Duterte welcomes biz leaders’ recommendations

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 June) – President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte vowed that they will study the 10 recommendations of business leaders to his socio-economic agenda during the two-day consultative workshop held in the city.

Duterte talks to the country’s business leaders during the Sulong Pilipinas consultative workshop.  Photo: Kiwi Bulaclac / Davao City Mayor’s Office

“I assure you. We will study and review it and for now I would say I see nothing wrong with this. This is doable. It’s a matter of just doing it and implementing it right away,” he said during the last day of the “Sulong Pilipinas: Hakbang Tungo sa Kaunlaran” at the SMX Convention Center on Tuesday.

Duterte, a lawyer, said he is banking on the experts in the government to study the country’s economy in order to come up with actionable plans on economic matters while each of his cabinet members review other recommendations “to where the subject matter belongs.”

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (PCCII) president George Barcelon presented the first part of the recommendations while the other half was delivered by Mindanao Business Council (MBC) chairman Vicente Lao.

Barcelon said the “best of minds” in the country’s business community were able to give their suggestions on what the next administration should pursue to further the growth of the economy.

“When you think about it, this comes very cheap it. If you were to ask them to bill us, I don’t think we can afford their talents,” he said.

Barcelon said that a comprehensive tax reform package topped the recommendations of the business sector.

This includes reduction of corporate and personal income taxes as well as lower capital gains tax rates that are similar to the taxation systems of Singapore and Hong Kong.

“To compensate for the deficit resulting from reduced tax rates, the foremost suggestion is to increase excise taxes by expanding the definition of luxury goods,” he said.

The businessmen agreed to have a national identification system that will allow for a more targeted social services and prevent double-counting or leakage.

“Past administrations attempted to institute a nationwide identification system but lacked the political will,” Barcelon said.

Once pushed, he believes the system will improve access to health, education, food, shelter, conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs, and peace and order.

They recommended automation and streamlining of processing time of permits and bottlenecks in land titling.

“Other suggestions to cut red tape were expansion of the ‘single window’ concept, extension of validity for various licenses, and use of ‘negative confirmation’ for government approvals,” he said.

Barcelon added they agreed that internet and telecommunication services must be improved to ensure enhanced connectivity.

The private sector recommended amending Republic Act (RA) 7925, an act “to promote and govern the development of the Philippine Telecommunications and the delivery of public telecommunications and the delivery of public telecommunication services.”

He called on Congress to pass a law regulating wireless/mobile internet services.

Participants recommended the creation of internet cooperatives in far-flung areas similar to electric cooperatives, he said.

Barcelon said they saw the need to adopt a value-chain development in rural-based enterprises in the form of a support system through financing, technology, and logistics to raise rural productivity and employment to support farmers and fisher folks.

Lao, who presented the second part of the recommendations, said that the participants want the next administration to limit and gradually eliminate the export of mineral ore.

“Instead, they recommended a shift to value-added processing that would facilitate a strong domestic mineral products industry,” he said.

Lao added that they saw the need for a national strategy “to determine sectors where the country has the greatest competitive advantage and optimize the value of our land, people, and other resources.

The participants suggested that an action plan should be in place to identify industry clusters and regions where the small and medium enterprises should locate to avail of lower transport, energy, and logistics costs.

He said the government must work on improving the transport networks to address the clamor on expediting infrastructure projects in the country.

Lao cited regional airports, seaports, and mass transit projects like the North-South Railway, C-6 Expressway, Cebu Bus Rapid Transit, and Davao Port projects.

The private sector urged the government to review CCT, or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4PS).

Duterte earlier said he would continue the program but vowed to come up with a better one.

“Perceived as a program that promotes dependency on government, the CCT must be reviewed to allow for long-term intervention that teaches the poor to catch fish rather than receive dole-outs. Participants suggested enhancing social protection initiatives through skills development, cash for work, livelihood projects, among others,” Lao added.

The private sector called for a reduction of bottlenecks in the implementation of public-private partnership by coming up with concrete measures to remove the roadblocks such as right-of-way issues and lack of synergy between local government units and national government agencies.

“Delegates want an assurance from the incoming administration that existing and future contracts will be honored,” Lao said.