Marcos’s unmatched legacy: Hospitals, schools and other infrastructures
By: Cecilio T. Arillo, Business Mirror
IT is a common Filipino trait to “remember the bad” and “forget the good.” This is the reason people choose to remember President Marcos through the fictitious and cruel acts attributed to him and his government.
Under the Marcos regime, Filipinos also saw the establishment of unprecedented edifices and infrastructures, the majority of which still stand proudly today, servicing the needs of the Filipino people.
It was in Marcos’s time when pioneering hospitals were built: the Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, and the National Kidney and Transplant Institute.
Cultural, tourism and heritage sites were, likewise, constructed: the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Theater, Philippine International Convention Center, the National Arts Center (now Makiling Center for the Arts) housing the Philippine High School for the Arts, Nayong Pilipino and the People’s Park in the Sky in Tagaytay City.
To address the influx of people migrating to urban centers from the countryside—which gave birth to a myriad of other problems, such as violence, social unrest, environmental degradation and limited housing provision—President Marcos came up with the Bagong Lipunan Improvement of Sites and Services (BLISS) projects in Manila and in the rural areas to house the country’s poorest of the poor.
A total of 230,000 housing units were constructed from 1975 to 1985. While it provided dignified shelter, the ultimate goal of BLISS is to develop a strong and solid economic base for the community, thereby inculcating self-reliance among the beneficiaries.
Former National Economic and Development Authority and Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines School of Economics Gerardo P. Sicat, one of the country’s most distinguished economists, said: “Of all the presidents of the country [to this time], Marcos built the most extensive infrastructure. The projects were interrelated and complemented sector-development objectives. He put in the major trunk-line road networks within the country, linking them from Luzon to the Visayas, and then to Mindanao.
“These networks were essential in bringing down the cost of transportation, thereby raising the prospects of commerce throughout the affected regions of the country. In his two terms in office, he concentrated on a network of roads, simply designed and inexpensive school buildings, and irrigation systems that also built farm-to-market roads.
“In Luzon major irrigation systems and hydroelectric power plants were built. These were the Upper Pampanga River Project, Angat multipurpose power and irrigation project and the Magat River Project. These projects firmed up the role of Central Luzon and the Cagayan Valley in the Green Revolution of the 1970s. In addition, community irrigation systems were built in many other provinces where agricultural activities thrived, especially across the nation and in the big islands. This increased agricultural activities in the big Visayan Islands and in Mindanao, and helped cover a wide area of the rice and food-producing region. The result of these investments could be seen in the rise of agricultural output, especially the increase toward greater sufficiency in palay production. Irrigation helped to raise farmer productivity.
“He improved the older networks of national roads that connected provinces, and rehabilitated them with durable construction. A lot of these projects eased the transport bottlenecks within provinces and across provinces, and improved intra-island travels within the big islands.
“He linked these with airport constructions. If Marcos were to be judged only on his infrastructure-construction program during his first two terms alone, he would have been considered an outstanding president. But, actually, he undertook a lot more, especially during the martial-law period. The building program for the improvement of public-school buildings, especially at the elementary level, was one of the earliest programs of Marcos.
“A study of infrastructure construction by various presidents shows that Marcos was the president who made the largest infrastructure investment. This is not because he was the longest-serving leader of the country alone.
“On a per-year basis, he led all the presidents. Only Fidel Ramos had bested him in road building for a period of one year. But overall in terms of quantity of infrastructure investments, their impact on the rest of the economy and on the breadth and depth of the investments, Marcos was by far the most prolific, undertaken on a per-year basis and cumulatively over the years that he held office.
“The government’s share of public investment to GDP rose to 6 percent from the meager amount of 2 percent of GDP before he took office. This was no mean feat. The level of economic activity rose overall and—in the case of the transport investments—they increased the efficiency of the economy. A great part of these investments in roads was in the countryside so that agricultural output and domestic commerce increased.
“The variety of public investments undertaken was made possible by various methods of mobilizing financing for them. Although some of the major road projects and other public works were placed under the direct programs of some major departments of the government, a large part were undertaken under the auspices of many restructured government entities that took on a corporate form. So, in great measure, the reorganization of the public agencies helped in strengthening the capacity to undertake the projects.
“Major projects dealing with expansion of the irrigation, water services, and power projects were pursued by entities under the corporate structure. They had more fiscal autonomy, and the programs were subject to a system of accountability. The corporate framework for these agencies enabled them to incur debt financing from major multilateral and bilateral development agencies that led to the construction of major development projects.
“Nevertheless, his unparalleled achievements and contributions to the country, especially in infrastructure development, albeit persistently shunned from the spotlight, will remain as his lasting legacy. For as long as they stand, Marcos lives.”