DAVAO City: SOME 400 stakeholders have drawn up a priority list of action plans to put flesh into the goals of the Duterte government’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda to keep the economy growing at 7 percent, create jobs, and liberate 1.5 million Filipinos from poverty annually over the next six years.
Philippine development partners also vowed to work together with the government to achieve its socioeconomic ambition.
On the last day of the Philippine Development Forum (PDF), the Department of Finance (DOF) reported that the action plans include instituting tax administration and budget reforms, using modern technologies to speed up the implementation of projects, investing heavily in human capital and social protection, and accelerating spending on agriculture and transport infrastructure, especially in Mindanao.
On macroeconomic policies and taxes, the stakeholders recommended the urgent implementation of tax administration reforms and a stepped up anti-smuggling campaign complemented by improvements in trade facilitation.
They called for the passage of a comprehensive tax reform program that would shift the tax burden from the low and middle-income groups to rich consumers, while setting a targeted transfer program under the 2018 national budget to cushion the impact of revenue-enhancing measures on the country’s most vulnerable sectors.
They highlighted the need for the full implementation of the executive order on Freedom of Information, the fast-tracking of the implementation of major infrastructure projects through 24/7 construction work.
At the same time, the stakeholders want the Duterte administration to improve the planning and evaluation of projects, including public-private partnership (PPP) programs, and support local governments in expanding the capacity to generate resources and deliver basic services, as well as help decentralize development from urban to rural areas.
In terms of rural development, the stakeholders noted the priorities should be undertaken by increasing spending on agriculture infrastructure and improving easy credit access and financing. They cited the need for a shift in the irrigation paradigm from huge and long-gestating mega projects to small, community-based projects.
They sought to protect the rights of farmers and enable them to own, secure and develop their lands, as well as promote food-security, productive and resilient agrarian reform communities, and transform the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) into an efficient, enhanced, effective and values-driven agency.
The stakeholders emphasized the need to keep communities safe, peaceful and orderly, improve local preparedness and resilience down to the barangay level, and sustain transparency and accountability in local governments.
For local economic development, they cited the need to build capacities and explore new governance arrangements by continuing to hold dialogues on federalism as a tool for “deepening local autonomy and devolution.”
On human capital development, the DOF report highlighted the need for improved access and quality of health care with PhilHealth as the main revenue source for all health care facilities.
The stakeholders want a critical review of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino or the conditional cash transfer program, as well as the establishment of models of intervention for non-Pantawid and near-poor households, while building the capacities of local governments to implement social protection programs, and raising the quality of education through the implementation of the K to 12 curriculum to make education “truly liberating, relevant and accessible to all.”
On infrastructure and competitiveness, the stakeholders recommended putting in place a modern, seamless and efficient mass transport system and enhancing connectivity through a multimodal transport network using technologically advanced facilities and services. They was the government to improve traffic decongestion, continue to pursue the PPP program, while developing rural roads, promoting the competitiveness of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as well as LGUs, and standardizing business permits and licenses and cutting red tape.
They recommended continuing environment sustainability and disaster risk reduction initiatives to create resilient communities, supporting industry competition, hastening countryside development through technological interventions, and developing science and technology facilities.
The report on Mindanao peace and development initiative underscored the need to speed up the peace process with all insurgent groups, bring socioeconomic development to conflict-affected areas, implement human resources and other development programs to prepare for a new Bangsamoro entity, and physically integrate Mindanao through a better infrastructure network.
It noted the need to generate investments and promote competitiveness to create jobs and encourage the development of MSMEs, support local industries to prepare for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations integration, leverage policies on the role of the BIMP-EAGA area, and strengthen the Mindanao River Basin Organizations in protecting biodiversity areas.
The PDF, chaired by the DOF, serves as a primary mechanism for facilitating policy dialogues among stakeholders – national government and LGUs, business sector, development partners, academe and civil society groups – on the government’s development agenda.
The results of the discussions will be carried over as inputs to the government’s Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022, currently being completed by the National and Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
The government has also received numerous offers of strong support for the Duterte administration’s accelerated poverty reduction program from the country’s development partners, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd said.
The Japanese embassy will continue to cooperate with the Philippines in promoting sustainable development and the peace and development in Mindanao, according to the DOF.
Washington-based multilateral lender World Bank considered the 10-point socioeconomic agenda of the government a very good agenda to contribute to inclusive growth, the department noted.
“These are certainly priorities that the World Bank Group is working on with the Philippines. We are very much committed to supporting the Philippines,” said Mara Warwick, country director of the World Bank in the Philippines.
For its part, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it will continue to share its expertise with the Philippines in terms of macroeconomic stability and financial management.
“The IMF does not lend to Philippines because it has a very robust reserves. Overall, what we can share is our expertise in technical areas,” Shanaka Jayanath Peiris, IMF resident representative in the Philippines said.
Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) said its areas of cooperation are in line with the government’s 10-point agenda.
“ADB is operating in the six to seven areas included in the agenda. We are happy to support the government in these areas,” said ADB Country Director for the Philippines Richard Bolt.
Bolt noted the ADB’s focus in the next couple of years are on projects and assistance to improve the country’s PPP program, capital market, inclusive finance, job creation and the conditional cash transfer program.