DOF to biz sector: Continue work with gov’t on economic plans

FINANCE Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has called on the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) to carry on with the productive working relationship between the government and the private sector by organizing Sulong Pilipinas consultative forums beyond President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.

Dominguez thanked the PCCI, led by its president, Ambassador Benedicto Yujuico, for the partnership that the organization has consistently offered in hosting the Sulong workshops, from the first one held in Davao City in June 2016 when the President was still mayor up to the most recent gathering held online last April 26.

“I should also thank the thousands of individuals who participated in all our Sulong Pilipinas workshops. You have brought not only your time but also wisdom to enrich these consultations that serve to guide our policymaking,” Dominguez said at the close of the virtual “Sulong Pilipinas 2021: Partners for Progress Forum.”

The 10 actionable recommendations presented by the private sector after the Sulong event included proposals to increase financial assistance to farmers; strengthen education’s focus on science and technology (S&T); establish programs to enhance skills and talents of support sectors and industries as part of the economic recovery program, starting 2021; increase investments in urban mobility infrastructure (i.e, bike lanes) and public transport reform by 2022; and integrate government portals and services to make transactions easier amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

“Sulong Pilipinas has been an effective feedback mechanism in determining the people’s response to the government’s plans and programs. I hope that the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry will continue this consultative exercise with the government beyond the Duterte administration,” Dominguez added.

The online conference also served as a venue for the pre-State of the Nation Address (Sona) reports of the Economic Development chaired by Dominguez and the Infrastructure Cabinet Clusters led by Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar.

The pre-Sona component of the Sulong forum was divided into three plenary sessions.

Dominguez opened the event by providing updates on the country’s growth and pandemic response.

Although the global outbreak of Covid-19 put the nation to a great test, Dominguez said the Philippines has the fiscal stamina to withstand a long battle and prevail over the crisis.

“The fact that the Philippines managed to maintain its solid financial footing throughout this global health emergency confirmed the correctness of the reforms pursued by President Duterte since the beginning of his term in 2016,” said Dominguez.

Addressing issues on debt, Dominguez reassured the public that “the jump in our debt level is not worrisome because the underlying cause of the increase is temporary and the level is still lower than what is considered as unsustainable.”

“The principal contributors to the increase in our debt are the weakening of the economy and lower revenue collections due to the pandemic. Both of these are expected to recover quickly once the health crisis is resolved,” he said.

Building on Dominguez’s opening remarks was Session 1’s first speaker, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, who provided updates on the Zero-to-Ten-Point socioeconomic progress of the Duterte administration.

“After only three years of the administration, the data came out to show that we have actually achieved the promise of lifting six million Filipinos out of poverty.” said Chua.

“The reason for this important achievement is that we have had significant progress in our 0-10 point socioeconomic agenda. All of these have resulted in significant gains for the economy and the people. Without doubt, Covid-19 is going to make our recovery challenging but we have the solid fundamentals to address our ongoing challenges,” he added.

Other Cabinet executives for Session 1, which focused on the country’s macroeconomic development, included Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno, who provided updates for the monetary, external and financial sector; and Department of Budget Management (DBM) Secretary Wendel Avisado, who gave updates on the country’s fiscal performance, strategy, reforms and outlook.

“The DBM has already released a total of P653.41 billion as of April 15, 2021, to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Bulk of this amount of P387.17 billion was released pursuant to Bayanihan 1, while about P259.78 billion was released for Bayanihan 2,” said Avisado.

Session 2 focused on developments in the Philippines’ physical and digital infrastructure, which were discussed by Villar; Presidential Adviser on Flagship Programs and Projects and president-CEO of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority Secretary Vivencio Dizon; Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade; and Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan. (PR)