BANGKOK, Thailand -- An official of the Philippine government here is pushing for rural development in the country seen to further invite more foreign investors that would result in a sustained economic growth.
Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon, Philippine Ambassador to Thailand, who met the participants of the 2018 Asean Media and Communication Solidarity Conference at the Philippine Embassy here Thursday, said there is a need to decongest urban areas like Metro Manila.
Bernardo-Aragon, who has roots in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, told SunStar Bacolod that there are currently a lot of interests for foreign companies to come to the country.
“In this continuing economic growth, it is more of rural development which I think President Rodrigo Duterte is also focusing on,” she said, stressing that “Metro Manila can only absorb so much, thus, we really need to spread the development in the countryside.”
Comparing the Philippines and Thailand, which are both members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the official pointed out that the latter is very strong in terms of rural development.
She attributed it mainly to the leadership of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was able to introduce the concept of sustainability even before the United Nations came up with its sustainable development goals.
“That is why he is very much loved by the people here,” Bernardo-Aragon said, adding that the King’s philosophy includes dividing the land like 30 percent each for crops, livestock and irrigation, and only 10 percent for structures.
Locally, businessmen in Negros Occidental have already recognized the importance of rural investments in achieving a balanced local development.
Frank Carbon, chief executive officer of Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI), earlier told SunStar Bacolod that almost all investments, especially of private companies, are located in urban centers resulting to fewer jobs and labor in the rural areas.
Carbon, also the regional governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) for Western Visayas, said there are many potential areas in rural locations since most of the physical resources in these places have remained underdeveloped.
“Development investments of the government should be biased towards rural or agricultural areas. Public investments should make the rural areas prone, not resistant, to development to entice the private sector to follow the footprints of the government,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bernardo-Aragon said the people in Thailand like Duterte, which is benefiting positively the country’s economy.
“They (Thai) would tell us that it’s only your President who can tell leaders of a big country or grouping of big countries to get lost or something to that effect,” Bernardo-Aragon said, adding, “I think, we are benefiting from that kind of image or branding.”
Though the Philippines, particularly Duterte, is getting criticism, many countries like the United States and China are still courting the country and big investments are coming in.
“Independent policy is in our constitution, but how independent we were before? So, it is a different direction now. History would tell how the current administration will be judged,” she said.