Duterte to ADB: Keep lending PH money as I clean up gov’t
Quipping that he’d never been in the presence of so much wealth, President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday asked the Asian Development Bank to continue lending the Philippines money for its development while promising to clean up and improve the government.
Speaking at the 51st ADB annual meeting at the EDSA Shangri-la, the President also hailed the financial institution’s contribution to the Philippines’ economic growth, noting that it was the country’s third largest source of official development assistance.
ADB’s cumulative loans to the Philippines amount to $16.85 billion, while its cumulative grants amount to $82.6 million, for which he is grateful, he said.
He also said ADB’s continued presence in the Philippines, where it is headquartered, showed that it believes the Philippines had the capacity to “exorcise its financial and economic demons.”
“I never [saw] such a crowd with so much money. Can you lend me more? I’m positive. Not positive of sickness, but positive in terms of economic viability,” he said to laughter from the crowd, before reading from a prepared speech.
But he was serious in seeking financial help from the ADB.
The Philippines is a beautiful country with a lot of resources, but for it to realize its potential, it needs to “extract the wealth from the earth’s bosom,” he said.
“Thus, we shall continue to rely on the Asian Development Bank for financial assistance, be it in the form of loans or grants,” he said.
In turn, he vowed to “put our house in order.”
“We need to fix our transportation system, we have to stop corruption. we shall continue our campaign against illegal drugs within the limits the law allows. And of course, as always and has been, the fight will be relentless. Fair warning,” he said.
The Philippines would aspire to sustain a growth rate of 7 percent or better and bring down the poverty incidence rate to 14 percent by 2022, he said.
The government would continue its “build, build, build” infrastructure program and “link, link, link” its many different islands to spur economic growth and competitiveness, he said.
The first President from Mindanao said the government would focus on developing the island.
Mindanao, long neglected by the national government, became the center of rebellion and communal conflict because it had the highest rates of poverty and lowest scores in the human development index, he noted.
But it would now lead the nation’s growth through massive infrastructure investment, he said.
The five-month war in Marawi due to the incursion of Islamic State-allied extremists “underscores the urgency not only of bringing the fruits of development to the island, it also underscores the importance of maintaining civil order as a condition of development.”
“My government will not compromise in the maintenance of law and order. We will not buckle in the face of threats from militants and terrorists. We are fully aware than when the civil order weakens, progress will no longer be possible,” he said.
The President also said economic growth would only be meaningful if its benefits and effects would trickle down to the needy, as he once more recalled the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the test of government is when it provides for those who have little.
“Stated otherwise, a growing economy is meaningful only if the consequential benefits do not get stuck among the rich who are few but trickle down to the impoverished who are many,” he said. “To me, that is the purpose and very essence of economic growth and development. The distribution of wealth is what we aim for and not the equalization of poverty.” /atm
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