Mining, foreign ownership and reproductive health are just some of the other economic priorities of the next administration, beyond the initial eight-point agenda announced earlier.
Ernesto Pernia, the economic adviser of Rodrigo Duterte, faced business leaders on Wednesday (May 18) and shed more light on the plans of the president-elect.
Foreign ownership restrictions will likely be reviewed by Congress within the year, he told the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in a forum. He reiterated the need to liberalize certain sectors of the economy to attract more foreign investment.
The shift to federalism, meanwhile, could be proposed in 2017 onwards. Pernia said the next administration needed more time to draft this since it required a more wholesale change of the country’s political and economic structure.
These two reforms are potentially tricky and past administrations have failed to make significant headway in pushing it in Congress. But Pernia was optimistic Duterte had the numbers to back him.
Davao del Norte representative-elect Pantaleon Alvarez — widely considered the frontrunner for Speaker of the House — estimates that 180 representatives are allied to Duterte, Pernia said.
A president needs about 150 legislators to secure a majority in the 292-seat chamber, he added.
Lifting the lid on mining
Facing a chamber heavily involved in mining and exploration, Pernia was inevitably questioned about the government’s plans for the sector.
The economist said Duterte had no definite plans yet, but he had said he was “in favor of responsible mining” — but what “responsible mining” means, they have yet to flesh out.
Pernia told CNN Philippines that Duterte’s team plans to revisit the issue of mining, especially after President Benigno Aquino III sought to review the mining tax regime in 2011 but never concluded it.
Aquino imposed a moratorium on new mining permits while the review was being conducted, and it stands until now. The Finance and Environment departments had wanted to hike the royalties and excise taxes levied on miners — especially foreign ones. Pernia admitted the next administration could likely go down the same route.
“I don’t know if it’s a royalty or taxes but definitely we need to get more in terms of monetary benefits, as well as to ensure environmental damage is negligible or minimal,” he said. The next administration wants to “make sure [mining] is beneficial to the country.”
Reproductive health and responsible parenthood could also be the ninth point in Duterte’s economic agenda, Pernia said.
He explained that the accelerated implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RH) Act of 2012 was a critical component to poverty reduction.
Birth rates in the poorest quintile of the population are double that of the highest quintile, and nearly double the national average, Pernia said.
Surveys show that these families want to plan the number of their children and space their births, but they have no access to resources to do so, he added.
“I want to emphasize, this is not an imposition. The objective of the RH law is to give families an informed choice in the planning and spacing of their children.”
Unfortunately, many poor families are left with unwanted pregnancies since they don’t have access to education or health services to advise them on responsible parenthood, he said.
The president-elect is a believer in the RH law, Pernia said. Davao already has strong family planning policies, and Duterte is keen to expand the same to the entire country.
Forming the future Cabinet
As for Pernia, he said he had been asked if he was willing to join Duterte’s Cabinet and he has said yes.
What his specific portfolio will be is still unknown, but he said his background would be most closely related to the National Economic and Development Authority.
Duterte has already named his Cabinet Secretaries for the Finance, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Public Works, Agriculture and Justice departments.
Source: CNN Philippines