Businessmen press Duterte on economic team, investment policy, ‘socialism’
MANILA — Perennial latecomer Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte arrived on time for his appointment with the Makati Business Club on Wednesday, but despite his punctuality, the businessmen failed to hear what he was invited for — details such as who would be in his Cabinet and his economic advisers, and what he would do to ease business procedures.
The leading presidential candidate was vocal about his advocacy to wage a “harsh campaign” against criminality and drugs before roughly 600 businessmen and company executives, as well as 100 members of the media at a forum hosted by the MBC and Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) on Wednesday.
The MBC and MAP said the gathering was bigger than the presidential dialogues with Mar Roxas and Sen. Grace Poe.
The business community, however, found that Duterte did not mention plans for the economy and his policies regarding investments, foreign ownership, measures to ease doing business in the country, among other things.
MBC chair Ramon del Rosario said he would like to hear more about Duterte’s economic policies and programs.
“I think what he said to us is that he was very clearly passionate about doing things in the law and order side, which we already know, but he chose to spend his entire time focusing on that practically.”
“He will go in and out on education, but he kept going back to the theme of dealing with criminals in a very decisive way. I think that message came across strongly in a way that’s positive that criminals will be on the lookout if he becomes President. But I think we have to also be concerned about making sure that the rule of law continues to prevail,” he said.
He also talked about the uncertainty of the business community in a Duterte presidency.
“We wanted to know what kind of economic team he will put together and where he will bring the economy. This was an opportunity we hoped for him to talk about his economic policies and programs but he chose to focus totally on law and order. So that was the part that was not completely fulfilled,” Del Rosario told reporters when asked to comment on Duterte’s speech.
Del Rosario said he also wanted to be clarified on Duterte’s claims of being a socialist as he sought to better understand what the role of the private sector would be under a Duterte presidency.
“But the way he was talking about bringing in business for infrastructure development and assistance in health programs, I think in his mind, it was very clear that he’s willing to work with the private sector. The important thing is for him to accept our friendship and support if we get that opportunity to work together if he does become our President,” Del Rosario said.
PLDT chair Manuel V. Pangilinan described Duterte’s speech as good. “I thought it was OK.”
“This is the first time I’ve heard him speak and give a speech. It’s very interesting. I just listened and I think he’s trying to reveal himself… He is a decisive person,” Pangilinan added.
MAP president Perry Pe said Duterte was clear about his agenda on peace and order.
“He was passionate about his advocacy, close to being emotional about it…. But I would have wanted him to expound more on agriculture, on ease of doing business, among other issues. I guess, as far as he’s concerned, those (issues) will automatically (be resolved) if criminality is solved,” Pe said.
Ernesto M. Ordoñez, who chairs the Alyansa Agrikultura, was relieved that agriculture “was not forgotten.”
“He said it was No. 3 on his agenda and we like that,” Ordoñez said.
Del Rosario is quite concerned about the kind of people who will be in Duterte’s Cabinet, who will surround him in power and who will advise him on the economy.
“We are all going to wait and see how things unfold. A lot of it will be about the kind of Cabinet, for example, that he will form. Who are his key advisers, who are really not known to us, and who are the people whom he will rely on for advice on things like economic programs and social programs of government. When we know those things, I think we will be in a better position to figure out how his administration will perform and the things to look out for in his administration,’’ Del Rosario said.
Del Rosario said that the stock market has been reacting “with some degree of anxiety because … he is not a well-known personality and not a very well known factor.’’
“A lot of people are really waiting to find out more about him and what he will actually do if he does become president of this country. I think the things we talked about earlier, like the team he will form, will be very critical. It will either assure people or get people more worried … Who will be his economic team, who will be his main adviser, who will be his executive secretary, who will be the people around him and what kind of advice are they likely to give him. Those are the kinds of things that people will watch out for,’’ Del Rosario said. SFM
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