The second half
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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