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REACTION TO SONA

Business finds Duterte’s priorities wanting, prefers faster internet

Priorities considered important by the business sector came last in President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) to Congress on Monday.

“If you condense the message in the economic side of the speech, it is still adhering to the policies that were set during the ‘Sulong Pilipinas’ last year wherein [Mr.] Duterte relayed the 10-point socioeconomic agenda,” said George Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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Wanting

But while Mr. Duterte mentioned proposals deemed important to business, such as tax reform and the need to do away with temporary restraining orders against crucial government projects, Barcelon said the speech was wanting, especially in agriculture.

He said he would have liked it had Mr. Duterte provided a timeline for the improvement of the information and communication technology in the country, which was constantly hounded by problems caused by slow internet.

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Perry Pe, a top official of Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), found Monday’s Sona “very personal.”

“He would directly talk to his audience and would even call on some senators and congressmen and Cabinet members to act. It was not pretentious. I honestly like it. He spoke of the people’s frustrations [with the] government,” he said.

“I thought his call for the P25-billion tax settlement of Mighty Corp. was smart and to the point,” he added.

Donald Dee, head of Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines, said Mr. Duterte’s over-two-hour-long speech showed “his passion and determination to pursue his programs.”

Contrary to theme

The group representing American investors in the country, however, said the speech was contrary to the expected theme of a “comfortable life for all.”

“It was a very forceful speech in which the President took a very strong stance on his policy concerns, including drugs and rebellion. However, it was not, as predicted by his spokesperson, much about a ‘comfortable life for all.’ We would like to have heard about his top legislative priorities and reforms to create more jobs, more details about ‘Build Build Build,’ and more priority measures than the six he mentioned,” said John Forbes, senior adviser to the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

Forbes welcomed Mr. Duterte’s comments about the early passage of the proposed Bangsomoro Basic Law, right-sizing, national land use, procurement, tax measures and the implementation of the reproductive health law.

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Farmers described Mr. Duterte’s performance in the past 12 months as “full of bluster but lacks concrete policies.”

“Job security, living wages and benefits and services—these remain a dream for agricultural and all other workers in the country,” said agricultural group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) in a statement.

“His economic and political thrusts are turning right and would benefit only big plantation and hacienda owners,” said John Milton Lozande, acting secretary of UMA.

Mr. Duterte did not make genuine land reform a priority nor did he impose a moratorium on land conversion, Lozande complained.

Joma: No cancer

The left-leaning Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) made the same observations.

“We are appalled by Duterte’s militarism. His presidency is one of unfulfilled promises and no significant change,” said KMP chair Danilo Ramos.

Mr. Duterte mentioned in his speech that Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, was suffering from colon cancer.

Sison denied Mr. Duterte’s claim in an online chat with the Inquirer.

“I am in good health. No cancer of any kind. Neither any other kind of malignancy. The colon cancer comes from his imagination,” Sison said. —With reports from Jaymee T. Gamil, Nikko Dizon, Leo Udtohan, Joey A. Gabieta, Nestor P. Burgos Jr., and Karlos Manlupig

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TAGS: Business, President Rodrigo Duterte, Sona 2017
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