Businessmen: Aquino silent on how PH can face current, future challenges
President Aquino’s last State of the Nation Address drew mixed reactions from the local and foreign business community on Monday as some groups deemed it to be “long on accomplishments” and “short on promises” while other quarters saw it as the best speech delivered by the country’s chief executive.
John D. Forbes, senior adviser at the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham), and Henry J. Schumacher, vice president for external affairs of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc. (ECCP), both pointed that this year’s SONA lacked promises and discussions regarding ongoing and future national challenges.
“We still encourage the administration to implement the recommendations in the May 15 letter of the Joint Foreign Chambers and the Philippine Business Groups to the President,” Forbes and Schumacher said in separate text messages on Monday.
The recommendations, aimed at ensuring inclusive growth through job generation, poverty reduction, and global competitiveness, focused on reforms institutionalizing integrity and good governance, accelerating infrastructure development, ensuring massive job generation, facilitating trade, increasing foreign investment, and boosting competitiveness.
Dan Lachica, president of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc. (Seipi), noted separately that while he rated President Aquino higher than his predecessors for bringing the Philippines to investment grade and for a significantly improved growth of 6.2 percent in th gross domestic product (GDP), there were several key issues he would have wanted to hear.
These included a roadmap for reliable power supply at competitive cost; and actions to increase foreign direct investments to the country, currently at over $6 billion, to the level of competing countries, such as Indonesia (whose FDIs stood at about $20 billion) or even Singapore (at over $50 billion).
Lachica had also hoped to hear about improvements in the ease of doing business by eliminating corruption and redundancy of permits from government agencies, and efficient government process flows.
For Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., President Aquino’s speech seemed more like a “valedictory speech.”
Ortiz-Luis said in a phone interview Monday that while many of the accomplishments were valid, such as those in labor, employment, education and poverty alleviation, he deemed as questionable other accomplishments trumpeted, such as in the foreign direct investments. He argued that while the Philippines saw growth in FDI inflows, the value was relatively marginal compared to the country’s neighbors in the region.
“He delivered his speech well. His economic gains (i.e., GNP growth, national competitive rankings, strong banking system, public private partnership projects) were truly remarkable. His strong leadership was obvious. His reform agenda was effective in achieving economic spurts. What was lacking was the future business direction for the country, solution to traffic and transportation problems, passage of Freedom of Information bill for transparency, China conflict approach and Mindanao peace and development. Also, (the mention of) inclusive growth programs was lacking,” Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) president Francisco F. del Rosario Jr. added.
Peter V. Perfecto, executive director of the Makati Business Club (MBC), said the President was able to clearly communicate what his administration has managed to deliver so far in line with their original contract with his bosses of a ‘Daang Matuwid’ regime.
“I believe this was probably his best SONA speech and I hope that this will mean that we can expect more from the final year even as elections fast approach. I am still hopeful that key infrastructure PPPs will roll out and legislative priorities like the anti-dynasty bill, Bangsamoro Basic Law, FOI, Build-Operate-Transfer Law amendments, Customers Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will prosper,” Perfecto said.
Edgardo G. Lacson, president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), said the government accomplished much in areas which the nation appreciated.
“But the quest for progress and prosperity is a never-ending journey and no one president can lay claim to have achieved all the goals he sets at the start of his term. Much more are expected and need to be done and new challenges must be faced by all succeeding administrations with deep commitment and political will. There is universal agreement that every president leaves a very important legacy that benefits our country. However, history always takes a long time to pass its judgment for outgoing presidents,” Lacson said.
“Good governance as articulated in Daang Matuwid regime is a fundamental principle that must be nurtured by the incoming new president and all those coming after him. The people expect no less,” he added.
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