Keynote Message
Ernesto M. Pernia, PhD
Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning

5th Annual Public Policy Conference
“Navigating the New Globalization: Local Actions for Global Challenges
September 19, 2019
Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, Pasay City, Philippines


PIDS President Dr. Celia M. Reyes, for the impressive opening remarks as well as the video;
Former Prime Minister Cesar Virata;
Former Central Bank Governor Jaime Layag;
Distinguished guests and speakers;
Fellow workers in government;
Friends from the media;
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

I can only scratch the surface of the 5th Annual Public Policy Conference, the subject of which is of much gravitas and challenges are formidable, characterized by VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity).

I will start with a light-hearted parable of the stag hunt. A group of individuals go out to hunt a stag. They need cooperation to be able to catch this speedy, agile stag. However, like in any good story, the naughty devil dangles a temptation: each individual can renege, leave the group, and catch the less rewarding rabbit on their own. What do you think they will do, cooperate and hunt the great stag or take the easy way out by catching the feeble rabbit?

This is a parable of social cooperation, originating from the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Its ending tells us that the more there is uncertainty – the more there is ambiguity – the more there is distrust – the more that the individuals will go off on their own and hunt the easy rabbit.

My dear colleagues, the lesson of this story tells us the importance of beliefs in a society. Our mere beliefs and expectations can turn things around and enable us to get the highest reward. As Professor Kaushik Basu, former World Bank Chief Economist and Professor of Economics of Cornell University, wrote in his recent book, The Republic of Beliefs:

“In truth, the most important ingredients of a republic, including its power and might, reside in nothing more than the beliefs and expectations of ordinary people going about their daily lives and quotidian chores. It is in this sense that we are all citizens of the republic of belief.”

Thus, to make any reform work, people must first believe in this society, in the administration. This Administration is instituting a number of critical and broad-based reforms. We have the new Philippine Innovation Act, the Innovative Startup Act, the Balik Scientist Act to partly deal with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We have the Ease of Doing Business Act and the Philippine Identification System Act, the latter aiming to give a National ID to each Filipino, to ease transactions and obtain faster delivery of social services. For human capital development, we have the Universal Healthcare Law, Free Tuition for Tertiary Education, although some of us have mixed feelings about that, and the Executive Order to Attain Zero Unmet Need for Family Planning.

All of these will be nothing but ink on paper if the whole citizenry suddenly lose their belief in our society’s potential. Imagine making the monumental Bangsamoro Organic Law work if the Bangsamoro citizens themselves in the first place distrust the law.

What we need is a whole-of-society approach to meet the objectives of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022, and eventually our Ambisyon Natin 2040 of a prosperous and predominantly middle class Philippines where no one is poor. But it is only through cultivating a high-trust society that this whole-of-society approach could work. It is only through cultivating trust that we will make people believe in each other – enough to cooperate and achieve our goals. In an environment of great uncertainty, ambiguity, volatility and so on, where the next turn of events astounds and bewilders us, we need to reach out and build trust.

Fortunately, we have recognized the importance of cultivating trust in our crafting of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, which aims to “to lay down the foundation for inclusive growth, a resilient and high-trust society, and a globally competitive knowledge economy.”

Underpinning, and resulting from a high-trust society is Malasakit—strengthening the social fabric (or, in a word, solidarity)—the first pillar of AmBisyon Natin 2040. Solidarity is needed between and among the citizenry for our country to achieve the objectives of the PDP 2017-2022 and the goal of AmBisyon Natin 2040.

Trust and solidarity grease the wheels to make collaboration happen so that we can get the highest reward. I thank all of you for trusting us enough to turn up in this conference today. I ask the sharp and searching minds in this gathering to collaborate and think of solutions on how to navigate this era of new globalization. Trust us enough to share your ideas as we do not have the answers ourselves. We are currently doing our Midterm Update of the PDP 2017-2022 so, President Celia, we would appreciate receiving a copy of the participants’ resolutions today to be incorporated in the updated Philippine Development Plan.

The spadework for change still needs to be continued relentlessly. Let us stop ourselves being satisfied from catching the mediocre rabbit, the easy prey. Together, let us aim for the stag.

Thank you, and a pleasant and productive day to all of us.