Press Releases Archived (February 2016)

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For the fourth consecutive year, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) has been recognized as among the world`s top think tanks.

In the 2015 Global Go To Think Tank Report and Policy Advice of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the University of Pennsylvania, PIDS was included in the list of best think tanks in seven categories. More than 6,600 think tanks from 198 countries were assessed in this round.

PIDS remained the top social policy think tank in Southeast Asia and was ranked 37th among the top 100 in the world. Other think tanks from Southeast Asia that made it to this category (social policy) were Singapore`s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (41st) and Institute for Policy Studies (53rd) and Malaysia`s Center for Public Policy Studies (66th). In 2014, PIDS also ranked 37th among 50 nominated think tanks in this category.

PIDS also maintained its rankings as among the top international development think tanks (70th out of 128) and among the top education policy think tanks (33rd out of 65).

Moreover, the Institute has been included in four new categories: best think tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, best government-affiliated think tanks, and think tanks with the best external relations/public engagement program. The East Asian Development Network (EADN) Secretariat, which PIDS has been running since 2010, also made it to the list of best think tank networks. The EADN is a network of institutes and centers in developing countries of East Asia. It sponsors research and capacity-building activities for early career researchers.

The Go To Think Tank Index is a comprehensive ranking of the world's top think tanks and has been described as the premier database and measure of world think tanks. It aims to increase the profile, performance, and impact of think tanks, and to create a transnational and interdisciplinary network of centers of public policy excellence. A total of 4,677 journalists, policymakers, think tanks, and public and private donors from 143 countries participated in the 2015 ranking process.

Established in 1989, the TTCSP aims to acknowledge the important contributions and emerging global trends of think tanks worldwide. Think tanks are public-policy research analysis and engagement organizations that generate policy-oriented research, analysis, and advice on domestic and international issues, thereby enabling policymakers and the public to make informed decisions about public policy.

PIDS is a state-funded think tank devoted to policy research. Its Board of Trustees is chaired by National Economic and Development Authority Director-General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, with Mr. Romeo Bernardo, Dr. William Padolina, Atty. Raphael Lotilla, and Dr. Gilberto Llanto (PIDS president) as members.

Since its establishment in 1977, PIDS has been engaged in conducting long-term, evidence-based research that serves as inputs in crafting socioeconomic policies for the country. PIDS has completed close to 1,000 studies covering a wide range of issues that encompass macroeconomic, agricultural, trade and industrial policies, health economics, education, environment, natural resource management, urban development and social services, and governance.

In 2015, the Institute completed a number studies evaluating the effectiveness and impacts of key government programs and projects to ascertain whether they are achieving their intended objectives and to ensure that government resources are being used wisely. Impact evaluation helps promote greater transparency and accountability in government.

The full report may be accessed at http://repository.upenn.edu/think_tanks/10/.

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State think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) marked a changing of the guards with a simultaneous testimonial dinner for outgoing Board of Trustees Chairman Arsenio Balisacan and a warm welcome for Emmanuel Esguerra as new PIDS Chairman of the Board and Officer-in-Charge (OIC)-Secretary of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

In attendance were PIDS forefathers--former NEDA Director-General and the Institute's founding father Gerardo Sicat and former Prime Minister Cesar Virata. Former PIDS OIC-Vice President and Assistant Secretary Rafaelita Aldaba of the Department of Trade and Industry was also present, alongside the roster of PIDS research fellows, colleagues, and staff.

Balisacan is expected to assume leadership of the recently established Philippine Competition Commission. PIDS President Dr. Gilberto Llanto honored his former boss and expressed gratitude on behalf of the Institute for all of Balisacan's contribution to PIDS' profile.

"Under his policy direction and vision, the PIDS was able to explore new grounds in policy research and constitute itself as a pre-eminent research institution doing impact evaluation," said Llanto.

The core of PIDS work--to conduct process and impact evaluations, and to produce sound policy advice--relied on the substantial funding that Balisacan championed to secure. But more than that, Llanto said, Balisacan helped give PIDS the reputation it is due.

"He brought PIDS work to the attention of the President himself who became appreciative of the contribution of policy research to good decisionmaking," noted Llanto.

Llanto described Balisacan, who is a marathoner in his own time, as a man who represents all the qualities it takes to win a race: persistent, task-oriented, conscientious, demonstrative, sociable, and the human tendency to never be satisfied.

Llanto called Balisacan's service record "a life worth emulating", and thanked him for steering policy conversations and decisions for the greater good.

In Balisacan's place, Emmanuel Esguerra will assume the leadership roles for NEDA and PIDS. Esguerra has served as deputy director-general of NEDA since 2012. He championed the Asia-Pacific Economic Community Services Cooperation Framework at last year's summit, and the integration of inclusiveness through increased investments in infrastructure and human capital development.

As head of NEDA, Esguerra aims to steer the socioeconomic planning agency's focus toward further inclusiveness and resilience, and to incorporate sustainable development goals, the Medium-Term Plan, and the Philippine Development Plan into the country's socioeconomic activities.

PIDS Board Member Romeo Bernardo assured that the future of NEDA and PIDS is in goods under the leadership of Esguerra.

"NEDA and PIDS have been blessed with having a succession of such scholars and practitioners since the time of Dr. Sicat," said Bernardo, attributing the virtues of 'philosopher kings' to his lifelong friend.
"I know Secretary Manny will steer both NEDA and PIDS from strength to strength as Secretary Arsi and President Gilbert have done."

In his own words, Esguerra admitted that the work will certainly be challenging. "With your help and with a unified vision of what we aspire for as a nation in terms of inclusive development, I'm sure we shall be able to pull it through."###

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Nongovernment reforestation, or tree planting activities conducted by private land owners, organizations, and citizens, has been declining despite the introduction of the National Greening Program (NGP). Launched in 2011, the NGP is a priority program of the government that aims to rehabilitate the forests and, at the same time, to reduce poverty; promote food security, environmental stability, and biodiversity conservation; and enhance climate change mitigation and adaptation.

According to a study by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), nongovernment reforestation contributed only about 2 percent of the total reforested area in 2013. This figure is much lower compared to the 56 percent of total area that private entities and individuals reforested in 2005.

PIDS Senior Research Fellow Danilo Israel, author of the study, noted that nongovernment reforestation contributed a large share in reforestation before the early 2000s. However, at the turn of the millennium, its contributions to reforestation efforts dropped to 20 percent from 39 percent in the 1990s. It continued to decline to 6.94 percent in the early 2011, just as the government launched the NGP.

Nongovernment reforestation occurs through agreements between the government and various nongovernment groups, such as forest agriculture communities, indigenous peoples, and industry entities and private groups. Nongovernment reforestation was driven by programs like community-based forest management agreements, integrated forest management agreements, socialized industrial forest management agreements, tree farm lease agreements, agroforestry farm lease agreements, industrial tree plantation lease agreements, industrial tree plantations, and Presidential Decree 1153 that requires every Filipino citizen to plant one tree every month for five consecutive years.

From the 1960s to the 1990s, the country suffered massive forest cover and biodiversity loss due to unchecked exploitation. Prior to the 1970s, the country has always relied on government programs to manage its forest resources. To mobilize better forestry protection and management, the government passed laws that would grant rights and responsibilities to nongovernment entities and enjoin them to the cause.

A good way to revive the contribution rate of nongovernment reforestation is to work through private landowners, organizations, and citizens. According to Israel, "private reforestation has been the main driver of nongovernment reforestation. However, it faces many obstacles and is generally left out of large-scale government reforestation programs like the NGP."

Israel recommends that since private reforestation has outperformed other nongovernment reforestation programs in the past, the country's policymakers should look into optimizing its performance by addressing institutional, production, and marketing issues that stand in the way.

"Harmonization of laws and regulations is a good place to start. Developing a coherent Sustainable Forest Management Act and Comprehensive Land Use Act would reassure private investors that their interests are protected. Right now, part of the institutional issues faced by private reforestation entities is the inconsistencies in relevant laws and policies, the lack of government-assisted programs, and complications related to security of land tenure and contesting land claims," Israel explained.

Moreover, Israel indicated that government has to give the private sector incentives to expand their reforestation operations. Tree planting is a risky business especially when it comes to prices. Poaching, diseases, and natural calamities pose real threats to private investments. Tree farming in itself might be a hard sell, but Israel argued that "agroforestry and forestry tourism as alternative ventures can be promoted."

To help address input price risk, government seedling nurseries must be capacitated to provide steady supply of good quality of seedlings at cheaper prices. More stringent laws against poaching must also be put in place such as having an effective reward system for catching tree poachers and a higher penalty for offenders including sufficiently long prison sentences. Likewise, government should extend crop insurance coverage to tree planting and conduct better anti-disease and pest control activities.

Lastly, government should assist tree farmers market their products through better organization, especially when it comes to entering and engaging the markets here and abroad, and provision of better transport infrastructure.

"Government should help tree farmers organize themselves into marketing cooperatives. This way, they can have better access to international markets for commercial logs and processed wood products. Cooperatives, for example, can also invest in commonly owned equipment and facilities, such as chain saws and trucks, for harvesting and transporting logs to markets by their members," Israel recommended.

At the same time, road and bridge infrastructure in the rural areas must also be improved to hasten the transportation of tree production inputs and harvested logs from the planting sites to the holding areas and markets.

Private reforestation is one facet of nongovernment reforestation, founded on the principle of engaging citizens and nongovernment groups to care for, protect, and help manage the countrys remaining forest resources. It is to the government's interest to give its private partners more opportunities to participate and enhance conservation efforts. ###

If you wish to learn more about non-government reforestation, you make access the Policy Note here

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Dr. Dan Steinbock, an economic expert affiliated with the Difference Group, gave a dynamic lecture on the future of global and emerging economies at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies' first public seminar for 2016. Steinbock discussed trends in global affairs and finance that are important for the Philippines as an emerging economy to take note of.

Odds are more uncertain in the post-2008 crisis world because the global order is less rigid. Steinbock said leaders must weigh policy choices holistically. Pure market analysis is not enough. There should be comprehensive consideration of not only the economic growth but also the non-economic growth of both advanced and emerging economies.

"If we advocate solutions that have worked in advanced economies to emerging economies, irrespective of their cultural context and history, you may have the best of intentions, but you may be [mistaking] the way to help," explained Steinbock.

That is not to say situations are isolated, rather they are unique but interconnected. Despite the fact that emerging Asia was not as deeply affected as the rest of the world by the 2008 crisis, and Philippine growth consistently rose while the original leading emerging economies struggle, Steinbock said the country is not immune to global headwinds.

Take the case of plunging oil prices. The recent decline in oil prices has negatively impacted countries that are highly dependent on oil, such as the Gulf economies. While they seem far away, the Philippines remains vulnerable as it heavily relies on remittances from overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East. A decline in the economic health of the Gulf certainly affects Filipino laborers.

Apart from remittances, there other spillover channels and financial stress points affecting the country. Abrupt changes in global political and economic affairs influence the country's trade, foreign direct investments, and participation in the global financial sector.

What Philippine leaders and policymakers need is to focus on medium-term and long-term plans, urged Steinbock.

In the context of increasing geopolitical tensions over territorial disputes, the refugee crisis, the deceleration of growth in Japan, China, and BRICS, the breakdown of confidence in the European Union membership, and leadership changes in the United States as well as in the Philippines, the country must rise up to the challenge of achieving and maintaining inclusive and sustainable growth.

The Philippines remains behind on policies and programs that are necessary to take advantage of its strengths and opportunities. Steinbock said there is no better time to capitalize than when the world order is reorganizing, and Philippine economic growth is comparatively good. But first the country has to address its shortcomings in infrastructure development and miniscule investments in research and development, and open up to more foreign direct investments.

"Emerging economies are now driving the world economy," assured Steinbock, and it would be a shame if the Philippines does not act to get what it deserves. ###