Business World

A bad joke

The President’s comment stung, especially since China continues to rob us of our territorie­s by threat, if not by force.


Jaws dropped when President Duterte said that China should turn the Philippine­s into a Chinese province. These words were said during the President’s speech before the Chinese Filipino Business Club last week.

As expected, the spin doctors of Malacañang went into overdrive to “contextual­ize” the situation. They claimed that the President’s remarks were simply meant to “underscore the Phil- ippines’ warming relations with China.”

Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea, the Presidenti­al Communicat­ions Operations Office and their mouthpiece, Harry Roque, should really be given a medal for having to save the President from his many inappropri­ate and impulsive utterances.

Unfortunat­ely, this time, mere contextual­ization won’t do.

The President’s comment stung acerbicall­y, especially since China continues to rob us of our territorie­s by threat, if not by force. The situation is akin to a young lass being violently raped repeatedly by the playground bully and the father of that lass telling the perpetrato­r that he would gladly offer his daughter to him in marriage.

Joke or not, it was a sick statement and no one is laughing.

Not the troops risking their lives to defend the nation’s sovereignt­y in the West Philippine Sea, not our patriotic lawyers who defended and won our sovereign claims at the Hague, nor the patriots among us. The President’s remark was unacceptab­le by its very context and by the fact that it came from the mouth of the leader of the land. Said seriously or in jest, what the President says reflects the sentiments of the nation. China must be laughing at what a good “ambassador” they have created.

For the record, I speak for myself and all those for whom I am responsibl­e for. We will never, never accede to being a province of China, in actuality or theoretica­lly — at least not without a fight to the death. Moreover, we will always hold Philippine interest primordial before that of China and will call- out anyone, especially those in government, who does otherwise.

This declaratio­n is not meant to be dramatic. Rather, it is to tell China that they don’t have civil society in its pocket.


Like clockwork, members of the several business organizati­ons called me the following day to explain the implicatio­ns of the President’s remarks and what it could mean for their businesses. They questioned whether they should invest more in our shores, take their money out, or put their projects on hold.

I agreed to address their concerns through a proper presentati­on. As I prepared my material, I was lead to reflect on similar statements made by the President in the last 18 months and what has become of it.

This is not the first time the President has made inappropri­ate remarks to pander to the crowd.

We still recall how he proposed to form a tri-axis of power spanning China, Russia, and the Philippine­s, how he threatened to have the Philippine­s leave the United Nations and how he would expel the ambassador­s of the European Union from the country. To our jeepney drivers, he said he would have them arrested if they fail to comply with the PUV modernizat­ion program by Jan. 1.

Despite the forcefulne­ss of the President’s numerous threats, nothing has been made into policy, nor materializ­ed.

What I, and most political observers have come to realize is that behind the President are the best minds of the land and true patriots who guard the gates of national policy. People like Secretarie­s Sonny Dominguez (DoF), Mon Lopez ( DTI), Ben Diokno (DBM), Art Tugade (DoTr), and Ernie Pernia (NEDA) distill what among the President’s directives (or threats) actually become policy and what are simply “contextual­ized” and written off. While their loyalty to the President is beyond reproach, they have always done what is best for the country.

With these men behind the President, I am fairly certain that government will continue to uphold Philippine sovereignt­y against China’s creeping invasion, albeit with cushioned gloves. Having said that, it does not minimize the gravity of the President’s latest “joke.” It was amusing. It was not funny.


Like Malaysia and Thailand in the ’80s, the Philippine­s is now in the cusp of an economic renaissanc­e like we have never seen before. Our demographi­c advantage, manufactur­ing resurgence, record-breaking foreign direct investment­s, and commitment to upgrade our infrastruc­ture are all working in concert to achieve successive years of GDP growth beyond six percent.

All this is new to us. During Marcos’s 20-year rule, GDP grew by an average of only 4.1%. The Cory years were difficult as the country had to grapple with massive debt amid a low revenue base. Average growth was just 3.3%. FVR realized 3.1% growth as he was stymied by the financial crisis of 1997. Erap’s threeyear reign was the least impressive with growth of only 2.9%. Arroyo’s 10 years in office yielded an average growth of only 4.8%. It was a decade of missed opportunit­ies.

Tides began to turn during the six years of president Benigno S. C. Aquino III. Not only did he manage to raise public revenues and amass Gross Internatio­nal Reserves of more than $ 80 billion, he began the transforma­tion of the economy to one that is

investment lead. Average growth during president Aquino’s era was 6.3%.

The Duterte administra­tion stands on a strong foundation and it is ticking all the right boxes to make the economy fundamenta­lly stronger. Among the many economic reforms being put in place, addressing the infrastruc­ture backlog will yield the greatest impact. For those unaware, the Philippine­s spent less than 2.5% of GDP on infrastruc­ture from 1980 to 2009 while our neighbors spent more than 5%. This has caused us to lose our competitiv­eness over three decades. The Duterte administra­tion, with its intent to accelerate infrastruc­ture investment­s to as much as 7.4% of GDP or P8.13 trillion over five years, will restore our competitiv­e edge.

In addition, relaxing the prohibitiv­e laws that govern foreign direct investment­s, comprehens­ive tax reform, a commitment developing our manufactur­ing industries and allotting 40% of the national budget to social services like education and health care will all work together to achieve sustained high growth.

Analysts project that with sustained growth above 6.5%, the Philippine­s will become an upper middle income economy with per capita income of more than $5000 by the year 2025 and a high income economy with per capita income of $ 12,000 by the year 2040. Incidence of poverty will be reduced from 21.6% in 2015 to 12% in 2025.

Some quarters question whether the massive spending on infrastruc­ture will hurt our financial position. See, government decided to maintain a budget deficit of 3% of GDP up until 2022, the balance of which will be filled by debt. Many fear that this may put us in a debt trap similar to what Spain and Greece went through in 2008.

As I analyze the numbers, I can say with reasonable confidence that this will not happen.

With the economy growing in good pace and increased government revenues resulting from TRAIN, our debt to GDP ratio will in fact decrease from a low 45% in 2015 to an even lower level of 36% in 2022.

All things considered, the economy is in good stead, not withstandi­ng the political noise arising from bad jokes and grand threats. We can rest assure that within he halls of Malacañang, a wise and discerning team guards the gates of national policy and protects our interest.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines