Think tank sees investors welcoming Robredo takeover
Vice President Leni Robredo would be welcomed by foreign investors as a replacement to President Rodrigo Duterte’s “authoritarian tendencies” if he dies or is incapacitated for health reasons, and they would likely pour in more investments into the country, according to a London-based think tank.
The President has been dogged by rumors of poor health since he took office in 2016 and speculation over his health continued after Malacañang’s announcement last week that he would be working from home to get some rest, Capital Economics senior Asia economist Gareth Leather said in a Nov. 15 report on “health worries” about Mr. Duterte.
“We don’t know much about what Ms Robredo’s economic agenda would be if she took office, but given her fierce opposition to Duterte’s authoritarian tendencies, including his willingness to undermine political institutions, his attacks on political opponents as well as the controversial war on drugs, a change in President would probably be welcomed by investors,” Leather said.
President’s health issues
“Since Duterte took office, approved foreign investments have been much lower than previous years,” Leather said, citing Philippine Statistics Authority data on investment promotion agencies’ approvals of foreign-led projects seeking tax incentives and other perks.
Leather noted that “if Duterte is either incapacitated or dies in office,” Robredo —who also leads the opposition—will take over as President under the Constitution.
Since the presidential campaign in 2016, Mr. Duterte has admitted he had a slipped disc from a motorcycle accident 10 years earlier for which he was taking Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, to dull the pain.
He also suffers from Barrett’s esophagus, a serious complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease, as well as Buerger’s disease, a constriction of blood vessels caused by accumulation of nicotine.
Last month he disclosed that he has myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes muscle weakness.
The President fell off a motorcycle he was driving at the Presidential Security Group compound also last month. He attributed to that accident the “unbearable pain” that forced him to cut short his trip to Japan where he attended the enthronement of the new Japanese emperor.
His longtime aide, Sen. Bong Go, said the pain was found to have been caused by “muscle spasm,” not by any spinal injury from the motorcycle accident.
Leather said the Duterte administration had not been a disaster for the economy and that the President’s “massive popularity has enabled him to pass reforms that might not have otherwise made it through Congress.”
He noted that Mr. Duterte signed the “controversial” Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act, which “helped to fund a big increase in infrastructure spending.”
The law, which began implementation last year, slapped new or higher excises on consumption of various goods and services—including oil products, motor vehicles, sugary drinks, cosmetic procedures, among others—to compensate for the lower personal income tax rates.
“Also important has been the liberalization of the rice import regime, which has helped bring down inflation and should help raise productivity in the agricultural sector by exposing it to more competition,” Leather added.
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