If elected president, Robredo says to double education budget, shift away from 'car-centric’ infrastructure
MANILA— Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday said she envisions making the Philippines "a country where fairness reigns," where a sensible and efficient government concretizes plans, and where leaders are honest and accountable.
Robredo, who is seeking the presidency in the 2022 elections, said she wants to be a "public servant who did everything she could, with whatever platform or resources she has, to uplift and make a difference in the lives of the people around her."
"I hope the Filipino people will remember me as a leader who marched and worked alongside them, who stood with them, and fought for their dreams and the country that they truly deserve," she said in a prerecorded message to a Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry forum, when asked about the legacy she eyes.
"It is my hope that with this forum and the conversations that it will start, we will usher in the future of our hopes for our nation—a country where fairness reigns, and where every individual is empowered; where plans are concretized because there is a sensible and efficient government; with honest and accountable officials; and leaders who put the interests of the Filipino people first," added Robredo.
If elected president, Robredo said she eyes doubling the current P557-billion budget of the education department, which represents 3 percent of the gross domestic product.
"Our target is to raise education spending to 6 percent of GDP as recommended by the United Nations," she told PCCI.
Robredo said she would "propose a new round of educational reforms and investment in education to repair the damage wrought by the pandemic and to address the deficit that existed even before that."
"This means investing in data for effective decision making: We will roll out a national learning assessment program that will diagnose missed learning at the student and school level and will guide a remediation program to address learning losses," she said.
Robredo said she would continue participation in international large scale learning assessments, and invest in educators by organizing communities of practice at the provincial level.
She said this would allow teachers, school heads, and school boards to come up with localized ways to deal with the pandemic and scale best practices of continuous high-quality learning.
LENI WANTS TO 'BUILD SMARTER'
For infrastructure, Robredo said she would "prioritize feasible and strategic projects that provide high impact for the Filipino people."
"This means shifting away from the failed car-centric public budgeting," said the Vice President.
"We need a better balance for a better normal: More bus rapid transits, better service contracts for transport workers, a just transition for transport workers, protected bike lanes, bike racks, safe pathways, better bus stops, and railways for our long-term needs."
Robredo said her government would "map the points where corruption enters the procurement process, and we will plug those holes."
"This means being more discerning on which projects are actually needed, and which ones are being used as cash cows by politicians. We will also enforce evidence-based cost estimates, and regular audit checks on the procurement process. We will proactively disclose relevant data," she said.
She said she would prioritize building a nationwide active transport infrastructure, starting with the most traffic-congested areas.
"Our goal is to make roads for people, not cars. Examples of these would be the EDSA and Cebu bus rapid transits, and the expansion and improvement of protected bike lane networks," Robredo said.
Quoting a survey among Japanese companies, Robredo said their main hesitation for investing in the Philippines is due to high power rates, slow communications, and poor facilities.
"To address this, we will invest in next-level infrastructure that will help local industries compete, cope with the pandemic, and become innovative," she said.
She said this plan would include providing greater access to digitization, lowering energy costs, linking small-holder agriculture and large domestic institutional buyers and foreign markets, and extending credit to SMEs to allow them to physically reconfigure their businesses and cope with the pandemic.
Robredo said her government would invest in human capital by making sure that graduating senior high school students are employable, and training the current workforce for a shift to digitization.
"What we learned in the pandemic is that traditional infrastructure is not sufficient to make the economy resilient. We will shift away from the largely urban, transport-oriented, and costly 'build-build-build' emphasis of the current administration," said Robredo.
"We will build smarter—putting greater emphasis on building and expanding infrastructure to support our current and emerging communities and industries," added the opposition leader.