WITH less than two years left before President Benigno Aquino 3rd steps down in 2016, business groups as well as foreign business chambers called for the implementation of “much-needed and
overdue” reforms if the country is to achieve inclusive growth.
The Philippine Business Groups and the Joint Foreign Chambers (PBG-JFC) sent a letter to President Aquino recommending a package of reforms which they believe “will help achieve our shared vision of inclusive growth through job generation, poverty reduction, and global competitiveness.”
The groups said that despite the Aquino administration’s efforts to safeguard the allocation and use of public funds, recent developments demonstrate that corruption remains unfettered in government transactions and there is need for accountability
“It is imperative that public officials… who are proven to have been involved in the misuse of public funds be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law at the soonest time and without fear or favor,” PBG-JFC said.
They also encouraged the Executive to closely coordinate with the Judiciary and the Legislative branch to address issues of competence, efficiency, and integrity in the justice system.
Meanwhile, despite the country’s stellar economic growth, the groups said the agriculture sector continues to underperform.
“Given that this sector employs close to a third of our population, particularly in the provinces, we urge your administration to immediately formulate and implement roadmaps for specific subsectors in agriculture… supported by adequate investments to increase agricultural productivity and to improve the welfare of our farmers and fisherfolk,” the letter said.
On mining, the groups called for the retention of the existing Philippine Mining Act, saying “this is an effective piece of legislation if properly implemented.”
“As a complement, we should ensure that we have an internationally competitive fiscal regime for mining, which gives the government a fair share of net mining revenues, as well as ensures an equitable and reasonable return for investors,” the groups said.
In deciding on the mapping of “no-go” zones, the group reiterated their position that the value of potential mineral projects should be balanced and weighed against agricultural, tourism, and other considerations.
While big strides have been made in the government’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative, the groups said the infrastructure gap remains wide and must be bridged as soon as possible to support the economy.
They reiterated their call for a multi-airport system, particularly NAIA, Clark, and a future third airport, to serve the country’s current and prospective aviation requirements and to enhance the advantages given by an international gateway in close proximity to the National Capital Region, while complementing this with further improvements in the capacity of Clark International Airport.
The government should also expedite construction of the NLEX-SLEX Connector, construct a feeder road that will connect it to the Port of Manila, and shift cargo traffic from the Port of Manila to the Ports of Subic and Batangas and support these with parallel initiatives to stimulate economic activities in these areas, and to reduce the cost of logistics.
On power supply, the business groups said opening up the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to amendments would result in an unstable regulatory framework and pointed out that what is needed is the full and proper implementation of EPIRA.
They said government should ensure that growth targets are supported by the needed energy investments. Toward this end, they asked that a roadmap for energy security and electricity price competitiveness be formulated at the soonest time.
While the amount of foreign direct investment (FDIs) into the country has been steadily increasing under the Aquino administration, the Philippines continues to lag behind comparable regional economies, and “in this light, we strongly encourage the government to consider proposals to open certain areas of the economy to greater foreign participation,” PBG-JFC said.
Pending any amendments to the Constitution, the groups called for immediate action to revise the Foreign Investment Negative List by reducing the list of industries where foreign participation is limited, and relevant legislation should be introduced in the near future for this purpose.
As part of broader measures to curb smuggling, the groups expressed the hope that the proposed Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and various measures on Anti-Smuggling will be immediately enacted and enforced.
Most importantly, the groups also appealed that “the Supreme Court ruling on certain actions under the Disbursement Acceleration Program must not be allowed to weaken the determination of your administration to aggressively pursue its key reform programs in the next two years.”
The PBG-JFC composed of Makati Business Club, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc., Employers Confederation of the Philippines, IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines, Management Association of the Philippines, Alyansa Agrikultura, Philippine Exporters Confederation, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc., Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, American Chamber of Commerce, Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, European Chamber of Commerce, Japanese Chamber, Korean Chamber of Commerce, and Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters Inc.