“He might want to finish these programs.”
Not many will believe this but Rodrigo Roa Duterte is going to be rated by history as one of the Philippines’ best presidents. Happy New Year.
The long-time Davao mayor built more roads, more highways, more airports and seaports, and more schools than any Filipino president. In fact, Duterte built more infra than all previous four presidents combined. His infra spending exceeded 5 percent of GDP, double the 20-year average of 2.5 percent; and exceeded P1.1 trillion per year, six times the annual average.
He also licked unemployment. He brought down unemployment to 5 percent—a record low, and which is equivalent to full employment. In the US, full employment is 4 percent unemployment. Of course, because of the pandemic, unemployment rose to a record 17 percent in 2020 before coming down to still uncomfortable 7.4 percent third quarter this year.
Digong also reduced poverty incidence to as low as 16.7 percent (17.7 million Filipinos) of the population in 2018. With the pandemic, poverty rose to 23.7 percent or 26.4 million poor Filipinos in the first half of 2021.
Duterte’s Bangko Sentral Governor Ben Diokno brought interest rates to their lowest ever, 2 percent per year. Under the late Governor Jobo Fernandez, in the worst economic crisis before 2020, interest rates hit a stratospheric 44 percent in the early 1980s. That ensured all businesses were shut down because one made more money by not moving.
BSP chief Diokno also pumped a record P2.2 trillion into the financial system to boost economic recovery from the pandemic. That included P530 billion in extraordinary loans to the government for its ayuda and vaccine purchases.
Finally, Digong is the country’s most popular president. At the height of history’s worst pandemic and economic crisis, he was registering a job approval rating of 65 percent.
In Duterte’s last semester or last six months in office, Albay Second District Congressman Joey Salceda has identified ten programs that Duterte might want to finish or his successor should complete during 2022. These ten low-hanging fruits are:
1. Economic liberalization.
Pass the final version of the Public Service Act amendments that truly fosters competition among economically-crucial industries such as telecommunications. This, plus two other lib bills–the amendments to the Foreign Investment Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, should signal investors to come to the Philippines and create jobs.
2. Tax reform
To complete Duterte’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, Salceda proposes amendments to the Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform, or Package 3, to support economic recovery. He is for removing productive equipment from taxable real properties. This will stimulate mechanization and modernization in businesses and agriculture.
Joey wants a transition period for LGUs to comply with modernized valuation standards to cushion the impact of sudden tax increases due to higher real property values.
Plus, he wants a progressive tax system for housing – tax luxury, low-density housing higher, and tax socialized and low-cost housing lower.
3. Financial inclusion to make every Filipino an investor or an entrepreneur
Pass the Passive Income and Financial Intermediaries Taxation Act or PIFITA, which is Package 4 of Tax Reform.
Joey strongly urges the passage of accompanying financial inclusion measures. He is the principal author of the Fair and Inclusive Credit Act, which will ensure that even the smallest entrepreneur has access to low-interest credit.
The Albay solon is for digitalization in the BIR to enable OFWs to invest in the country by having TINs registered offsite.
4. Agriculture reform for a comprehensive reform of the agriculture sector– Farms (and farmers), Fisheries, Forestry, Feeds, and Fertilizers.
Joey will file a bill, with DA support, to make farms more efficient, fisheries more modern and well-supported, forestry more viable and sustainable, feeds and fertilizers cheaper and more accessible to farmers.
5. Healthcare for all
Improve Philhealth. Implement a single-record, single-patient system in Philhealth using the National ID system.
This will help prevent fraud while ensuring that Philhealth benefits can be easily availed of anywhere in the country. Joey wants a free national telemedicine hotline that will help expedite triage, allocation of medical resources, and make primary care accessible anywhere in the country.
6. Disaster risk reduction and building back better
Joey will work with President Duterte to integrate his proposed reforms in the NDRRM Law with our Department of Disaster Resilience proposal. We have the time, the expertise, the need, and the political consensus required to reform our outdated disaster resilience framework.
7. Anti-smuggling drive
Combat smuggling in ecozones, illicit trade in excisable products, and to protect our domestic agriculture sector from smuggled fruits, vegetables, and other crops.
8. Implementation of the CREATE Law
NEDA, DOF, and DTI must expedite the release of the Strategic Investment Priorities Plan, or the list of industries eligible for tax incentives under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises or CREATE Act.
There has been a surge in FDI this year, to $8 billion to $9 billion a year, compared to a low of $2 billion per year in the past.
9. Cheaper medicines
Bureau of Customs must expedite the importation and release of medicines that are VAT-exempt under the TRAIN and CREATE Laws.
This will help ensure that these prescription drugs are new and without added costs due to delays. Bulk procurement remains the best way to ensure cheap medicines in our health care system.
Allow public hospitals to consolidate procurement and allow the secretary of Health to negotiate prices lower.
Joey is confident Duterte can support his transparency in medical billing law, which will prevent surprise items in medical bills.
10. Jobs from infrastructure
Front-load infrastructure program to ensure that jobs are created as soon as the year begins. This will enable DPWH to exempt infrastructure spending and hiring from COMELEC rules on election hiring and government spending.
Says Joey Salceda: “I am confident that we can begin picking these fruits as soon as this January. I wish every Filipino family a peaceful and prosperous 2022.”