• POST-SONA

    Businesses give Duterte SONA high marks

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    BUSINESS leaders on Tuesday cheered President Rodrigo Duterte’s state of the nation address (SONA) delivered the day before, describing the points he raised and policies he reiterated as “honest,” “direct to the point” and “refreshing.”

    “No pretensions and direct to the point. Frank appeal to end temporary restraining orders and change altogether our government procurement system,” Perry Pe, president of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), said in a text message to The Manila Times.

    Declining to rate the President’s SONA, Pe said: “I don’t like rating people. My take is whether SONA was effective. Yes. Did it resonate and connect? Yes, because he was talking straight to his audience, and would even name some senators and congressmen.”

    In particular, Pe cited Duterte’s call to accept the tax settlement offered by cigarette maker Mighty Corp. for its unpaid tax obligations as a smart move.

    “Smart for him [Duterte] to call for the P25-billion tax settlement of Mighty Corp., the rest were expected,” he added.

    Three cases filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue against Mighty are pending before the Department of Justice. The cases cover the company’s non-payment of excise taxes due on its cigarette products and the use of counterfeit tax stamps on its cigarette packs, which correspond to excise taxes amounting to P37.88 billion.

    Chamber’s advocacies

    Jose Luis Yulo, president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands (CCPI), said the SONA “was honest and [came]straight from the heart, without any hypocritical ‘political correctness.’”

    “The CCPI is elated on his call to implement some of the Chamber’s advocacies as embodied in our pillars,” Yulo said.

    The advocacies were: 1) to use local mineral resources as inputs to factories producing finished end products, instead of just exporting them; 2). frontline government services must be efficient; 3) connectivity must be improved to connect the islands in the country; 4) no more unending peace talks with the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines), which has proven to be upholding a failed ideology; 5) maintaining the standing of Filipinos against colonial rulers and foreign interference; 6) honoring the soldiers and strengthening the Armed Forces; 7) taking the judiciary to task for its being a hindrance to government projects with their abuse of temporary restraining orders; 8) asking Congress to amend the Procurement Law, pass the death penalty bill, and hasten deliberations on tax reform, the BBL and federalism.

    Yulo added, however, that the Chamber would withhold its support for the BBL and federalism at this point in time. He did not elaborate.

    The business leader rated the President’s speech at 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 “because it is truthful and down to earth on the state of the nation and on what his solutions are. The directness and straightforwardness is quite refreshing”.

    Business supports martial law

    Meanwhile, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said the President was very comprehensive and covered all grounds.

    “He is very comprehensive and covers all grounds. We believe the position of our President that martial law is most effective and [entails the]least cost in solving the rebellion problem,” PCCI Chairman Emeritus Francis Chua said.

    Chua also said the President’s position on processing the local raw materials into finished products rather than exporting them would bring more jobs to Filipinos and develop the country’s natural resources.

    “He is keen on infrastructure, and bringing connectivity to rural towns will definitely create more jobs and reduce poverty. This will assure growth of 7 percent as envisioned by the President,” Chua said.

    Another Chua – Edgar – chairman of the Makati Business Club (MBC), pointed out that his group has always supported policy and regulatory reforms, which he said would drive the economy and sustain its growth in the long run. As such, “we are encouraged that the President remains committed to pursuing his socioeconomic agenda.”

    “In particular, we welcome his leadership in advocating a more fair and equitable tax policy, his commitment to invest more in education and in addressing the country’s infrastructure deficit,” Edgar Chua said.

    The Makati business leader said it was also important to highlight one of the President’s calls to reconsider restraining orders issued by courts as these often delayed the implementation of critical infrastructure and social programs of the government.

    “We also recognize the impassioned call for real progress on climate change,” he said.

    “This proves the firm determination of the current administration in fulfilling and meeting our commitments to the Paris Agreement. As one of the most vulnerable developing countries to climate change, it is important that we offer our full support towards a green economy,’ he added.

    Grasp of issues

    Rex Daryanani, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (Phil.) Inc., felt the President’s speech met his expectations.

    “He spoke from the heart. He has an excellent grasp of the issues. We appeal to all sectors of society to rally behind and support our government,” Daryanani said.

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