July 31, 2014 · Posted in: General
By Julius D. Mariveles
Local and foreign businessmen called on President Benigno S. Aquino III to ensure the passage of a Freedom of Information Law before his term ends and to ensure the prosecution of past and present public officials who are proven to have committed corruption “without fear or favor.”
These were among the six recommendations of the Philippine Business Groups (PBG) and the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) in a letter sent to President Aquino a week before the President delivered his State of the Nation Address. While they pointed out that the PBG-JFC recognizes the administration’s drive to stamp out corruption that has “indeed borne fruit” and contributed to the country’s “better-than-expected economic performance and competitiveness rankings,” there is still a need to “push the campaign for good governance.”
The business groups were reiterating the results of a series of dialogues they conducted last year in helping craft a list of key issues and proposed measures that they said will help achieve the “shared vision of inclusive growth” through generating jobs, reducing poverty, and global competitiveness. The result of these consultations was sent to the President last year.
The key issues that the consultations sought to address were the following: institutionalizing integrity and good governance, achieving inclusive growth, ensuring energy security and price competitiveness, increasing foreign investments, and addressing smuggling.
Integrity and good governance was the first item in the recommendations of these groups as they pointed out that despite the Aquino administration’s best efforts to safeguard the use of public funds “recent developments demonstrate that corruption still rears its ugly heads in the hidden nooks and crannies of the bureaucracy and government transactions.”
This, they said, “highlights the need and value of an engaged citizenry serving as government’s partner in guarding against corruption,” as they took note of the President’s commitment during one of the Daylight Dialogues to pass the FOI before his term ends.
They also welcomed Aquino’s pronouncement that he will be issuing an Executive Order to institutionalize a mechanism for public-private cooperation. They also urged other government agencies to follow the lead of the Department of Public Works and Highways in insisting that companies who wish to bid for government contracts should sign an Integrity Pledge and submit themselves to “doing clean and ethical business.”
They also called on Aquino to closely coordinate with the judiciary and legislative branches to address what they called as issues of “competence, efficiency, and integrity in the justice system.”
On the issue of inclusive growth, the groups said that while the economy has rapidly expanded under Aquino, the impact of reducing unemployment and underemployment “has yet to felt by our people” as they urged the chief executive to focus on sustainable agriculture and responsible mining that will “substantially assist in our shared aim of inclusive growth.”
Mining is being opposed by various sectors in the country, including Church-based groups in some provinces, who are questioning the impact of the industry on the environment and the displacement of upland folk who will be affected by the entry of multi-national mining firms.
The business groups, however, reiterated their position that “responsible mining holds the potential not only to bring in more foreign investments but also to increase incomes in rural communities as well” as they called on the President to retain the existing Philippine Mining Act.
Meanwhile, they also noted that agriculture, which employs close to a third of the Philippine population especially in the provinces, continues to “underperform” as they urged Aquino to ensure adequate investments that would increase agricultural productivity.
This month, former senator Francis Pangilinan, presidential assistant on food and agricultural modernization, said that farmers in the Philippines remain among the poorest of the poor while more than 20 million Filipinos cannot yet feel the growth of the economy or do not have enough food.
The group also outlined their specific recommendations in other areas.
On accelerating infrastructure development:
• Raise government infrastructure spending to narrow and infrastructure gap;
• Institute a multi-airport system particularly NAIA, Clark, and a future third airport;
• Speed up the construction of a NLEX-SLEX Connector and the construction of a feeder road that will connect it to the Port of Manila; and
• Shift cargo traffic from the Port of Manila to the Ports of Subic and Batangas.
On ensuring energy security and price competitiveness:
• Ensure full and proper implementation of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act and not to amend the act because this will cause the deferment or cancellation of pending and much-needed investments in the power sector;
• Support growth targets with energy investments and the drawing up of a roadmap towards energy security and electricity price competitiveness; and
• Augment the Department of Energy and Energy Regulatory Commission with “capable, proactive, and visionary staff.”
On ensuring the increase in foreign investments:
• Open certain areas of the economy to “greater foreign participation;” and
• The revision of the Foreign Investment Negative List pending any amendments to the Constitution.
On addressing smuggling:
• The immediate passage and implementation of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and various measure son Anti-Smuggling in both chamber sof Congress.
The letter was signed by the following representing their organizations: Benjamin Philip G. Romualdez, president, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines; Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr. president, Philippine Exporters Confederation; Ramon Del Rosario, Jr., chairman, Makati Business Club; Dan C. Lachica, president, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc.; Edgardo G. Lacson, president, Employers Confederation of the Philippines;
Rhicke Jennings, president, president, American Chamber of Commerce; Ian Porter, president, Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce; Julian Payne, president, Canadian Chamber of Commerce; Michael Raeuber, president, European Chamber of Commerce; Tetsuo Tomino, president, Japanese Chamber, Eun Gap Chang, president, Korean Chamber of Commerce;
Shameem Qurashi, president, Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Inc.; Edmundo S. Soriano, president, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines; Ernesto M. Ordoñez, president, Alyansa Agrikultura; Gregorio S. Navarro, president, Management Association of the Philippines;
Alfonso G. Siy, president, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc.; Jose Mari P. Mercado, president and CEO, IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines; and Alfredo M. Yao, president, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.