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Trade blocs press Aquino for vital reforms

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Trade blocs press Aquino for vital reforms

Gov’t urged to open certain sectors to foreign interests
By: - Reporter / @amyremoINQ
/ 04:26 AM July 31, 2014
Benigno Aquino III

President Aquino waves as he is escorted by tight security after his 5th State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on Monday, July 28, 2014. The Philippine Business Groups and the Joint Foreign Chambers (PBG-JFC) have urged President Aquino to carry out the much-needed and long overdue reform agenda as he nears the homestretch of his term. AP

MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine Business Groups and the Joint Foreign Chambers (PBG-JFC) have urged President Aquino to carry out the much-needed and long overdue reform agenda as he nears the homestretch of his term.

However, the government’s aggressive resolve to institutionalize these social, political, and economic reforms must not be weakened by the controversies surrounding the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the PBG-JFC appealed in a letter to Aquino prior to his delivery of his fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona) last Monday.

Foremost on the list of the PBG-JFC was to institutionalize integrity and good governance by ensuring that former and current public officials proven to be involved in the misuse of public funds be held accountable at the fullest extent of the law at the soonest time, and by passing the Freedom of Information Act before the end of the Aquino administration, among others.

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The Philippine government is also urged to further open up its economy by revising the Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL), which meant reducing the list of industries where foreign participation is limited, pending amendments to the Philippine Constitution. This move, the 18 signatory business groups and foreign chambers believe, is expected to further boost the inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI) in the Philippines.

“Relative to our neighbors in Southeast Asia, and taking into account our need for as much job-generating investments as possible, the Philippines continues to lag behind comparable regional economies (in terms of FDI inflows). In this light, we strongly encourage the government to consider proposals to open certain areas of the economy to greater foreign participation,” the groups said in their July 21 letter.

“Today is an opportune time to pursue economic liberalization, as a multitude of positive factors is converging towards making the country a preferred investment destination, (due to its) young and dynamic citizenry, a robust economy, and great interest from the overseas investing community to participate in the Philippine market,” they added.

In achieving inclusive growth, President Aquino was urged to give greater focus on sustainable agriculture and responsible mining.

“While the economy has rapidly expanded during your term—bringing the Philippines into the ranks of Asia’s best economic performers—we note that a commensurate impact on reducing unemployment and underemployment has yet to be felt by our people,” the business groups said.

“Despite our stellar economic growth, we note that the agriculture sector continues to underperform. Given that this sector employs close to a third of our population, particularly in the provinces, we urge your administration to immediately formulate and implement roadmaps for specific subsectors in agriculture, similar to what has been done for certain industries by the Department of Trade and Industry,” they said.

The groups likewise called for the “retention of the existing Philippine Mining Act,” explaining that it would be “an effective piece of legis     lation if properly implemented.”

Infrastructure development must also be further accelerated to a pace that will see the government spending 5 percent of its GDP for such projects by 2016.

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“The infrastructure gap continues to remain wide and must be bridged as soon as possible to support the economy. We reiterate our position for a multi-airport system, particularly the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), Clark, and a future third airport, to serve the country’s current and prospective aviation requirements,” the groups appealed.

President Aquino was also urged to address concerns on the stability of power supply and prices, as well as issues on continued smuggling.

Business groups are likewise hopeful that the necessary measures to curb smuggling will be enacted and enforced, as the proposed Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and various measures on Anti-Smuggling are moving in both chambers of Congress.

“Mr. President, through these measures, the PBG-JFC is firmly convinced that the Philippines will continue to be among Asia’s trailblazers and, at the same time, ensure that the gains from good governance and a flourishing economy will benefit the majority of our people with the greatest of needs,” they added.

Originally posted at 5:23 pm | Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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