Promises: 5 presidential aspirants present plans for PH
MANILA, Philippines—As the national and local elections inch closer, five presidential aspirants on Thursday (Nov. 18), laid out their vision for the first few months of their tenure, their policies and programs and the image they want people to remember them by.
Vice President Leni Robredo, Sen. Christopher Bong Go, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno took part in the forum for presidential aspirants, a highlight of the 47th Philippine Business Conference and Expo (PBCEx) hosted by the country’s biggest business group Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).
At the forum, the five aspirants were asked about their plans on economic recovery amid the pandemic and their programs for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which bore the brunt of the economic impact of the pandemic.
They were also asked to enlighten people about their plans on education, agriculture and fishery, infrastructure and digital transformation.
In this report, INQUIRER.net takes a closer look at the plans and programs of the aspirants for their first 100 days in office if they succeed in their campaigns to become the next president of the Philippines.
First 100 days
Controlling and mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and laying down preparations to move forward toward economic recovery were among the common programs discussed by all five presidential aspirants at the forum.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Philippines a year ago, the total number of infections in the country has increased to 2,821,753 as of Nov. 18.
At least 2,752,173 have recovered from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, while 46,422 individuals have died.
The country has also suffered its deepest economic decline in the last seven decades since 1946 as a result of the long restrictive lockdowns and health protocols implemented since last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This has caused massive unemployment, business closures, debts by the national government.
Here are what the aspirants shared during the PCCI forum:
Vice President Leni Robredo
If elected president, Robredo said her administration will focus on increasing the government’s support for the country’s health care workers—who have suffered from low pay, lack of benefits, and a mountain of workload at the frontline of the fight against COVID.
Aside from improving the capacity of hospitals and making COVID testing more accessible to Filipinos, Robredo also laid out plans on vaccination programs and the implementation of universal health care.
“We will ensure vaccines for all and increase the capacity of local health units to allow them to dispense vaccines on their own. We will not stop at vaccines, we will start stockpiling different covid treatment medicines and deploy them to areas where there are shortages,” she said.
“We will also accelerate the rollout of universal health care by concentrating on enrolling every Filipino in the UHC system in the first three months,” she added.
The incumbent vice president likewise mentioned plans on ayuda, or the national government’s cash assistance, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to devastate the country.
“We will set aside 216 billion pesos in the national budget for ayuda distribution to protect families from hunger and provide them with their basic needs without being forced to go to work,” Robredo said.
Sen. Christopher ‘Bong’ Go
Go, President Rodrigo Duterte’s closest confidante, said his administration will focus on financial stability and a rapid and inclusive economic recovery, aiming for a return to pre-pandemic economic status “or even surpass it.”
“Following Duterte’s strategy, we will open more economic activities, support the tourism industry, and provide recovery packages to hardest-hit sectors including the MSMEs and the agriculture and fisheries,” said Go.
“We shall select priority legislative measures towards economic recovery – such as tax reforms – so we can complete and complement the comprehensive tax reform programs of the Duterte administration,” he added.
The senator did not forget to mention the current administration’s Build Build Build infrastructure program, which he vowed to prioritize if elected as Duterte’s successor.
Go also listed plans to provide financial assistance, jobs, and zero-interest loans for 10 million of the country’s poorest.
Go, who noted the importance of the internet as an essential basic need amid the pandemic, promised to activate 10,000 to 20,000 new sites providing free quality and reliable internet connectivity during the first 100 days of his administration.
He also discussed a legislative agenda that hews closely with that of Duterte—priority for the e-governance bill and the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience and the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos and Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson
“My first 100 days will be devoted to providing a more efficient lifeline to our nation in the health and economic sectors,” said Lacson during the forum.
“There is no debate that our people must get back to work. But there must be a sheer guarantee that the government has a future-proof strategy — one that will insulate our people from the vulnerabilities of sudden outbreaks,” he added.
The senator, like Robredo, discussed the implementation of the Universal Health Care Act — which he said could make vaccines and testing free for every Filipino.
Lacson also shared his views on the government’s move to acquire newly-developed COVID-19 pills, “such as ‘molnupiravir’ and other anti-viral drugs that are scientifically proven to be effective against the coronavirus.”
Emphasizing his administration’s focus on having a “clean government,” Lacson promised to sign a bank secrecy waiver on the very first day of his term.
“To ensure our people that ‘leadership by example will set the tone of my administration, I will lead the way by signing a waiver of my rights under the bank secrecy law and encourage all the members of the Cabinet, down to the rank and file to do the same,” Lacson said.
“This will happen on my first day in office, not in the first 100 days. This will signal our commitment to restoring the trust of our people in their public officials,” he added.
Sen. Manny Pacquiao
Famed boxer-turned senator and now presidential aspirant, Pacquiao said he will focus on reviving the country’s economy and providing jobs for thousands of Filipinos who were left unemployed during the pandemic.
Aside from providing sustainable livelihood to poor families, Pacquiao said he will try to implement a housing program for informal settlers and improve health care services.
However, one of the main goals of his government during his first 100 days, will be to reduce government loans by increasing revenue income.
“Let’s focus on the revenue income of our country. We need to focus on that because the Filipinos do not deserve [a government that] borrows money every year for its annual budget,” he explained.
Data from the Department of Finance (DOF) showed that the country’s loans intended to fight the COVID-19 pandemic have already hit around P903 billion ($18.4 billion) in June this year.
The DOF also reported that the national government’s outstanding debt might reach a record-high P13.42 trillion by end of 2022.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno
Moreno said he will “devote the first two years” of his administration “towards reinforcing [the country’s] health system to best cope with the pandemic, looking at the future possible outbreaks, and be prepared for the same in any case of an eventuality.”
All of these will be done, according to the Manila mayor, while the administration does its best to revive and rehabilitate the economy and produce more jobs, businesses, and career opportunities.
Moreno also said he will work with Congress to reduce taxes on petroleum and electricity in the country.
“While it is true that this will be a loss of substantial enough revenues for our government, it will also—at the same time, at the other side of the coin—alleviate the suffering of our people,” he said.
“It will also increase their purchasing power, which will stimulate consumer spending, and thus, the wheel of commerce will turn around once more,” he added.
Amid recent successive increases in oil prices, which resulted in a year-to-date adjustment that brought total net price increase per liter of gasoline, diesel, and kerosene to P20.95, P17.50, and P15.09, lawmakers have urged the government to suspend the collection of excise on oil and oil products.
Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko, in an Oct. 20 memorandum to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, warned that suspending excise on oil products would lead to a “substantial” revenue loss, estimated at a total of P131.4 billion if implemented next year.
The Department of Finance (DOF) also said the country might lose P147.1 billion in one year if excise and VAT on oil products were suspended.
Moreno, who has emphasized that he can work with anybody as long as they are willing to work with him, said he will appoint members of his administration through vetting by a personal selection group or search committee.
“Meritocracy will be the guiding principle,” Moreno said.
He also vowed to reduce the number of undersecretaries and assistant secretaries under his administration.
On presidency and the mark they will leave
The presidential aspirants, while sharing some programs for the country’s future under their administrations, had different views on the presidency and their decision to run.
Go, who initially filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for vice president, said he never dreamt of running for president.
“I am now running for the presidency—something that I never dreamed of,” he said.
“I have avoided this position [before], but fate has a way of turning things around,” he continued.
On Nov. 14, Go officially announced that he has accepted the challenge to run for president “for the sake of the administration” and to continue the reforms initiated by Duterte.
Lacson, on the other hand, posed a question for the public.
“In any situation where the stakes are high and the probability of success is tough, who would you rather turn to?” he said.
“Someone who is job-ready, war-proven with a good leadership track record, and tried and tested honesty and integrity?”
“Or one who has lesser job experience and who’d probably spend a quarter of the presidential term still learning the ropes of making political accommodations?”
Moreno promised Filipinos that “true and meaningful change”— which he said has been “long-promised but always compromised in the shoals of politics”— will soon happen if he was elected as president.
“Change is coming” was the Duterte administration’s slogan in the 2016 campaign.
Robredo and Pacquiao shared their sentiments on how they would like to be remembered by the public, whether they will be victorious or not.
“I want to be remembered by the public as the Manny Pacquiao who truly loves our countrymen and our country, who had no personal interest, just a dedication to help improve the country and help the Filipinos so that every family will not experience the suffering he once had,” Pacquiao said.
“I simply want to be remembered as a public servant who did everything she could, with whatever platform or resources she has, to uplift and make a difference in the lives of the people around her,” said Robredo.
“A vice-president who transformed their office mandate and did not allow the limitations to keep her from doing the work that matters. Someone who rose above any challenge and in difficulty and always answer the call to serve, no matter the cost,” she added.
“I hope the Filipino people will remember me as a leader, who marched and work alongside them, who stood with them and fought for their dreams and a country that they truly deserve.”
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