The peaceful transfer of power yesterday from former President Benigno Aquino 3rd to new President Rodrigo Duterte was a showcase to the global audience that democracy is working in the Philippines. Simple yet elegant, the ceremonies left a good impression about our young republic taking its rightful place among the progressive nations of the world.
Signs are emerging that the administration of President Duterte is keen on consensus-building. I personally witnessed this last week at a consultative workshop organized by his economic team, together with the Mindanao Business Council and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Among the issues tackled was the prioritizing of infrastructure projects outside Metro Manila to generate employment in the countryside, help decongest the nation’s capital, and attain inclusive growth. This was emphasized by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez during the press conference of Sulong Pilipinas: Hakbang Tungo sa Kaunlaran business summit at the SMX convention center in SM Lanang Premier, Davao City.
Dominguez said, “I just went through a briefing with the PPP (Public-Private Partnership) Center, which is under the NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) and I was really amazed that around 80 percent of the proposed projects are in or around Mega Manila composed of CALABARZON (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon), Central Luzon, and Metro Manila.”
He observed that, “if you’re not a pro-active government in pushing the projects outside, into the regions, they will all congregate around Mega Manila, where two-thirds of our GDP is produced.” The incoming Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary wants more school buildings to be built outside Mega Manila, especially in outlying areas, pointing out that “after all, our President-elect was an outlier, wasn’t he?”
Over the last six years, the 12 approved PPP projects took an average of 29 months to implement. Dominguez said “I think we can cut that down to maybe 18 to 20 months through speedier and more pro-active processing of these projects.” He noted that out of 42 million Filipinos in the workforce, statistics show about 10 million are underemployed and most live in the rural areas.
“It’s very important that jobs are created in the countryside if we’re going to be an inclusive government, so those are the areas we will prioritize,” he said. The next government will allow PPP projects to proceed and accelerate more infrastructure projects outside the national capital region.
“We’ve already said several times that we will not follow the last administration’s policies, where basically they stopped the PPP projects for two years. That’s why the growth rate really dropped on the second year of the previous administration because they didn’t proceed to make the projects,” Dominguez reiterated.
Earlier, during the summit plenary session, he batted for the building of “coalitions for change” that would enable the country’s growth streak to continue and finally benefit the majority of Filipinos.
Hope remains very high among our countrymen that the new government will be able to build on the previous administration’s gains and catapult the Philippines to the next tier of developed economies.
J. Albert Gamboa is the CFO of Asian Center for Legal Excellence and Senior Producer of Bloomberg TV Philippines.