Joey Sarte Salceda, 56, has always demonstrated a beautiful mind—salutatorian in elementary school, valedictorian in high school seminary, BS management engineering, cum laude, at Ateneo; and MBA, with distinction at the Asian Institute of Management.
Tall, lean and lanky, he used that brain to become the best analyst for several years in Asia. Like a sage, he could figure the real value of listed companies and invest or divest accordingly. The job made him rich and enabled him personal satisfaction.
Then public service beckoned. He became congressman for nine years, cabinet member for one year, governor of Albay for nine years, and back as congressman of the province’s second district.
Joey is one of the best minds of his generation of political leaders and economic thinkers. He is one reason why Filipinos should be optimistic that life will be good, if not, better during the balance of the 21st century. “Joey’s thinking and planning are not just for today’s generation; they are good for 10 generations,” says one analyst. “He put the Philippines on the global equities map,” says the CEO of a major fund.
With his genes and gravitas as a whiz kid and a public servant, Salceda should be running for president. Becoming president, however, is not planned. It is destiny.
Back in Congress as a senior congressman and vice chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Joey helped produced the nuts and bolts of what is now TRAIN—Tax Reform for Acceleration and INclusion.
A defining program of the Duterte administration, TRAIN is a masterpiece on how the government can prod the rich (individuals and corporatins) to pay more tax on their income. Citizens who don’t pay anything must pay taxes. Taxpayers who pay more taxes than they should will pay less. The government then shall marshall the new revenues to help the poor by building more schools, more hospitals and clinics, and more infra. And those who really are too poor to help themselves, the government will simply give them cash, monthly. While doing that, the government will modernize the economy, cut red tape, cut corruption, and do many other decent things expected of good governments.
Otherwise known as the Comprehensive TRAIN has passed the House of Representatives. It passed the Senate but in some mangled form. Instead of raising P160 billion in its first year, TRAIN will probably raise only P60 billion in additional tax revenues.
TRAIN consolidated Salceda’s House Bill 4688 and Quirino Rep. Dakila Carlo Chua’s HB 4774.
As its congressman for more than 10 years and governor for nine years, Joey did five great things for Albay:
1. Climate change. He climate change-proofed his beloved Albay province. As co-chair of the UN Green Climate Fund, he helped raise $10 billion for climate change adaptation and mitigation in poor countries.
2. Infra. He has modernized Albay—and Bicol’s—infrastructure.
A P4.7-billion airport with a 2.4-km runway will finally be completed. The major tourism areas are being linked by new, concrete roads. Bicol, as a region, has a single infra and tourism development, unified by a common purpose and a common vision.
Four major constituencies—Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga and Legaspi—are being developed into a massive eco townships, Guicadale, at a cost of P4.6 billion, with 28 road projects extending for 194 kms. The rate of return is awesome for the developers – 23.65 percent.
3. Tourism. He has developed Albay as the Philippines’ hottest tourism destination today.
More than 800,000 visit Albay yearly or more than 2,200 daily, up from a measly 8,700 a year in 2006 before he became governor.
The hub of Bicol, Albay is unique in having truly indigenous food—gata, Bicol Express (laing), sili, camote, pili (the province is the Philippines’ biggest producer, with 3,000 hectares, up from 1,200 ha. in 2007). Albay has 21 major festivals a year; five of them last for a month.
4. Human capital. He has vastly improved Albay’s human capital.
More than, 88,800 were sent free to college, funded by a P750 million loan from the Land Bank and P600 million or 20 percent of Albay’s annual budget.
Albay today graduates 177,000 a year from college, up from just 34,000 in 2007. Albay itself has improved its National Achievement Test ranking, from 177th to 19th nationwide.
Today, in Manila, you cannot find maids from Albay; young Bicolanos would rather go home, borrow from Salceda P5,000 per semester and go to the highly rated Bicol University, under a non-discriminatory study now, pay later plan.
5. Visioning. He has contributed substantially to improving the quality of local governance, in reshaping the Filipino attitude towards disasters and climate change, and in modernizing the national economy and preparing, not only his home province, but the Philippines as a better place for future generations of Filipinos.
Salceda wants to wipe out poverty totally in Albay in 10 years and reduce poverty incidence in the entire Bicol region to just 10 percent (the national average is 25 percent of families).
Bicolanos will have longer life span—74 in 10 years, up from 68.76 years average today. In seven years, Albay’s population increased by just 66,580 people, from 1.2 million to 1.26 million, amazing considering that the province literally was before a multiplication table.
Over the long pull, Salceda will make Albay a California in 30 years—in terms of per capita income, with bustling agriculture and teeming with green energy.