Aquino economic team leader lauds Duterte’s 8-point agenda
The leader of the Aquino government’s economic team on Wednesday welcomed and lauded the incoming Duterte administration’s eight-point agenda to sustain the robust growth achieved during the past six years.
Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima, who heads the Cabinet Economic Development Cluster, also said a shift to federalism as proposed by incoming President Rodrigo Duterte, if implemented property, would pave the way for a more equitable sharing of the benefits of economic growth across the country.
Purisima said the Department of Finance (DOF)—part of the Presidential Transition Committee formed by President Aquino to ensure a smooth transfer of power to Duterte—has long been prepared to turn over its transition report to the next administration.
“The agencies under the DOF have been preparing for the past three months because we really want it to be a smooth transition. Once incoming [Finance] secretary [Carlos “Sonny”] Dominguez [III] confirms that it is he, we’ll reach out to him and give them an office, so that they have access to all our information when they hit the ground running,” Purisima said on the sidelines of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines’ general membership meeting.
Duterte had said he was eyeing Dominguez to head the DOF—the agency on top of the country’s fiscal affairs—and lead his economic team. The Davao businessman, who was finance head during Duterte’s campaign, served in the Cabinet of former Presidents Corazon C. Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos.
READ: Dominguez changes mind, accepts finance post in Duterte Cabinet
For Purisima, Dominguez is a very qualified finance chief. “For me, the most important qualification in my job is having the ear of the president. That’s why I’m happy—I’m not trying to push [Dominguez] because he’s not confirmed but if it is he, then the three things that I look for a Finance secretary—ear of the president is the most important, knowledge of how government works, and knowledge of how business works—he has all three. So we’re happy he’s very qualified.”
Purisima said he would not suggest any policy thrust to President Duterte’s economic team and incoming DOF secretary. “It’s not my position to give recommendations. We share our experience, we tell them these are the pending items, these are the initiatives. [But] the incoming administration has their agenda,” he noted.
The finance chief nonetheless said he was “very encouraged by the eight-point economic agenda that [Duterte’s team] put forward.”
“It hits the key issues directly,” Purisima said of the economic agenda, under which the following would be prioritized to boost the economy: accelerating infrastructure spending; addressing land administration and management; attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) flows; expanding and improving the conditional cash transfer program; improving government revenue collection efforts; making tax administration more progressive; modernizing the agriculture sector; and strengthening the basic education system.
More ‘growth engines’
“I’m also optimistic about some of the bigger ideas that incoming President Duterte is proposing,” Purisima added.
“For example, the federal form [of government], if done properly and so long that it doesn’t destruct the other [government] activities, then it can encourage better allocation of resources across the country,” according to Purisima.
“Imagine if as a result of that we create five Metro Manilas. I’m sure Davao will be the next, and Cebu—you can have three strong engines for growth,” the finance chief said.
“And the good thing about Davao and having a President from Mindanao is it will make the BIMP-EAGA a reality,” Purisima added, referring to the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area initiative launched in 1994.
“For a long time it’s been an idea and no one has really focused on it. Since it’s his backyard, if [BIMP-EAGA] happens, it will really make Asean integration accelerate and become a reality, because integration doesn’t happen if you don’t integrate in the seams,” Purisima noted.
Purisima said he has yet to receive any offer for a post in the Duterte administration. He also served as finance as well as trade secretary during the Arroyo administration, although he resigned in 2005 as part of the “Hyatt 10” top officials who protested alleged cheating during the 2004 elections.
“For the past six months I’ve been saying, as Finance Secretary, I’m not involved in politics. But there were two things I was looking for in this election: one, credibility of the process, and I commend Comelec [Commission on Elections] Chairman [Andres] Bautista and his team; two, strength of mandate. “[Duterte’s win was] a very strong mandate,” Purisima said.
“We got what we wished for. I’m really happy we’re turning over the country to an administration that will have the support of the people,” he said. CDG/rga
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