The panelist during the Pandesal Forum last July 19, 2019 ( from Left to Right: Dr. Gerardo Sicat, . Henry Lim Bon Liong, Mr. Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr and George Barcelon)
The panel was composed by foremost economists and business leaders which includes Dr. Gerardo Sicat, ECOP President Mr. Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr, PCCI Chairman George Barcelon and FFCCCII President Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong and was moderated by Mr. Wilson Lee Flores. The forum addressed the most pressing economic and business-related issues of the country under the midterm of the Duterte administration which includes: Endo and Security of Tenure law, Rice Tariffication law, Economic charter change and reforms in taxes and labor law. Moreover, the forum also assessed the achievements of duterter’s economic policies.
As to the panel, the Philippines is experiencing a good steadfast economy for the first two-and-a-half years of having an average GDP growth rate of 5% per annum besides that inflation spike from the 4th quarter of 2018. This can be attributed to boost in OFW remittances, stronger export in electronic industry, unwavering BPO industry and increase in tendency for tourism sector. However, comparing to the SEA neighbors, we are behind of that of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand which nails it at 6.0-6.5% growth rate per annum. As suggested, our leaders must not just be concerned of the growth itself but its quality relative to the global or regional standards. In order to achieve this for the following years, experts suggest economic reforms must be taken in place such as the deployment of the 2nd and 3rd tranche of the TRAIN Law and strengthening an investment-driven economy through BUILD, BUILD, BUILD project.
Another economic reform that was implemented by the Duterte administration lately is the Rice Tarrification Law which lifts restriction on rice importation- a measure to address the supply of a cheaper and affordable rice in the market. However, months after the law has been enforced, its effect on the local rice farmer has been harsh- lowering down the price of the local palay to 14.00 Php/kg. This effect to local agricultural sector, together with the recent unforgiving El Nino, brought thousands of local farmers to debts and to the point of discouraging them to grow rice locally and ventured out as traders and importers of foreign supplies. In a larger scale, this puts the local food security into jeopardy as our source of staple food relies on the trading climate internationally.
The panel in consensus believes that to further thrust a competitive Philippine economy, the government should open the floodgate for a healthy foreign investment through reforms and packages that are globally competitive. In the dawn of the Security of Tenure Bill, the business groups support to veto the said policy and instead amend a flexible labor code together with educational initiative to enhance the skills set of the Filipino workforce. They also encourage economic charter change, especially in terms more flexible of foreign ownership. The group sees that the 40% maximum foreign ownership prevents foreign investors to create a thriving global market in the Philippines.
Once these radical reforms will be in place, they expect the country not only having numerous investments but boost a quality labor force and job opportunities that could be able to provide compensation packages way more competitive-a win-win scenario for both economy as a whole and to each household.
Text and Photos by Arriane Dave Farnazo.