Senator-elect Win Gatchalian of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) is urging presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte to convene the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) soon in order to formulate a game plan for the fair distribution of the benefits of economic growth.
Gatchalian said this as the Philippines’ first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) reached 6.9 percent, racing ahead of China (6.7 percent), Vietnam (5.5 percent), Indonesia (4.9 percent) and Malaysia (4.2 percent), according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
While services and industry rose at 7.9 percent and 8.7 percent, agriculture again contracted by 4.4 percent– the fourth consecutive quarter that the sector posted a decline.
“It would be wise for President Rody to convene the LEDAC once the cabinet posts are filled and the 17th Congress begins in order to coordinate efforts by the executive and legislative branches in eradicating poverty and making economic growth truly inclusive,” said Gatchalian, who currently serves as a Valenzuela City congressman.
The LEDAC, chaired by the President, is composed of 20 members including seven Cabinet members designated by the President, as well as the two heads of the Congress, and three each from the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The advisory body is mandated by Republic Act No. 7640 to determine and recommend socio-economic development goals and to integrate legislative agenda with the national development plan, among other functions.
Although the law requires LEDAC to assemble quarterly, the body has only convened twice under the Aquino administration, with both meetings occurring in 2011.
“The LEDAC will help determine which measures should be prioritized that will promote fair distribution of the benefits of economic growth rather than trickle-down economics,” Gatchalian pointed out.
Gatchalian’s legislative agenda in the Senate include measures that would channel substantial investments into projects that would enhance productivity and improve disaster resilience. He has previously vowed to file a bill that will remove irrigation fees for poor farmers.
“We need to invest in agriculture. That the sector lags behind service and industry amid the fast economic growth shows that trickle-down economics does not work. We need to focus on the poor, and to address poverty, we must provide the necessary conditions for agriculture to grow,” explained Gatchalian.
According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), agriculture is “the primary and often only source of income for poor rural people, most of whom depend on subsistence farming and fishing for their livelihoods.”
“About half of the Philippines’ 88 million people live in rural areas. Poverty is most severe and most widespread in these areas and almost 80 per cent of the country’s poor people live there,” the IFAD said.
Gatchalian had earlier challenged presumptive President Duterte to make education reform a top priority of his administration, saying Duterte’s mission to eradicate poverty and lead the country to a higher economic growth could be accomplished by taking ambitious steps to revamp the country’s public education system.
The NPC senator is one of the authors of the recently signed “Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Act” (Republic Act 10801), which would protect the contribution of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from misuse by concerned government agencies. (Monica Cantilero)