Sunday| July 2, 2017
Local businessmen are generally satisfied with President Duterte’s performance in his first year in office, leaders of various business chambers said.
“There are detractors, but you can never say everything is perfect. There are shortcomings but overall the confidence of businessmen is there. It’s a good start. It’s a good foundation for the economy,” Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) president George Barcelon said.
Barcelon in particular lauded Duterte’s vicious war against drugs and his foreign policy, which he described as a “game changer.”
“Basically that war on drugs is dealing with peace and order. We all know that this drugs issue brings a lot of these lawlessness so in a way, that is good. Even though there are a lot of background noises, the important thing is people feel safer now,” he said.
As for his foreign policy shift, Barcelon said it is pragmatic as it puts emphasis on elevating the local economy to new heights.
Duterte’s foreign visits, he said, have resulted in significant investment pledges and official development assistance from countries like China and Japan, which are all very positive for the economy moving forward.
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“In terms of his leadership, across the ASEAN countries everybody looks up to him now. Although he had said something in the past which was not that good for the international scene, apparently the ASEAN countries still look up to him,” Barcelon said.
Makati Business Club executive director Peter Perfecto, for his part, said his group composed of some of the top corporations in the country are grateful to the government’s economic team for engaging and encouraging public-private dialogue and consultations.
Although one year is not enough to realize gains of its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, Perfecto said the group cannot stress enough the importance infrastructure projects play in addressing transport woes and making the country more competitive against its ASEAN neighbors.
“We reiterate our call for government to support the private sector-led Integrity Initiative by issuing an executive order that will provide a framework for more cooperation in addressing corruption on both the public and private spheres,” Perfecto said.
For Barcelon, the important thing for the country now is that there is progress as reflected in the various investment pledges being reported by various investment promotion agencies.
“The bottomline here is there is change. Something is happening and all of these are helping the economy,” Barcelon said.
Chinese envoy commends Duterte
The Chinese envoy in Manila gave Duterte a “very good” mark, citing his pursuit of an “independent” foreign policy that he claimed benefited the Philippines.
“Well, this is my personal experience because ever since Duterte took office, he has been very successful in advancing the interests of the Philippines in the regional and international context,” Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said when asked to assess Duterte’s first year as president during an interview in Makati City on Thursday.
“So my comment is very good, very positive. I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate him on the success of his independent foreign policy,” he added.
Zhao said Duterte has put the Philippines “in a very good position” to benefit from friendly relationship with all countries, particularly with the big powers and with ASEAN countries.
Relations between China and the Philippines have blossomed since Duterte assumed the presidency last year.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, but Duterte has put the ruling on the back burner.
Duterte also insulted the Philippines’ long-time ally United States after former US president Barack Obama criticized his bloody war on drugs.
Leni refuses to rate Rody
Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo refused to rate Duterte’s first year in office but vowed to help the administration fill its “shortcomings.”
“I think it’s unfair if I grade him,” Robredo said in an interview in Pateros.
“I think the administration has done so many good things, but it has also shortcomings. For me, it’s better if we would work together to fill those shortcomings,” she added.
She said the government alone could not assist all Filipinos in need, “no matter how hardworking the President is and how large the support his administration is extending.”
Robredo also declined to grade her first year in office, as she admitted her own shortcomings.
“For me, the support (that we give to our needy people) is still inadequate. We’re not short on hard work but because of the many people who need help, we still fail to reach our target,” she said.
Robredo said she would scout for more partners from the private sector, through her office’s Angat Buhay program, to help a greater number of underprivileged people.
Former president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cited what she thinks is Duterte’s “awesome” leadership, which she claimed united and inspired Filipinos.
His administration’s P3.6-trillion “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure flagship initiative was commendable and is “step in the right direction towards achieving inclusive growth,” Arroyo said in a statement.
Arroyo, an ally of Duterte, also lauded the President’s efforts to boost the morale of Filipino soldiers and policemen in light of the fighting in Marawi City.
She said she was particularly praising Duterte for his regular visits to soldiers and policemen in the field and the pay and other increases in financial benefits given to them since July 2016.
She said among the latest benefits was the increase in the soldiers’ combat pay to P3,000 a month under Executive Order No. 3.
“The least a leader can do to increase the morale of the defenders of our democracy and peace is to make sure that their families do not go hungry,” she said in a statement.
Duterte had repeatedly promised to double the salaries of soldiers and policemen by last December. But this did not happen since adjusting pay in the bureaucracy requires legislation.
Soldiers and policemen are covered by Executive Order No. 201, which former president Benigno Aquino lll signed in February 2016.
Aquino’s issuance mandated a four-year salary adjustment for all government officials and employees, from the president down to the janitor or clerk. When fully adjusted, the President’s salary will amount to nearly P400,000 a month. Aquino’s monthly pay was only P120,000.
For Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, Duterte is very decisive in confronting the country’s problems.
Sotto gave Duterte a grade of “8” with 10 being the highest.
Sotto and Ejercito claimed the Aquino administration ignored the drug problem and terrorism.
“Drugs and terrorism problem existed before the Duterte administration and just became ripe at this time,” Ejercito said.