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Fruits of labor

Research firm Pulse Asia recently released the quarterly performance and trust ratings of the country’s last four presidents, including the current one. This let us compare how Duterte has done during his first five to six quarters in office, compared to his predecessors.

The good news for him is that he uniformly did better than his three predecessors. His average net performance rating over the first five quarters was +78.4, a full 10 points above PNoy who came in second at +68.4. His average net trust rating over the first six quarters was +79, more than 11 points above PNoy’s +67.8.

Duterte’s strongest region was expectedly Mindanao, his weakest one “balance of Luzon.” In the latter connection, interested readers may wish to look into the rumor that the number of respondents from “balance of Luzon” unaccountably went up during another survey (not by Pulse) that showed a precipitous drop in Duterte’s ratings last quarter.

What might explain the persistently high ratings of this consistently underrated former mayor from the south?

One answer might lie in a recent PNP report that total crimes dropped by 8.2 percent year on year over the first 10 months of 2017. The drop was even more significant, by 20.5%, for so-called index crimes like murder, rape, kidnapping, and other major offenses.

This improvement was noted in every region of the country except for Calabarzon and Northern Mindanao, which showed a slight increase in minor non-index crimes.

Was this improvement in the general crime situation a result of the draconian crackdown by Duterte on the drug trade? Anecdotal evidence says so, although it would need to be validated by proper fact-based research.

Nonetheless, it seems clear that the President’s labors are what have borne fruit in the high approval and trust he enjoys from his countrymen. That’s good news for him and the country, though not for those who want him out of office by fair means or foul.

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The ongoing Asean proceedings, apart from producing horrendous traffic, also provide interesting twists to some otherwise humdrum breaking news.

For example, local nurses’ groups criticized the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Act, a new law reportedly authored by Senator Trillanes, that will require them and other professionals to earn 45 CPD units before they can renew their licenses.

Local optometrists voiced similar objections. Some 60,000-plus Filipino professionals from all backgrounds also circulated an online petition to reevaluate the license renewal requirements under the new law.

Ordinarily we’d sympathize with regular folks who just want to make a living. And we usually wouldn’t pay a lot of attention to the intermittently lucid behavior of the mutineer-inquisitor-publicity hound in the Senate.

But even Trillanes has his occasional moments. His new law effectively forces our professionals to level up their game so that they can work in other Asean countries and compete with their counterparts elsewhere in the region.

Right now there are eight professions that benefit from mutual recognition agreements among the Asean member states. Nursing and medicine are among them, together with dentistry, engineering, architecture, accountancy, surveying, and tourism-related professions.

Mutual recognition is just the first hurdle for our local professionals. These agreements now need to be operationalized into detailed regulations, plans, procedures and mechanisms that Filipinos can use when they register to practice elsewhere in Asean.

Presumably this process is on the agenda of the current summit. Also to be discussed are so-called Asean Qualification Frameworks (AQFs). These will establish regionally acceptable job qualifications, harmonize industry regulations, and encourage Asean universities to cooperate in developing common educational standards.

This is all good news: good for the careers of our professionals, good for our economy which continues to be driven by services, good for the integration of Asean. Going after those 45 CPD units ought to be a price worth paying.

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Unfortunately, while some Filipino workers are preparing to compete for opportunities abroad, others are retreating behind the antiquated walls of protectionism, unionism, and heavy-handed government regulation.

In its latest attempt to stop the country’s economic progress, the local labor unions have persuaded DOLE to let them craft a new Presidential executive order (EO) that will not only regulate contractualization, but will abolish labor-only contractualization outright, with certain exemptions.

These militants are even going after contractualization in government offices, which are supervised by the Civil Service Commission. And they also want to set up a technical working group with DOLE to look at replacing the regional wage boards with a nationally determined minimum wage policy.

Such ideologues will ignore common-sense intuition—supported by lots of academic research—that inflexible labor policies like a minimum wage or forced tenure drive away employers. Instead of creating new jobs, such policies destroy existing ones. What’s good for the labor organizer is not good for the laborer.

We hope that DOLE Secretary Bebot Bello, who used to concurrently head the government panel in peace talks with the communists, will not be as nice to them as he had to be in his former part-time job. Having fended them off before in Oslo, we hope he’s just as careful around them in his Intramuros offices.

At the very least, the Secretary ought to invite representatives of employers and business groups to join his consultations with the unionists. They’re the ones, after all, who’re responsible for creating the jobs that put food in our mouths and a roof over our heads. They’re the ones who’ll decide whether to keep their money here, or pull out of the country, as a result of the policies that come out of his office.

Readers can write me at [email protected]

Topics: Pulse Asia survey
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