‘Renaissance man’ of PHL economy: House leaders extol FVR’s achievements, accomplishments, legacy

Lawmakers on Monday said Congress could best pay tribute to the rich legacy of the late President Fidel V. Ramos by pursuing more economic reforms that would further privatize or deregulate big businesses.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said these economic reforms improve the delivery of basic services and attract greater investments from the private sector.

Villafuerte said the six-year term of the late FVR was “distinguished by the renaissance of the economy resulting from the bold initiatives that the former defense secretary and Armed Forces chief had carried out to privatize or deregulate major businesses such as air and land transport, telecommunications and water service sectors.”

Ramos was the country’s 12th President and served as such from 1992 to 1998.

“Many Filipinos, especially the millennials and zoomers [Generation Z’ers], are probably unaware that the late President Ramos had presided over an economic boom set apart by greater market competition and better services for our people, which, in turn, turned the Philippines on his watch as a magnet for capital from both foreign and local investors and highlighted the global competitiveness of our country and its people,” Villafuerte said.

“Thanks to the strong political will of the late FVR to break up long-established monopolies in Philippine business and attract private investors, we Filipinos now enjoy better and relatively cheaper services such as airfares, phone rates and water delivery,” he said.

He said FVR’s initiatives were implemented “in pursuit of the late President’s role as the No. 1 salesman of the country’s global competitiveness, on the belief that the Filipino can truly excel in the international arena.”

Villafuerte, the vice president for political affairs of the National Unity Party (NUP), said “the 19th Congress could best honor the rich legacy of the late FVR by pursuing deeper economic reforms to further privatize or deregulate businesses and attract more FDI [foreign direct investment] as well as investments from local private enterprises.”

He said “this is the least that incumbent lawmakers can do to pay tribute to the late FVR’s successes in shepherding  a nascent economic boom, considering that the pursuit of further reforms after his six-year term to rev up the domestic economy and sharpen the country’s global competitiveness have been found wanting. Policymakers seem to have forgotten that FVR had started this privatization and deregulation wave and, worse, have failed to stay the course of this economic-reform crusade,” he said.

Villafuerte recalled that FVR actually started the country’s economic boom or renaissance by enacting two laws that (1) created the Department of Energy (DOE) to deal with the then-worsening energy crunch, and (2) gave him special powers to immediately end the daily power blackouts that had crippled the economy during the Corazon Aquino presidency.

With overseas corporations starting to take a second look at the Philippines as an investment haven after the end of the power crisis, Villafuerte said FVR then either signed laws or pushed bold policy initiatives that dismantled monopolies such as those enjoyed then by the Philippine Long Distance Co. (PLDT) over the telecoms sector, by Philippine Airlines (PAL) in air transportation and by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in water delivery services in Metro Manila—leading to an influx of private investors that eventually enhanced the delivery of services and led to cheaper costs for the public.

He noted that FVR had also promoted the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) law—it was enacted by his predecessor, the late President Corazon Aquino—that drove private corporations to invest in 45 big projects, of which 25 were completed by the time Ramos’s term ended in 1998.

Among the BOT projects awarded on the Ramos presidency were those that expanded the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) and constructed the South Luzon Expressway (Slex), built two additional light rail transit lines in Metro Manila and power facilities like geothermal and natural gas projects outside the national capital region (NCR), he said.

By 1997, some 200 European investors, for instance, have expressed their interest in participating in infrastructure projects worth a combined $15 billion, said Villafuerte in citing a report.

Villafuerte said the dismantling of the PAL monopoly cleared the way to cheaper airfare, with the subsequent entry in the business of more firms like Cebu Pacific, Philippine Air Asia, and Asian Spirit and Corporate Air.

Also, more choices and lower-priced phones and telecom services happened after FVR broke up PLDT’s monopoly, he said, that set the stage for the entry of more companies like Smart Philippines, Globe Telecom, TalkNText and Sun Cellular Co.

As for water, he said, the takeover of its delivery in the metropolis from MWSS by Maynilad Water Services Inc. (MWSI) and Manila Water Co. (MWC) put an end to the ubiquitous site across the NCR of consumers buying their daily needs from kariton (makeshift cart) vendors who sold water for as much as P30 to P60 cubic meters (cu. m.)—or equivalent to about P3,000 to P5,000 a month for every household without access to MWSS supply.

‘Right President’

Lawmakers agreed the late  President Fidel V. Ramos was the right president at the right time, as they expressed their condolences to former first lady Amelita “Ming” Ramos and their kin.

“As it is said in politics, destiny,” said Pangasinan Rep. Christopher de Venecia, son of former Speaker Jose de Venecia, perhaps the closest political ally of President FVR.

“The de Venecia and Ramos families have been the closest of friends and political allies because of our shared love for the Philippines and Pangasinan Province. Speaker de Venecia and my mom, former Congresswoman Gina de Venecia were full comrades-in-arms of President Ramos on firmly establishing economic reforms and local government progress,” de Venecia said.

“President FVR was the staunchest advocate of the North Luzon Growth Quadrangle, the creative industries and performing arts, education, agricultural and fisheries development, and sports,” the current chairman of the House special committee on creative industries and performing arts said.

He also said President Ramos was “the moving force” in implementing the Local Government Code of 1991 during his term.

“Our country and Pangasinan would not be progressive as it is now were it not for President Ramos and his administration,” de Venecia added.

Senior Citizen Party-list Rep. Rodolfo Ordanes said, “To us seniors and to thousands of war veterans still alive today, President Fidel V. Ramos was their champion during his six-year administration and even after he stepped down, he still was our advocate.”

“After the Senior Citizens Act was signed into law in April 1992, it fell upon President Ramos’s strong shoulders and his administration to implement that landmark law,” Ordanes recalled.

“President FVR proudly wore his beret cap and medals. He lingered long whenever he was with his fellow seniors and veterans. He was the Lolo-in-Chief of the Philippines as he doted after his grandchildren even in public events,” he also said.

Ordanes said the country “owes President Ramos a deep debt of gratitude that could never be repaid.”

Ang Probinsyano Party-list Rep. Alfred delos Santos said Fidel V. Ramos was “truly a probinsyano President.”

“President FVR made efforts to bring the national government closer to the people. During his visits to the provinces, he also brought with him national officials and government agency heads so they can immediately act on the issues that were brought to his attention by the probinsyanos,” he recalled.

Image credits: Caelistis Productions