Drugs, terrorism, economic boom
President Duterte arrived more than an hour late for a policy speech on the economy and business at the second year launch of his Dutertenomics, dubbed Sulong Pilipinas, Wednesday, Aug 9, at suburban Shangri-La Edsa hotel. The chief executive spoke for an hour—and mostly about drugs.
As for the economy, business, and taxation, well, that’s the job, he said, of Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez, a former high school classmate and who topped their class. Looking at Dominguez, Duterte said “he will answer for everything, except for law and order, and [the job] to normalize things.”
Duterte knows the toll on the government side of his violent illegal drugs war—92 policemen and more than 200 soldiers killed so far.
The notorious gangster and terrorist, Isnilon Hapilon, who is said to head the ISIS in Marawi, is still alive, in Marawi, despite earlier military claims he was obliterated from this earth by aerial bombing.
Duterte said no one president nor one presidential term can solve the illegal drugs problem. “It [drugs] has bogged down nations. Even America cannot cope with it. They are far worse off than us. They are fighting a useless war that never ends.” He linked drugs to terrorism. Defeat drugs and you defeat terrorism, he said.
In the Philippines, Duterte’s answer to illegal drugs is death. “Do not destroy the young,” the President told the drug racketeers. “I will kill you if you destroy my country!”
Which explains why until now the siege on Marawi has not ended after three months of vicious battles where two or three soldiers and policemen die daily. The Maute criminal group, which is aligned with ISIS, still holds about 300 hostages, the commander-in-chief said.
So it seems Duterte has a better chance at turning around the Philippine economy than defeating illegal drugs or terrorism.
To fulfill the dream of every Filipino, Duterte has a six-year time frame—2017 to 2022, actually, the last six months of 2016 up to the first six months of 2022 ending June 30, 2022, when the president’s term also ends.
Duterte’s dream is what Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia calls the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) for 2017-2022, also known as the Ten-Point Socio-Economic Agenda or AmBisyon 2040.
PDP has what are called ten actionable recommendations, which are: 1) tax reform; 2) a national ID system; 3) ease of doing business; 4) faster and cheaper internet and telecom services; 5) support for farmers; 6) responsible mining; 7) developing regional industries and work force; 8) improving the transport network nationwide; 9) enhancement of the Conditional Cash Transfer progam; and 10) honor contracts entered in accordance with law and in good faith.
In his speech, outside of drugs and terrorism, Duterte spoke of two things of interest to business: promoting ease of doing business, and cutting red tape and corruption in government. And for the country’s future, the president wants more Filipinos in college—for free. For that, he needs P50 billion to fund free tuition in state colleges and universities. Of the P50 billion, he disclosed, Sonny Dominguez has raised P20 billion.
Duterte gives cabinet secretaries one month to act on major projects and permits. He wants his secretaries to make it easy for businessmen to do business. He wants local governments not to delay issuance of business and other permits.
For his part, Sonny Dominguez likes to talk about breakout growth under the Duterte administration. He notes that the economic strategy of President Duterte is bearing fruit, with GDP (gross domestic product) growing 6.68 percent during his first three quarters, or “faster than [those of] all other administrations.”
“In line with our commitment to promote rapid and inclusive growth, we plan to achieve quality GDP growth of 7 to 8 percent in the medium-term, and reduce poverty to 14 percent from 21.6 percent in 2015. By the time we step down, we envision the Philippine economy to be in high-middle income territory,” says Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.
Diokno says: “For quite some time now, the Philippines has enjoyed strong macroeconomic fundamentals that has enabled it to weather external headwinds. For one, our country is the fastest growing country in the fastest growing region in the world” with a growth rate of 6.9 percent in 2016, higher than countries such as China (6.7 percent) and Vietnam (6.2 percent). First quarter economic growth was also recorded at 6.4 percent, broadly in line with government’s full year target of 6.5 percent-7.5 percent GDP growth rate. Growth is expected to accelerate in the coming quarters backed by robust consumer spending and stronger government expenditures, among other growth drivers.”
“Our first semester performance for 2017 also shows greater potential in achieving our target at the fiscal front. For one, our disbursement level is gaining momentum, as the department heads have learned already the ropes of implementing their programs and projects. National government spending recorded a robust 22.6 percent growth in June 2017, the highest posted so far this year,” the Budget chief says.
“The administration’s political will is not just talk,” says Diokno. “We are really set on delivering on our promises, and based on this information, we can be optimistic that we will see our investments pay off sooner rather than later.”