Is the Philippines a Late Bloomer?

“Whenever we find a late bloomer, we can’t but wonder how many others like him or her we have thwarted because we prematurely judged their talents. But we also have to accept that there’s nothing we can do about it. How can we ever know which of the failures will end up blooming?”
Malcolm Gladwell

In the Philippines, children trooped to school this week as yet another academic year began. It seemed like any other year, with the rising cost of private education and the shortage of classrooms and teachers plaguing the public system giving concern to parents.

There was one significant difference though: the country became one of the last in the region to adopt a K-12 (kindergarten to Year 12) structure. The additional two years to secondary education and one year of kindergarten meant that the educational system in the country has finally caught up with the rest of the world.

It is hoped that with this reform, the country would be able to lift the academic test scores of its pupils which have been lagging behind that of neighbouring states. Previously it was hypothesised, educators tried to cram in too much content within the span of ten years. It is hoped that allowing more time to learn the new national curriculum would produce better results.

But apart from giving students the tools to succeed in life, there is a number of policy areas in which the Philippines has lagged behind but could now be catching up. Reproductive health and family planning is an example of where the country has remained staunchly intransigent even when there has been a near universal consensus arrived at around the world on this issue. The long-delayed reproductive health bill that has languished in Congress for over a decade may finally pass.

In the area of peace and order and social justice, the country has one of the longest running communist insurgencies in the world. Its land reform program whose implementation has taken decades longer than expected, may finally be completed with the resolution of the Hacienda Luisita case.

After a chequered history, the revised sin tax legislation may finally pass, giving government finances a boost and allowing credit rating agencies to give a positive outlook for the country, which in turn lowers the cost of borrowing for the government. Having been a net debtor nation to the rest of the world, the nation’s ability to shore up international reserves through balance of payments surpluses now make it a net creditor.

After being the consistent laggard of Southeast Asia when it comes to attracting foreign direct investments, an investment pipeline involving infrastructure projects may soon reverse its fortunes. With growth slowing in the BRIC economies, the US and the EU, a first quarter growth of 6.4% year-on-year making the average for the past two years 5.6% make the country a stand-out along with Indonesia and Turkey (see video below for an explanation).

With employment growing and inflation easing, some are beginning to wonder if the Philippines is finally getting its act together. Two thousand and twelve could be a “breakout” year for the country.

Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy ( and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

  • Not a breakout year, 2012, but a good solid bounce off the bottom. You know, the Philippines is a very very young democracy, all in all. Set aside the occupations and turmoil up through Marcos, then a patchwork of coups and corruption. The Aquino presidency, for the occasional minor misstep, is a very solid base from which to do good deeds. Like RH, FOI, divorce, rational spending, more disciplined revenue collection. It is a country on the move, perhaps. One year won’t get the “breakout” solidified. But it’s moving the right direction, for sure.

  • UPnnGrd

    The Philippines is late.   Let’s wait for the bloom!!!

    (And that retired Bishop Cruz, apparently, has a tactic to slow down PersiNoynoy on reproductive health.   Very easy tactic — the “and” word.     Bishop Cruz mentions “reproductive health” along with “jueteng”  in the same sentence.    So he says (again)  that PersiNoynoy (actually, Llamas of Malkanyang)  is  trying to quiet him down because of Cruz constant complaint about Noynoy administration lackadaisical about “jueteng and reproductive health”. )

    • Manuelbuencamino

      If Cruz is really against jueteng and his anti-jueteng organization is as big as he claims it is then he can give specific details on where jueteng goes on. 

      What province, city, town, or barangay is infested with jueteng ? Who is the police commander in charge of the area? There is a one-strike policy against police commanders, why doesn’t Cruz name names and places?  Cruz barks a lot. He can bite if he wants to but he prefers to bark because he is a media hound, a dog that barks but doesn’t hunt. Name names, name places, and then complain if the PNP chief does not implement the one-strike policy and replace the local PNP commander. Go after  Robredo and Puno if they don’t do anything about named local government officials involved in jueteng. Cruz bellyaches and barks out vague accusations instead of biting the culprits. He likes to criticize the president and the DILG leadership but he won’t provide them with actionable info. He says they should know, they have the resources to know, it’s their job to know. Granted. But it seems he knows a lot and better so why doesn’t he help the concerned government officials by giving them info? Why not do something constructive for a change? Remember the fuss Cruz created when he used a Senate investigation as a platform to accuse Usec Puno of accepting bribes and coddling jueteng operators? He became silent when the investigating committee asked for details and corroboration to back up his allegations, didn’t he? The investigation faded away because Cruz did not have anything the committee could act on. Contrast the Puno investigation with the one against the Arroyos. That investigation had Sandra Cam and Boy Mayor as witnesses. Sandra Cam testified that she personally handed jueteng pay-offs to one of the Arroyos. That was Cruz’s finest moment. He had beef to back up the sizzle. Today he is just sizzle. Where’s the beef?If Cruz is still for real he will name names and places. He can give the info to the chief PNP, secretary Robredo, and the media. But if by providing actionable info jueteng is eliminated, then what will Cruz do? No one cares about his views on the RH Bill, divorce, and same-sex marriage. Media will stop knocking on his door. And then what will he do?

      • UPnnGrd

        I bet that Bishop Cruz has less hard-info about jueteng than Puno or Torres or maybe even Lacierda or Ochoa.  I won’t be surprised that the Cruz media is Cruz reminding PersiNoynoy that about 10% of the voters (or maybe more)… voters listen to the CBCP-messages during Sunday sermons.

        • Manuelbuencamino

          “I bet that Bishop Cruz has less hard-info about jueteng than Puno or Torres or maybe even Lacierda or Ochoa.”

          I wouldn’t bet on that, not with the way Cruz is running his mouth off.
          “I won’t be surprised that the Cruz media is Cruz reminding PersiNoynoy that about 10% of the voters (or maybe more)… voters listen to the CBCP-messages during Sunday sermons.”

          Remember the warning of Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios to then CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo on his closeness to Cruz?

          “Archbishop Lagdameo should be extra-careful. He should distance himself from the influence of Archbishop (Oscar) Cruz. He should smell danger. If he does not listen to the majority, I think there would be moves to replace him as president of CBCP.”
          So I’d be very surprised if 10% of the CBCP give a shit about what Cruz says about anything except on contraception, divorce, and same-sex marriage.  

  • Manuelbuencamino

    this could be related to what you wrote