Top businessmen back Duterte’s economic agenda

By Iris Gonzales and Prinz Magtulis
Top businessmen back Duterte’s economic agenda

The country’s business leaders are supporting the administration of president-elect Rodrigo Duterte to achieve a common goal of growing the economy so its benefits would trickle down to the poorest of the poor.

Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, together with shipping heiress Doris Magsaysay-Ho and Asian Institute of Management (AIM) founder Washington Sycip, yesterday expressed support for Duterte and his 10-point socioeconomic agenda.

“The business sector will definitely work with the new government and its 10-point agenda. There’s a positive energy in working with the incoming administration,” Pangilinan said during a forum dubbed “Aim for Change” at the AIM.

Pangilinan, chairman of the MVP Group of Companies, vouched for the development of agriculture and tourism, saying these are the keys to decongesting Metro Manila and addressing poverty.

He said granting incentives to businesses could convince owners to transfer their companies to the countryside.

He said Duterte’s focus on agriculture is the right direction, considering that 40 percent of people in the countryside are poor.

He cited the role cities play in the development of the tourism sector.

While most of the country’s attractions like beaches are outside Metro Manila, Pangilinan said people always return to the cities.

Ho, president and chief executive of the Magsaysay Group of Companies, said the key to growing the economy is to create employment in the lowest sectors.

“The key thing is how do we grow as an economy and create employment in the lowest sectors of society, so I think that’s really our focus,” she said.

Ho, co-chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Council, said businessmen agreed to rally on the principle of anti-corruption to achieve growth.

“In Davao, his focus is to take away the pain points of everyone,” she said, referring to Duterte.

“So the greatest rallying point is to have very clear strategic intent. How do we build the ecosystems and the clusters that are needed to be able to roll out very competitive goods and services, not just for our consumption but to offer to the world?” 

Ho said one area of growth is tourism.

“One example that is not controversial is tourism,” she said. “Everybody has to be totally committed to make tourism a deeper and more strategic goal for the country.”

Other areas for growth are innovation and education, she added.

Pangilinan hopes to see a nurturing environment for business.

“Business best thrives in a nurturing environment. It has its own life so you have to foster an environment that allows it to thrive: for example, a level playing field, respect for sanctity of contracts, consistency of policies and ease of doing business,” he said. 

Pangilinan said it would be good for everyone, not just businesses, if the government would be able to achieve a nurturing environment for business.

“We’re here in partnership with everybody,” he said.

Organized by AIM, an educational institution and think tank, the conference brought together businessmen to exchange ideas and discuss ways to promote inclusive growth in the Philippines.

Sycip, a highly respected 94-year-old accountant, expressed hope that Duterte would replicate his success in Davao throughout the rest of the country.

“What he has done for Davao is wonderful in terms of integrity and policies,” he said.

“It’s encouraging to hear him talk about that. If he can do to the country what he has done for Davao, no one should worry. If he can do it there, why not the entire nation?” On Tuesday, business leaders handed over to Duterte a list of recommendations to put his 10-point economic agenda into action.

The action plan suggested by corporate leaders includes reducing corporate and personal income taxes; implementation of a national ID system; streamlining business permits, licenses and land titling; support systems for farmers and fishermen, better Internet connection and speedy improvement of the transport network.

The next administration’s economic agenda covers continuing the current macroeconomic policies, increasing business competitiveness, lowering income taxes, increasing infrastructure spending to five percent of economic output, promoting rural tourism, human capital development and science and technology, ensuring land security, improving social programs like the conditional cash transfer and better implementation of the reproductive health law. – With Edith Regalado