In the Stratbase ADR Institute’s latest virtual town hall discussion last Friday, top analysts from the academe, civil society, and the private sector shared their assessment of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s 100 Days in Office which I shall feature today.
Prof. Victor Andres “Dindo” C. Manhit acknowledged that the President and his government have laid out a good direction for the country in terms of goals and legislative priorities.
But he reminded “it would not be too much to demand accountability for their promises, for what have not been done, and for the succeeding policy choices and decisions.”
He said: “We need good policy choices, we need accountability, at the core of governance and in implementation of public policies as pronounced by different cabinet secretaries.
“We remain optimistic on the plans and programs of the Marcos administration. But we also remain cautious, for the sake of all the sectors, stakeholders, and citizens, and for our country’s sustained development.”
Dr. Ronald Holmes, President of Pulse Asia Research Inc., presented findings of their 3rd quarter survey.
The top five most urgent national concern identified by the respondents are: Controlling Inflation (66 percent), Increasing the pay of workers (44 percent), Creating more jobs (35 percent), reducing the poverty of many Filipinos (34 percent), and fighting graft and corruption in government (22 percent).
The survey saw “an exponential increase in terms of the proportion of (the) public that felt that among the issues that were listed here, that the primary issue that should be immediately addressed by the national administration would be the increasing prices of goods and services or inflation.”
Dr. Holmes credited the President with establishing a functional government, counting a flurry of meetings with the Cabinet, the economic team, the Department of Agriculture team, COVID prevention, energy issues, and the environment.
The President also had official visits to Indonesia, Singapore, and to the United States where he spoke before the United Nations General Assembly and met with UN Secretary General Guterres, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Japan Kishida, and US President Joe Biden.
However, there are areas of concern that Dr. Holmes pointed out.
He observed that over several administrations, there has been a continuous erosion of horizontal accountability or the extent by which the branches of government, specifically the legislature, exercises oversight over executive action and whether the judiciary is able to restrain executive action and ensure that there is no abuse of power.
He also sees a problem on disinformation which has an effect on citizen engagement and polarization, and the protection of basic freedoms.
Foundation for Economic Freedom President, Mr. Calixto “Toti” Chikiamco, stated that the good news is that the President has been able to correct some of Duterte’s mistakes, pointing to the shift away from PPP (Public Private Partnership) which created an anti-investor environment.
Amending the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) may not be perfect but good enough to attract investments.
However, he sees no clear economic legislative agenda to address the food shortages and driving long-term sustainable growth.
He pointed out the delayed IRR of the strategically important Public Service Act on the liberalization of investments in telecommunications and transport.
Mr. Chikiamco also raised the lack of a clear roadmap on boosting mining in support of Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s position of developing the mining industry as a major contributor to the county’s GDP growth. Potential investors are not clear on the tax regime.
Ms. Zy-Za Nadine Suzara, Executive Director of the Institute for Leadership, Empowerment, and Democracy, for her part commended the President’s gains in foreign relations and securing investments: US$ 4 billion from the United States, US$ 8.5 billion from Indonesia, and US$ 6.5 billion from Singapore.
On the national budget she comments that economic recovery and the continued fight against COVID-19 do not appear to be the priority.
She hopes that in the next years there will be more spending for programs that will benefit ordinary Filipinos.
Mr. Coco Alcuaz, Executive Director of the Makati Business Club, appreciated the “good signals” from the President’s SONA especially on making the Philippines an investment destination, private sector participation and partnerships.
“Business just really wants to be a partner in building the country and creating jobs—and that is the purpose for many businesses, and we just want to be able to do that and the signal from this government is that they do see the private sector as a partner,” Mr. Alcuaz said.
I sincerely hope that the positive signs that our experts are seeing will become tangible economic gains that our people will feel.
The challenge to any new administration has always been to uplift the economic well-being of our people and this is the metric by which this and any government will be measured.