DAVAO CITY (June 21, 2016) — Captains of industry and entrepreneurs alike lauded the economic team of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte for convening a consultative conference on inclusive growth at the SMX Convention Center in Lanang district here.
Sulong Pilipinas: Hakbang Tungo sa Kaunlaran, a two-day workshop spearheaded by incoming Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez in partnership with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Mindanao Business Council (MinBC), drew some 450 participants representing the country’s business organizations, along with over 100 international and local media persons.
Plenary sessions included an economic situationer from incoming Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Ernesto Pernia and a presentation of the incoming administration’s 10-Point Socioeconomic Agenda by Dominguez, who will also chair the Cabinet Cluster on Economic Development with NEDA as the Secretariat.
PCCI honorary chair Donald Dee hailed the conference as a seminal event in Philippine business history. “This is the first time we are being consulted by an administration even before it assumes office, and we helped put this together because this is the most comprehensive consultation that you can ever see,” he said, citing the range of attendees coming from provincial, regional, national, and international business chambers.
Dee declared his confidence that the Duterte administration will not only be able to sustain economic growth but will also make the growth inclusive. “The 10-point economic agenda is definitely very doable, so we really have to support and help them fast-track it,” he said.
Incumbent PCCI president George Barcelon said having the government and private sector sit down to discuss and reach a consensus of what needs to be done is “a very positive development.”
He said the PCCI is supportive of the broad-based socioeconomic agenda because “they’re talking agriculture especially in the rural areas, and that has an encompassing impact on poverty.”
Lawyer Mike Toledo, media bureau head of the MVP Group of Companies, expressed bullishness about the economy under the Duterte presidency. “Sonny Dominguez is saying all the right things for business, such as respect for contracts,” he said.
Toledo, who is also the senior vice president for Public and Regulatory Affairs of Philex Mining Corporation, said these are what the business sector would want to hear “and it’s a good sign that they’re already reaching out even prior to their takeover as a new administration.”
MinBC president Vicente Lao, Foundation for Economic Freedom president Calixto Chikiamko, Davao-based businesswoman Joji Iligan-Bian, and Wallace Business Forum founder Peter Wallace agreed that reaching out to the business sector through Sulong Pilipinas is a very good start for Duterte’s government.
“For the first time in our political history, an incoming administration is immediately consulting with the private sector. I’m quite confident it’s going to address the issue of inclusiveness,” Lao said.
Chikiamko believes that getting opinions from a diverse set of participants “will enable the next government to come up with policies that would make sense to everyone in all the regions.”
He said the socioeconomic agenda lacks specifics and needs to be fleshed out, but found the statement of Dominguez that the Duterte administration “will be good for business” heartening.
Bian said Sulong Pilipinas is a signal that President-elect Duterte will have a people-focused administration. “If you look at the six regions of Mindanao, the growth has not really been inclusive, and the proposed economic agenda is doable if there’s political will,” she said.
Wallace said he thinks Duterte’s consultative approach is very impressive and excellent. “It shows he realized that it’s business that creates jobs and that employment generation is absolutely what matters,” he said.
Both Wallace and Lao said they are concerned that at least 25 percent of Filipinos still suffer from poverty, the second highest rate in the ASEAN region next only to Myanmar.
“From the NEDA presentation, I noticed that poverty incidence has not improved at all, and it means the macroeconomic advantages enjoyed by the previous administration is not really filtering down to the masses,” Lao said.
In his keynote address, Dominguez challenged the business community to partner with government in wide-reaching “coalitions for change” that would enable the country’s growth streak to continue.
He said both the private and public sectors need to jointly build reform coalitions behind the next administration’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda.
Dominguez also called on the business sector to help the incoming government draw up new and correct metrics to understand how economic expansion could be more meaningful to majority of Filipinos.
These standards are meant to measure how the socioeconomic targets are beneficial to the poor and low-income families.
“I challenge the business community to build coalitions for change in every sphere of our social life,” he said, adding that these partnerships are “not just for projects but to transform our national community into a cooperative enterprise that brings out the best in everyone and delivers the best for all.”
A former Secretary of both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dominguez said: “Our people did not vote for change last May 9 because the macroeconomic numbers were good. They voted for change because the good macroeconomic numbers did not translate into a good life for all.”