country can only spend, and not save, its way out of economic doldrums.

If Dr. Ernie did not end up being an economist, he would have been a bishop, or a cardinal, by now. He has two divinity-related academic degrees, both with Latin honors.

He has Bachelor of Sacred Theology from UST Central Seminary in Manila and a BA in Philosophy from San Carlos Seminary.

I have no inkling of his own 'road to Damascus' experience, but let me hazard a guess. He hurdled the vow of poverty, easily.

But he failed the vow of chastity, big time, for splendid reasons, because the beautiful Mrs. Pernia is an intellectual peer of his.

Dr. Pernia continues to serve the Lord, as lay leader in a community in Quezon City.

While this UCLA Berkeley PhD grad may not have been able to practice "liberation theology" as a man of the cloth, he has done great service to his fellowmen as an apostle of "liberation economics."

He is no ivory-tower intellectual. As you can see from his abridged 19-page CV, he is not the cloistered academic kind detached from reality who will conclude that because a rose smells better than a cabbage, it will make a better soup.

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

Many years from now, when today's millennials are senior citizens, people in NEDA will look back fondly on his tour of duty, and when they recall the people who have been at the helm of that agency, they will pay this tribute, in front of brilliant economists gathered.

They will say: That this is greatest assembly of the best economists of our country in one room except for the times when Dr. Pernia dined alone in his office.

Mr. President, my dear colleagues.

I vote for the confirmation of Dr. Ernesto del Mar Pernia, as Socio-Economic Planning Secretary.

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