Sustained reforms in infrastructure, energy, governance and investment climate continued to top the so-called “wish list” of local and foreign business groups, which are looking forward to hear what President Aquino will prioritize in the remaining two years of his term.
While the wish list issued by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the Makati Business Club, the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport), the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop), the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (Amcham) and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) all rallied for practically the same issues they have raised in the past Sonas, a foreign chamber had warned against a “lame duck situation” as this could undermine the gains seen in first four years of the Aquino administration.
John D. Forbes, senior adviser at Amcham, explained in an interview that such a situation meant that as people leave the government, “there’s not much legislation, there is a loss of political will and the energy at the beginning of the administration is gone.”
For Forbes, the issues that should be tackled by the President should also include the passage of the freedom of information (FOI) bill and the customs modernization and tariff act (CMTA), the successful prosecution of major corrupt individuals, and the resolution of power concerns, among others.
“There’s a lot to be done in reducing business cost particularly in order to improve inclusive growth. We have 20 paid holidays and two new ones were recently proclaimed by the President. Minimum wage here is too high for labor-intensive industries, so we are not getting the kind of investment in the footwear, garments or in light industries, furniture,” Forbes explained.
“[Foreign direct investments are] going to Vietnam and Indonesia, which are getting some $10 billion to $25 billion a year, which is many times what is coming here. Although FDIs have doubled from 2011 to 2013, the potential for it to double and triple here is there, but the business cost remains too high for domestic industry. The Philippines has to decide: Does it want to be a nation of traders, importing goods made by their neighbors, or does it want to be a manufacturing hub?” he added.
For ECCP executive vice president Henry J. Schumacher, President Aquino should focus in the last two years of his administration on encouraging investments in manufacturing and agriculture industries to ensure inclusive growth, and in ensuring that infrastructure projects get off the ground as soon as possible.
“The Bangsamoro has to become reality, with investments kicking in immediately so that jobs can be created and weapons laid down. Energy security has to be established by creating more competition. [To secure] 162 signatures or permits [for energy projects is] ridiculous as five will do. Somebody has to be fully in charge of this sector,” Schumacher said.
PCCI president Alfredo M. Yao said the government should invest in infrastructure, initiate stronger reforms in governance to curb smuggling, corruption and to institute transparency through PPP (public-private partnerships).
He said it should also ensure better coordination between the national government and LGUs to ensure consistency in laws, push reforms in labor policies and practice to attract more investments and create more employment, and work with all branches of government to reform procedures and practices that would result in the internationalization of SMEs.
Philexport president Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr. added that the issue of truck congestion and container pile up to the wish list.
Ecop president Edgardo G. Lacson added to the wish list food security, peaceful resolution of the territorial conflict with China, unifying statement that will restore the respect to the three co-equal branches of government, and total and lasting peace in Mindanao and final solution to the insurgency problem caused by the NPA.
Written by: Amy Remo