LEADERSHIP is about influencing people towards a VISION. This has validated to me of what Rodrigo Duterte stated in one of the election debates way back in May 2016. “I will provide leadership,” as he was quoted in a closing statement. His tagline “Change is Coming,” seems to have taken a sneak preview weeks before he assumes office in Malacanang.
June 20, 2016 was a historical day when incoming President Duterte’s administration called on business leaders from all over the Philippines not for celebration and socialization but for CONSULTATION. It was told that this is the first time that an incoming administration stretches out to business, and other sectors in different occasions, for consultation before his assumption into office. The event was co-convened by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Mindanao Business Council (MBC), with the economic cluster of his cabinet all-present to have a face-to-face encounter with Philippine business. It was entitled SULONG PILIPINAS (Hakbang Tungo sa Kaunlaran), which in English is Move Forward Philippines (Step towards Prosperity).
The gathering was simple. No fun fare in the opening ceremonies and the consultation process was plain, comfortable and casual. You will see incoming cabinet secretaries sit in various tables without the VIP privileges and red carpet and superstar walls that divide. This looks to me like a preview of the simplicity of the lifestyle of the newly elected President.
But the event gathered the rich and the famous, and was strictly invitational. Persons behind the country’s biggest brands were there from the likes of Lance Gokongwei of Robinsons and Cebu Pacific, and Samie Lim who is regarded as the Father of Philippine Franchising, among others. Senators Sonny Angara looked like ordinary participant in his regular table as incoming Senate President Coco Pimentel was also there. The various industries were represented. It was just a “smart casual event,” fitted to a smart-casual simple president.
First, there were presentations made by incoming secretary for Socio-Economic Planning Department, Dr. Ernesto Pernia, and incoming Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez. It was a good “What’s up with the Philippine Economy” from a university professor from the University of the Philippines. An open forum followed this with some 10 other incoming cabinet members of the economic cluster. Two sets of workshop followed and these were towards generating suggestions and for all participants to rate collective suggestions as to their vote for inclusion as actionable recommendations. Excitement filled the air as everyone is engaged.
All the talks and workshops were centered on the 10-point Socio-economic agenda of the incoming administration. And here are these agenda, which according to Secretary Pernia was culled from the campaign speeches and promises of President-elect Duterte.
1) Continue and maintain current macro-economic policies, including fiscal, monetary and trade policies. This is anchored on the Duterte administration’s acknowledgement that the economic fundamentals are strong as it is from two previous administrations;
2) Institute progressive tax reform and more effective tax collection, indexing taxes to inflation. There were discussions by incoming BIR commissioner to lift all Letter of Authority issued by BIR on day one but intensify honest tax collection system.
3) Increase Competitiveness and the ease of Doing business. This effort will draw upon successful models used to attract business to local cities and pursue the relaxation of the Constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership, except as regards land ownership, in order to attract foreign direct investments. Incoming DTI Secretary Mon Lopez committed to reduce the processes in securing business permits not only in DTI but in local government levels as well.
4) Accelerate annual infrastructure spending to account for 5 percent of GDP, with Public Private Partnership playing a key role. Infrastructure shall focus on decongesting Metro Manila and facilitating progress in the country side.
5) Promote Rural and value chain development toward increasing agricultural and rural enterprise productivity and rural tourism. With Secretary Pernia citing that agriculture is anemic, incoming Secretary Manny Pinol commits to strengthen agriculture by eliminating corruption in the department.
6) Ensure security of land tenure to encourage investments and address the bottlenecks on land management and titling agencies.
7) Investing in human capital development, including health and education systems, and match skills and training to meet the demand of businesses and private sectors. There was a noteworthy inequality in GDP in regions with NCR, Region III and Region IVA mostly contributory to economic activity.
8) Promote Science, Technology and the Creative arts to enhance innovation and creative capacity towards self-sustaining, inclusive growth.
9) Improve social protection programs including the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer, to protect the poor against instability and economic shock. Secretary Pernia cited that the 25.2 percent poverty in the population happens to be the highest in the ASEAN since 2014.
10) Strengthen implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law to enable all, and especially poor couples to make informed choices on financial and family planning.
Secretary Pernia challenged the delegate to help in the re-balancing of the economy, which to him should shift from consumption-driven to investment and export driven economy. There is a need also to shift from service-oriented to agriculture and manufacturing productivity. He also pointed at the shift from NCR-centered development to regional and rural development.
Secretary Dominguez asserted that while the macro-economic numbers are good, they did not translate to better life for all. And this became the resounding message of every cabinet secretary who talked.
The most observable characteristic of the cabinet members is the diversity but this diversity is harmonized in unity by the vision that they are infected with by President Duterte. And these cabinet members are very infectious in their passion and conviction for change.
In my earlier columns even during election, I tried to be objective as possible, but even as you may want to go back and read, I had more faith in Duterte, not because he is the best, but because he can lead. Henceforth, what I can do is watch and take part in what could be change that is coming towards real prosperity for the Philippines and the Filipinos.