Monday, December 11, 2023

Delivering Stories of Progress


FIRING LINE: Seeking development? Forget China!

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

It’s high time for the Philippine government to diversify its sources of financial assistance for critical infrastructure and railway projects, and the recent decision to withdraw from Chinese loan financing for the Mindanao Railway Project phase is a notable step in that direction.

Seeking Official Development Assistance (ODA) deals from countries other than China is a prudent move, given the growing concerns surrounding Chinese loans and, of course, growing geopolitical tensions arising from maritime territorial disputes.

Japan, for instance, has consistently offered favorable ODA terms, with interest rates as low as 1.5%. This compares favorably with the 2%-3% interest rates typically associated with Chinese loans. This shift not only secures better financial terms but also minimizes the country’s financial dependency on a single partner.

As Senator Grace Poe aptly suggested recently, it’s wise to explore multilateral institutions and international assistance agencies and engage the private sector to bolster infrastructure development. Institutions like the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the World Bank are viable alternatives that can contribute to the country’s development while mitigating geopolitical tensions.

TESDA should try harder

Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian’s recent critique of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) is a stark reminder of a persistent problem: the misalignment of training programs with the demands of the job market.

TESDA has once again failed to provide courses that match the most sought-after jobs in the coming years, leaving students and graduates ill-equipped to seize opportunities in rapidly evolving industries.

As TESDA lobbies for a budget north of P15 billion for 2024, they must evolve from being mere skills providers to becoming strategic implementers of a dynamic and proactive agenda. The senator’s candid observation — that none of the Top 5 most popular courses offered by TESDA are aligned with industries that will grow in the next three to five years — underscores the urgency for TESDA to rectify the skills-job mismatch.

Congressman to head DMW?

There’s some chatter around small circles in the Palace and Congress that a deputy speaker of the House of Representatives might be tapped to head the Department of Migrant Workers. Since the passing of DMW Secretary Toots Ople last August, the department has been led by an officer-in-charge — Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac.

President Marcos had said in his eulogy for his “dear friend,” Sec. Ople, that she was irreplaceable. Suppose this deputy speaker does land the job. May he not treat the appointment as an opportunity for political gain but to truly serve the interests of overseas Filipino workers as Toots had.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View via X app (formerly Twitter). Read current and past issues of this column at

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