SENATOR Grace Poe will push for the signing of free trade agreements with other countries if she becomes President.
Poe, who is running as an independent candidate, on Wednesday said her strategy will be “to sell to the world” instead of focusing on the domestic market.
Noting that the country cannot win the war against poverty without enlarging the economic pie, the Philippines, according to the senator, should follow the lead of its progressive neighbors in Asia and sign more bilateral free trade agreements with other countries.
In her speech delivered before the Makati Business Club, Poe cited the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector and the shipbuilding industry that continue to flourish because these were not bound by ownership restrictions, benefited from low taxes and were not harassed by the government.
The sector and the industry, she said, were also allowed to freely import equipment and employ foreign staff who could help in their operations.
“I say, why not replicate this template across a broader range of industries, perhaps starting with those that are labor intensive or needing in expertise that we do not have?” Poe pointed out.
To enlarge the economic pie, the senator said firms should be allowed to build scale, improve efficiency and collectively employ millions of unskilled surplus labor from the agricultural sector.
She noted the need to improve the confidence of foreign investors in dealing with the Philippine government by showing that the rule of law exists, and that the rules will not be
changed midstream or with each passing administration.
“They [investors]should have confidence that the contracts into which they enter will be respected by the courts and that disputes will be settled speedily and solely in accordance with the law, not on the basis of who has access to Malacañang,” Poe said.
Tax rates, she added, should not be determined by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in its drive to meet collection targets, but by economic planners based on what is needed by the country to be more competitive.
The senator also noted that the corporate income tax rate in Indonesia is 25 percent; 22 percent in Vietnam; and 20 percent in Thailand.
In the Philippines, it is 30 percent, she said.
“In a globalized world where capital seeks the most favorable terms, we must accept that we are a price taker. As such, government has got no choice but to set tax rates in line with our peers, collect properly and do what it has to do to attract the new taxpayers that we need for us to pay for our growing bills,” Poe explained.
She vowed that her administration will be “very straightforward” and those who do not meet their targets will be asked to stand down, whether they be friends, classmates, political allies or even running mates.
When asked if she is open to constitutional change, Poe said she believes that the Constitution “is a living and breathing document” but changes should be done at the beginning of the term of a President.
“I am for certain amendments in our economic provisions. But I think that we should also safeguard certain things in our Constitution, like our Bill of Rights, as well as term limits,” she replied.
If she wins, Poe said, she will appoint her running mate, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, to the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council.
The businessmen found Poe’s business programs impressive, saying they could fuel growth if correctly implemented.
MBC Chairman Ramon Del Rosario said Poe’s policies were “sound and well thought out.”
“I think she outlined a very business-friendly program of government, in fact many of the themes she brought out are themes that are very popular with the business community,” Del Rosario added.
“If she can really get these ideas implemented, then of course that is the real measure of success and that what will make people really happy,” he said.