"Joseph Estrada has been in public service since 1969."
In 30 months as president, Joseph Estrada scored the highest agricultural growth rate ever by any president (6.5 percent in 1999), broke the backbone of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front by capturing 45 of their camp, including their headquarters, banned sovereign guarantees on contracts of private investors, and revived the economy from near recession.
From minus 0.6 percent in 1998, real GDP growth immediately leaped to 3.4 percent in 1999 and 4.4 percent in 2000 before falling to a 3-percent rise in 2001, Gloria Arroyo’s first year.
President Erap’s record 6.5 percent agriculture growth has never been surpassed. This year, a severe rice shortage developed. Rice being 20 percent of the consumer basket, the shortage spiked inflation, doubling to 6.7 percent by September 2018—the highest in 11 years. The reason for the rice shortage—neglect of agriculture.
Erap also made the government closer to the people with his populist policies. He stopped rate increases by utilities controlled by the country’s oligarchs and monopolies.
As commander-in-chief, he gave better pay and incentives to soldiers, buying them boots and bullets and providing them a sack of rice monthly.
Estrada’s cabinet was never involved in any shady deals or contracts grossly disadvantageous to the government. He gave away broadband rights for free, thus making cellular telephony available to the poor. In Europe, broadband licenses were auctioned for billions of dollars. After Estrada, the aborted ZTE NBN contract was marred by allegations of kickbacks that doubled project cost.
Estrada had been in public service since 1969, when he first won the mayoralty of San Juan town, Metro Manila. He went on to be elected four times as town mayor.
Erap was San Juan mayor for 17 years, senator for six years, vice president for six years, president for less than three years, and Manila mayor for four years. He won the prestigious TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men) not for his movies, many of which were blockbusters, but for public service.
In Manila thus, Estrada spent a spectacular P6.76 billion, from 2013 to 2016, to modernize the capital that was once described as the Pearl of the Orient and the Paris of the East.
Looking forward, Erap’s biggest projects are four reclamation projects covering 1,400 hectares. This will double Manila’s commercial space. The projects will modernize Manila overnight and recapture the city’s title as the Philippines’ greatest city.
No mayor in Manila’s history has poured so much on great projects in so short a time as Estrada. He offers Manilans a “womb to tomb” program of government, one inclusive to include everyone, young and old.
As mayor, Estrada never worked so hard as an executive. Twelve-hour days were the norm each week—interacting with people, conducting advocacy and visioning meetings, signing voluminous papers, conducting oculars at any time of the day and night to check on the progress of numerous projects in simultaneous construction in many different places.
“Being mayor of Manila is more difficult than being president of the Philippines!” exclaims Estrada. In Malacañang, the presidential palace, the chief executive is surrounded by cabinet men and other subalterns to whom he can bark orders and he is sure those orders will be executed. Visitors to the palace are screened by protocol and appointments secretaries.
“Being mayor is my last hurrah,” Estrada keeps saying. He knows the enormous problems he faces as CEO of the Philippines’ national capital and most important city, it being the center of trade, commerce, finance, and governance.
He recalls that after World War II, “we were the second richest in Asia. We were richer than Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea, and much, much richer than Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore. Now, we are second to the last.”