PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte hosted dinner for the country’s top businessmen in Malacañang on Tuesday, in an exclusive gathering said to have cleared the air of “wrong perceptions.”
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters Duterte and the tycoons discussed the proposed shift to a federal form of government, labor contractualization, graft, job creation and tax reform.
“The one-hour meeting was extended to three and in the words of [Presidential Adviser] Joey Concepcion, everybody walked out extremely, extremely happy,” Abella said, referring to Duterte’s adviser on entrepreneurship.
Abella said the tycoons expressed support for programs to reduce poverty and invest in areas affected by conflict, such as Sulu province in Mindanao.
Aside from Concepcion, also present in the Palace dinner were Ayala Corp. Chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, SM Prime Holdings, Inc. board member Hans Sy, Aboitiz Equity Ventures President Erramon Aboitiz, International Container Terminal Services Inc. Chairman Enrique Razon Jr. and Lucio Tan Group President Michael Tan.
Also, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. chairman Manuel Pangilinan, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President George Barcelon, and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the former president.
‘The real President’
Concepcion, in a television interview, said businessmen’s “wrong perceptions” on Duterte were clarified during the dinner.
“Everyone in that room was able to clear their minds on wrong perceptions that they had with the President,” Concepcion told the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).
“They got to see the real President and were able to ask questions,” he added.
Barcelon said the meeting was “really a heart-to heart talk with the President.”
Abella said the business leaders discussed with Duterte, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd and Labor chief Silvestre Bello 3rd a “win-win” solution on the issue of contractual labor that will satisfy both workers and employers.
Ending the practice of illegal contractualization, in which workers are hired on five-month contracts and deprived of regular benefits, is one of the President’s campaign promises.
Barcelon cited the need for fair labor laws to resolve the issue.
“We need to have well-balanced labor laws so there would be job opportunity,” Barcelon said, adding that labor regulations that are too tight run the risk of restricting the growth of small and medium businesses, which should be given enough leeway to hire contractuals.
During the meeting, Duterte showed the thick list of drug protectors and their photos, Barcelon said.
The President told his guests he would crack down on illegal gambling after addressing the drug problem, Barcelon said.
Duterte also welcomed plans by Go Negosyo, Concepcion’s brainchild, for a micro-entrepreneurship program in conflict-wracked Sulu, and offered military escorts, Barcelon said.