"LEADERS are born, not made," is an axiom that may well describe the sterling career of Carlos "Sonny" Garcia Dominguez 3rd, a man of outstanding achievements and proven track record.

On Sept. 16, 1945, Sonny was born to a prominent Zamboangueño family residing in Metropolitan Davao, namely Carlos Dominguez Jr. and Virginia Garcia. His grandfather, Carlos Sr., was a Bank of the Philippine Islands branch manager in Zamboanga prior to World War 2. Sonny grew up in Metro Davao and studied at the Ateneo de Davao University where he was a classmate of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD). Moving to Metro Manila, Sonny pursued his college degree at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) where he graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Economics in 1965. Then, he earned a Master in Business Administration from ADMU in 1969. Later, in 1982, he pursued further postgraduate studies in the United States where he completed the Executive Management Program from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. He went on to marry Cynthia Andrews.

Returning to the Philippines, Dominguez began his career in banking, finance and investments. He accumulated over 40 years of vast, relevant experience and an outstanding track record of achievements, being at the helm of various organizations in the public and private sectors. He acquired expertise borne out of his experiences first, as a shareholder; then, as a board chairman; and afterwards, as a member of over a dozen corporations across multitude of industries such as power, agriculture, mining, banking, hospitality, real estate and investment.

Serving in the national and private sectors, Dominguez held numerous notable positions in government, heading the Ministry of Natural Resources in 1986 and the Department of Agriculture in 1987 during the presidency of Corazon Aquino.

On July 2016, Dominguez returned to public service when he was appointed as the Department of Finance (DoF) secretary by PRRD. Since June 30, 2016, Secretary Dominguez has been serving as the de facto vice chairman of the board of trustees of Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industria at Gobyerno or Pag-IBIG. As the DoF secretary, he has also been serving as the chairman of the Land Bank of the Philippines, a government-owned and controlled corporation, primarily tasked with spurring economic development in the countryside through the delivery of innovative financial services in rural areas. He also chairs the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp., among others, and is a member of the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Under the leadership of Secretary Dominguez, DoF was able to draft and introduce to Congress the first of a series of proposed tax reform packages within 90 days from the moment the secretary assumed the Finance portfolio. During his watch, the country's key earning agencies - the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs - continue to achieve strong income growth rates. It was also under Dominguez's leadership that the BIR was able to secure its largest tax settlement in Philippine history, amounting to about $600 million from a single taxpayer.

'Strong private sector key to sustainable recovery in 2021'

In light of and amid the pandemic, the Finance secretary is confident that the revival of private enterprises and consumer activity will propel the country to a sustainable recovery, starting this year as he foresees encouraging prospects for the economy, especially with the negotiations for the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines and its delivery being well underway.

Dominguez expressed thanks to both chambers of Congress for ratifying on time two of the recovery measures that would both provide the private sector with the stimulus it needs to bounce back from the economic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic. These measures were the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act, which lowers corporate income tax and provides the government more flexibility in the granting of investment incentives to corporations, and the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer law, which was signed recently by PRRD to let banks efficiently offload its bad loans and nonperforming assets in order that these could lend more to pandemic-hit businesses.

According to the Finance secretary, these measures, along with the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery bill, aim to rescue strategically important companies with solvency woes that would complete the set of recovery measures needed to revitalize the private sector.

He added, "Through the darkest times of the pandemic last year, we were never under the illusion that this challenge [would] be short. We are prepared to fight a long battle, exercising prudence over the use of our fiscal resources."

Alongside these economic recovery measures, he bared that the government was fast-tracking the rollout of its Covid-19 vaccination program to speed up the safe, full reopening of the economy.

In a previous virtual economic forum hosted by The Manila Times, Dominguez said, "The prospects for 2021 are, however, encouraging. We have gone through the worst episodes of this pandemic. Medical science knows more about the virus. Vaccines are available. Public health protocols have been carefully studied. And we are ready to reopen the economy."

Besides reinvigorating the private sector, Dominguez added that the government will step up the implementation of its Build, Build, Build program given that a large part of the 2021 national budget has been earmarked for infrastructure modernization, which will be "the cornerstone of our economic recovery."

He also emphasized that, "The more sustainable path to recovery is to foster the revival of our enterprises and the restoration of consumer activity. A strong private sector is the key to our recovery strategy."

Dominguez mentioned that there were about 40 million Filipinos who were 18 years of age and below that could not yet be vaccinated according to medical experts. Thus, the country's recovery would also hinge on developments in the global economy, which, if remaining sluggish, would pose headwinds to the country's growth.

"Because of this, we have supported all efforts at building international solidarity both to defeat the virus and to revive the global economy. We are looking forward to all diplomatic initiatives to support a strong global economic recovery," he said.

Dominguez said the Philippines' membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) - which aims to deepen the engagement of Association of Southeast Asian Nations-member economies with Australia, China, Japan, Korea and New Zealand - will help boost the country's manufacturing and agriculture sectors. RCEP will also benefit micro, small and medium enterprises by integrating them into the global value chain through market access provided in goods and services, shared Dominguez.

"With an open, fair and rules-based trading system, the RCEP will help restore business confidence and encourage more economic activity worldwide," he said.

To complement the Philippines' participation in the RCEP, Dominguez urged Congress to pass "immediately doable" measures that aim to attract more foreign direct investments and help ensure the long-term recovery of our economy.

He concluded that, "The Duterte administration is doing its utmost to rebuild an inclusive, sustainable, greener and healthier economy for the Filipino people [despite the pandemic]."