Duterte dines with tycoons
After threatening to banish them, President Duterte is now rubbing elbows with the businessmen he considers oligarchs, hosting a dinner for them in Malacañang on Tuesday night.
As his spokesperson, Ernesto Abella, put it, Mr. Duterte relished his tete-a-tete with the influential business leaders, whom he had earlier described as “monsters.”
Abella said the dinner meeting arranged by Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion was originally set for one hour, but went on for about three hours.
“In the words of Joey Concepcion, everybody walked out extremely, extremely happy,” Abella told a press briefing on Wednesday.
It was the second time in barely a month that the Chief Executive had sponsored a group of businessmen in Malacañang.
Last August, the President lambasted the oligarchs for allegedly using their influence to protect their own interests.
“I am fighting a monster. I am just two months (into the presidency) but believe me, I will destroy their clutches in our country,” Mr. Duterte warned them.
Five months later, the self-styled socialist President seemed to have changed his views about oligarchs.
“Basically, they were being brought on board to help address the issue of how to create a more inclusive economy, especially addressing work and investments in areas of conflict,” Abella said.
Abella said the President’s meeting with the tycoons tackled a range of issues, including contractualization, job generation, tax reform, federalism and graft and corruption.
Interestingly, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was also in the meeting along with her former agriculture secretary, now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap.
“The President reiterated that he was all for job creation to uplift the people’s well-being,” he said.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, who was seated next to the President, said the tycoons “expressed support for the President’s call for big business to create opportunities to alleviate the economic conditions in poor communities.”
“In fact, they have already sent their people to Sulu to look for opportunities to help the local communities, but because of security problems, the President asked them to focus in other areas in ARMM [the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao],” added Dominguez, who heads Mr. Duterte’s economic team.
Dominguez noted that the Department of Finance as well as the Land Bank of the Philippines can dip into a $40-million fund from Japan, hence “we are willing to partner with big business in their projects in other areas of the ARMM to help local communities, which could include financing of hospitals as well as other business activities.”
The business community “also expressed willingness to speak out in support of the President’s tax reform program because they realized that the infrastructure program will not be implemented without the tax reform package,” he said.
Concepcion said the event was an opportunity for the CEOs to meet with Mr. Duterte in a more intimate setting, and he was confident that they saw how “sincere” the President was in wanting to solve the country’s problems.
Unusual presidential style
“It was a chance for them to understand better the style of the President, which is not typical,” said Concepcion.
At the dinner were Ginggay Hontiveros, Go Negosyo Sulu Coordinator; Alfred Ty, GT Capital Holdings Corporation Co-Vice Chairman; Manny Pangilinan, First Pacific Managing Director and CEO; Federico Lopez, First Philippine Holdings Corporation Chairman and CEO; Doris Magsaysay Ho, Magsaysay Corp. President and CEO; Michael Tan, LT Group President and COO; George Barcelon, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President; Kevin Tan, Megaword Corp. First Vice President—Commercial Division; and Hans Sy, SM Prime Holdings Chairman of the Executive Committee.
Also there were Enrique Razon, International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI) Chairman; Tomas Alcantara, Alsons Group Chairman; Merly Cruz, Go Negosyo MSME Development Adviser; Erramon Aboitiz, Aboitiz Equity Ventures President and CEO; Alice Eduardo, Sta. Elena Construction and Development Corp. President and CEO; Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Ayala Corp. Chairman and CEO; Tony Tan Caktiong, Jollibee Foods Chairman and CEO; Edgar “Injap” Sia, Double Dragon Properties Corp. Chairman and CEO; former Health Secretary Francisco Duque; and Domingo Yap, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vice President. —WITH REPORTS FROM BEN O. DE VERA, DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA AND TINA ARCEO-DUMLAO
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