The second half

Daily Tribune (Philippines) - HotSpot - - News -

The next three years of the pres­i­dency

Pres­i­dent Duterte, half­way through his pres­i­dency, and hav­ing pre­vi­ously claimed to have de­liv­ered on all his cam­paign prom­ises, re­al­izes that he is not done yet in­sti­tut­ing change in gov­ern­ment. He owns a list of pri­or­i­ties he wants ac­com­plished be­fore bow­ing out of of­fice in 2022. Apart from the big-ticket in­fra­struc­ture projects un­der the trade­mark Build, Build, Build pro­gram and breath­ing new life into the coun­try’s agri­cul­ture sec­tor, he made no more far-reach­ing prom­ises for the re­main­der of his term and sim­ply said he would rather en­sure the con­ti­nu­ity of his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­com­plish­ments.

It is not a sur­prise that at the top of the list is the un­re­lent­ing cam­paign against nar­cotics and the un­ceas­ing ef­fort to rid gov­ern­ment of graft and cor­rup­tion.

In a re­cent in­ter­view, the Pres­i­dent said there is a need “to pre­serve the ac­com­plish­ments” listed un­der his name the past three years.

“The drug sit­u­a­tion is quite low and there­fore the crime rate, the in­dex crimes, has also low­ered,” he said.

“If we can­not con­trol cor­rup­tion in gov­ern­ment and if we can­not have law and or­der, even if you give a guy 20 years to do it, you can­not stop cor­rup­tion. And if you can­not con­trol the law and or­der in this coun­try, it’s re­ally hard,” he added.

Since as­sum­ing of­fice, Mr. Duterte has sacked more than 50 gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and em­ploy­ees over cor­rup­tion charges and other mis­deeds.

Prov­ing he is firm on his “zero-tol­er­ance” pol­icy, he added 64 more to the fold when or­dered per­son­nel from the Bu­reau of Cus­toms (BOC) put on float­ing sta­tus be­cause of con­tin­ued and un­abated ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties within the agency.

“You may have heard me one time vent­ing my frus­tra­tion be­fore the pub­lic, and I said I re­gret run­ning for the pres­i­dency and win­ning it be­cause I can­not cope up with the cor­rup­tion in gov­ern­ment,” the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive said.

“Some­times, I feel hope­less, help­less. I re­ally can’t keep up. And you know even in the Cab­i­net, I have fired about six close friends. Well, not nec­es­sar­ily (over) direct graft and cor­rup­tion but some­times in­com­pe­tence and… well, the lack of in­dus­try is very im­por­tant be­cause we work for the peo­ple and some­times it re­ally takes its toll on health. It’s also my prob­lem,” he added.

On rein­vig­o­rat­ing the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try in the coun­try, the Pres­i­dent hinted at uti­liz­ing the coco levy fund for agri­cul­tural re­form – which was un­ex­pected, even a sur­pris­ing move from some­one who ex­er­cised his veto power on the Co­conut Farm­ers and In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment pro­posal ear­lier this year.

That mea­sure would have over­hauled the Philip­pine Co­conut Author­ity (PCA) and al­low for the de­ploy­ment of a huge P74.3-bil­lion fund dis­trib­uted to farm­ers to help boost the co­conut in­dus­try.

The Chief Ex­ec­u­tive said he is think­ing of “bet­ter ideas” to help the agri­cul­ture sec­tor, which he pre­vi­ously tagged as the “weak­est link” in a chain known as the econ­omy.

“If we can­not con­trol cor­rup­tion in gov­ern­ment and if we can­not have law and or­der, even if you give a guy 20 years to do it, you can­not stop cor­rup­tion. And if you can­not con­trol the law and or­der in this coun­try, it’s re­ally hard.”

The coun­try’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct ex­pan­sion stood at 5.6% in the first quarter of 2019, based on data from the Philip­pine Sta­tis­tics Author­ity (PSA). This was lower than growth recorded in the same pe­riod last year.

Mr. Duterte also said his ad­min­is­tra­tion will en­sure gov­ern­ment land given to the poor that in the long run will help al­le­vi­ate the in­ci­dence of poverty in the coun­try.

He ab­hors the sight of the Filipino go­ing hun­gry and that gov­ern­ment should go be­yond merely feed­ing the hun­gry, ac­cord­ing to him.

Gen­er­at­ing jobs and other in­come op­por­tu­ni­ties is his ut­most concern, the rea­son why he shifted fo­cus on agri­cul­ture as the coun­try could ben­e­fit from “coco eco­nomics” and other “cash crops” like corn.

On main­tain­ing peace and or­der, the Pres­i­dent vowed to con­tinue mod­ern­iz­ing the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines (AFP) till the day he steps down.

He ear­lier ex­pressed hope the so-called Second Hori­zon of the Re­vised Armed Forces of the Philip­pines (AFP) Mod­ern­iza­tion Pro­gram, which in­volves P139­bil­lion worth of projects that in­clude procur­ing util­ity ve­hi­cles, drones and other com­mand and con­trol fixed-wing air­craft, among oth­ers, would be re­al­ized un­der his term.

Say­ing the mil­i­tary has “the best of the procuremen­t money” pro­vided by gov­ern­ment, he vowed that by the time he leaves Mala­canang, the AFP, with new ar­ma­ments, can cred­i­bly “chal­lenge any­body” in the event of con­flict.

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