Current term limit for president may be barrier to growth—JICA exec
TOKYO — The six-year nonextensible term for Philippine presidents may be an obstacle to the country’s development goals, according to a senior official of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
“One could say it is a difficulty that the administration will change after six years, and there could be cases where the whole [development] strategy changes” under a different administration, said Jin Wakabayashi, director of JICA’s Southeast Asia and Pacific department.
He cited the challenge of transitioning from one President to the next one every six years, and maintaining consistency in development strategies.
“Individual projects might be affected, which might work as a demerit to the country as a whole when it comes to installing important infrastructure,” he told the Inquirer in an interview here on Monday.
JICA is Japan’s development arm that gives out loans and aid to developing countries.
A strategic economic and security partner, Japan has been the Philippines’ top provider of official development assistance (ODA) for decades.
Wakabayashi, whose office handles JICA’s Philippine projects, stressed the importance of consistency and coherence in the implementation of development projects funded through aid packages or grants.
But he would not say whether he recommended a return to the old system of the Philippine president being entitled to a four-year term with a chance at reelection.
The 1987 Constitution limits the presidential term to a six-year term with no extension.
“One cannot say black or white. One term for six years is one idea, whereas four years for two terms is another idea. Under any democracy, you can change those ideas, but I cannot evaluate [the effectiveness of either one],” Wakabayashi said.
The JICA official said it might be a better idea to “to look back on what kind of political system or government strategy works, good or bad.”
He noted that the Aquino administration had “performed well” in the past six years and was responsible for the improvement in the Philippines’ rating by credit agencies.
Asked if JICA was concerned about the presumptive President-elect’s mantra of “change is coming,” Wakabayashi replied: “I guess we have to see what kind of change he means.”
Other challenges JICA has experienced with respect to Philippine development projects include the difficulty of meeting and creating demand, failure to achieve targets, inappropriate budgetary measures, and natural disasters, he said.
“In general, I guess, involving high-priority projects, we have to be accountable not just to the Japan public but also to the general public of the Philippines in terms of its output and also its impacts,” Wakabayashi said.
He said JICA granted its biggest loan facility to the Philippines via the $2-billion North – South Commuter Railway Project connecting Malolos, Bulacan and Tutuban, Manila.
The loan will be the “largest scale assistance ever extended by JICA to any country for a single project,” he said, adding that it would be payable in 40 years, inclusive of a 10-year grace period.
JICA is also involved in the plans and road map for integrating Metro Manila’s transportation network, the peace effort in Mindanao, and the rebuilding of coastal communities ravaged by 2013’s super typhoon “Yolanda,” or “Haiyan.”