MBC takes note of Aquino’s silence on PPP, RH bill in SONABy Abigail L. Ho
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino’s almost hour-long State of the Nation Address mentioned a lot of things, but was conspicuously silent on the public-private partnership (PPP) program, the supposed centerpiece of his administration.
Makati Business Club executive director Peter Angelo Perfecto said that since the program was brought up at the previous SONA, the business community expected it to take prominence in this year’s speech. However, there was not even a remote mention of it.
“But I think we do understand why. Although it’s a priority project, this administration is being extra-careful of not repeating past mistakes. He mentioned the dredging project again, which could be an inference on the PPP,” he said in a telephone interview on Monday.
Perfecto was referring to President Aquino’s mention of the P18.7-billion Laguna Lake dredging project, which the government stopped, calling it an “ill-advised plan.”
Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Francis Chua said the general feedback from industry on the PPP program was that “the movement has been a little slow.”
However, like Perfecto, he said this was understandable, considering the size of the projects lined up for auction and the investments required to make these investments happen.
“Hearing what the President said today, we understand why. What they’re doing now is cleaning the backyard, to see that things are in order so everything will be clean and transparent,” Chua said in a separate interview, adding that the business sector had no problems with this as it would be in line with the government’s strong anti-corruption stance.
Chua said the Aquino administration had done a good job so far in trying to curb corruption.
“We’re expecting a government that’s clean and without corruption. This is very basic for nation-building. He’s said this before and we’re seeing it going on at the same time. We’re seeing it happen,” Chua said.
Perfecto added that the government’s anti-corruption focus was something that MBC welcomed. However, the rest of the country had to think along the same lines if government were to stamp out corruption.
“There’s this mindset that we should just move on and that the President should stop being vindictive. We’re worried about that kind of mindset. It’s not really about being vindictive. How can we move on? There has to be justice on those who stole from the country. We can’t just sweep thing under the rug,” Perfecto said.
Perfecto added that it would be important that cases against those “who robbed the country blind” be filed.
The appointment of former Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as the new Ombudsman, he said, was a step in the right direction.
“We’re happy about her appointment. We look forward to the filing of stronger, more consistent cases,” Perfecto said.
While the Aquino government’s efforts to curb corruption were very commendable, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines senior advisor John Forbes said these were not enough to make the country more attractive to foreign investors.
“Many foreign investors are looking not just for a government that is less corrupt and displays sound macroeconomic management. They have been asking for a more welcoming investment climate that reduces their business costs and creates new investment opportunities,” Forbes said
“Making the Foreign Investment Negative List less negative would be a good start to a more level playing field for foreign equity and professionals. Keeping the status quo most likely means the Philippines will continue to receive the lowest levels of (foreign direct investments) among the Asean-6 economies,” Forbes added.
Foreign investors also continued to be apprehensive of the power situation in the country, both on the supply and price aspects. The success of the “ambitious” PPP and tourism programs, the poor development of the agribusiness and mining sectors, and the economic development of conflict-affected regions in Mindanao remain sources of concern.
Perfecto also pointed out that the reproductive health bill and policy directions on mining were absent from the President’s SONA – items that MBC expected to be included there.
But overall, both Perfecto and Chua were in agreement that the administration was still going in the right direction.
Chua said efforts to bridge the jobs-skills mismatch were commendable and should be become more aggressive in the years to come.
“We agree with the President on education, that there should be proper matching between education and industry needs. The PCCI has been trying to move with this over the past years. It’s good that the President picked it up. We’re going in the proper direction. This will help to dramatically reduce unemployment,” Chua said.
Perfecto, on the other hand, said the President was right in taking “a firm position” on the Spratlys issue.
“But this issue should be settled diplomatically, through the United Nations and the Asean. We can’t go to war with China, that’s for sure, but the message is we won’t simply surrender our claims and be bullied. The issue goes beyond us, as it concerns the other claimants as well,” he said.
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