Same old, same old

Such is the apt description of the top real property and business taxpayers in Iloilo province in 2018.

Five of the top 10 real property taxpayers are in property development, particularly housing and commercial malls, while the rest are in power, trading, and food industries.

The same company profiles dominated the top 10 business taxpayers last year – property development, power, food, and trading.

On the positive side, property developments such as subdivisions provide employment to skilled labor in Iloilo… until all housing units are finished.

Power plants are also massive investments but the high paying jobs they offer require commensurate high skills, especially in electricity and engineering.

More of the food companies or manufacturers are into sugar-based products like softdrinks and they have been in Iloilo for an eternity. But the eternal conflict between the sugar bloc and exorbitant taxes on sugary drinks is like the “sword of Damocles” hanging over the heads not just of corporations but workers as well.

What the data indicate but never discussed in public is the fact that Iloilo has a lot of potentials but has never lived up to its economic promise in the past 20 to 30 years.

Some will blame it to the laid back or cautious nature of Ilonggos when taking risks or investing their resources. Others will say we are contented with what we have because we are naturally endowed with talent, food, and space.

But such analyses are escapist philosophies of a society mired in consumerism and bereft of industrial inspiration.

Many Ilonggos dream of working abroad or settle in call centers in Iloilo City (not the province) for lack of opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship in their home towns. This mass migration to the cities causes equally massive woes such as traffic congestion, crime, pollution, among others.

Agriculture is a noble thing, but farmers are at the mercy of traders and landowners due to lack of a manufacturing sector that will buy and use their produce for high-value commodities.

In short, a wider economic base provides not just plain employment but also business opportunities to the community by way of ancillary services such as food, transportation, lodging, etc. Additional businesses mean more taxes for government (although we can only suspect how the revenues will be spent).

The spread of development in the countryside will also ease the social burdens of traditional growth areas like Iloilo City, thus avoiding the situation of Metro Manila.

The next three years will not just define a name or clan. It will also describe our direction based on our decision last May 13.

Unless we see dramatic and visionary changes in local governance at all levels, Iloilo will just be the same old base for malls, sugar, and subdivisions.