Regional planning and development

By: Fernando Fajardo - CDN Digital | November 20,2019 - 06:59 AM

For a poor nation, development means overcoming the problem of widespread poverty and unemployment achieved through creation of more jobs and generation of income that ensures the enhancement of the well-being of the poor.

Development takes a long time to occur. In England, this took about a century to achieve with the first industrial revolution in the 18th century. Learning from the west, China took only two to three decades of sustained economic growth to achieve the same thing after the death of Mao Zedong and its opening to foreign trade and investment.

In pursuit of development, most plans prepared for the country after we achieved independence took a highly economic turn; designed primarily to rearrange the structure of the economy to maximize economic growth. This was reflected in the balanced agricultural and industrial strategy adopted in the Hibben Plan (1948-52), industrial development in the Beyster Plan (1947-51), diversification of the economy through industrialization in the Cuaderno Plan (1949-53), agriculture development in the Yulo Plan (1950-54), and accelerated rate of economic development with emphasis on industry in the Rodriguez Plan (1955-59).

These plans were not only lacking in human dimension, and therefore not reflective of the true meaning of development, they likewise lack geographic focus that made them meaningless to those who lived away from the national capital and nearby areas where most of the expansion in economic activities was concentrated.

Nevertheless, the lack of spatial or regional dimension in previous plans did not mean that the government had nothing to do with what was happening in the different regions of the country. The need to control their subjects, for example, prompted the Spaniards to encourage the natives to congregate in town centers, closed to their centers of power in various points in the country.

When the Americans came, they recognized that the vast areas of empty land on the fringes of the country, such as in Mindanao, were important to future economic well-being of the fast growing number of people. They then started a resettlement program that brought about a far ranging impact on the demographic and economic landscape of the nation. The same policy was continued in the commonwealth government and the new Philippine government after the last war.

Before the Americans came, the mercantile policy of the Spanish colonial government restricted the Galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco. This restriction hampered the development of the countryside because not only that the amount of goods shipped from Manila to New Spain were limited; most of these goods loaded in the galleon actually came from China where most of the proceeds in silver or gold ended. Many influential people in Manila profited much from this commercial contact but the rest of the country remained undeveloped for lack of opportunity to participate in the galleon trade.

Towards the end of its rule, the Spanish colonial government adopted a more open trade policy. The gate was finally opened for the development of export agriculture in the countryside. The same process continued when the Americans came; this time with most of our export going to the US market.

Another important government policy that had a strong impact on the regions, albeit negatively, was the move to industrialize the Philippine economy via the promotion of import substituting industries after the country gained independence in 1946. This policy was silent about the location of new industries but because most of the newly established import substituting industries favored the national capital for their location and need for close contact with the regulators, it allowed the national capital and environs to grow much faster than the rest of the country.

In the 1960s, the country’s planners and policy makers did not fail to see the great disparity in development between the national capital and the rest of the country. Thus, in FY 1972-75 Philippine Development Plan, regional industrialization and development became one of the nation’s goal along with high per capita income, widespread employment, more equitable income distribution, and internal stability.

In the succeeding FY 1974-77 Philippine Development Plan, greater emphasis was given to regional development and industrialization. In addition to correcting the policies that artificially favor a few select areas, the plan adopted the integrated area approach (IAD) to regional development. This new approach calls for the integration of physical development with the economic, social, administrative, and financial aspects of development for a given area.

Finally, the concern for regional development in the country found its full expression in the 1972 Integrated Reorganization Plan (IRP) of the Executive Branch of the Government. Put into law on September 24, 1972 through Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1, reorganizing the Executive Branch of the National Government, the IRP brought many changes in the conduct of governance in the country. Among these was the division of the country into 11 regions (12 with Metro Manila) for purposes of administration and implementation of the various plans, programs, and projects of the government. The IRP mandates that in each of the 11 regions a Regional Development Council (RDC) was to be established to serve as its planning and coordinating body for development.

Now we have 17 regions in all and more than forty years had already elapsed since the institution of regional planning and development in the country in the 1970s. What happened since then? Has development become more spatially equitable in the country? This will be the subject of this column next week.

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TAGS: CDN digital, CDN Digital opinion, Cebu columnist, Cebu columns, columnist Fernando Fajardo, Post Prandrium

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