Next Sulong in Iligan City on Sept 14

The next leg of the Sulong Pilipinas workshops this year will be held in the city of Iligan in Northern Mindanao on Sept. 14, the Department of Finance (DOF) has said. Sulong Pilipinas is jointly organized by the government and the business community to receive the recommendations of the private sector on how the Duterte administration can better deliver its goal of a secure and comfortable life for every law-abiding Filipino.

Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Lambino II said the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) is helping organize this year’s series of the Sulong workshops.

The PCCI has been a strategic partner of the Sulong workshops since its inception in June 2016 before then-Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte took over as President.

The first Sulong this year was held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City, where participants submitted a list of 10 “actionable recommendations” on, among others, how the government could improve the delivery of social services, sharpen the competitiveness of the workforce and make the country a more attractive place for foreign investors.

This was followed by a Sulong Pilipinas held in Palo, Leyte, which was integrated into the PCCI’s Visayas Area Business Conference. Proposals related to agriculture, climate resilience, and disaster risk reduction, and tourism promotion emerged as the Visayan stakeholders’ highest priorities, garnering the highest number of votes during the consultative workshop.

Last year’s Sulong in Mindanao was held in Davao City, where it was first held three years ago to solicit citizen feedback on what eventually became then-incoming President Duterte’s zero-to-10-point socioeconomic reform agenda of his administration.

Lambino, a prime mover of Sulong since its inception in 2016, said the No. 1 recommendation presented by the private sector during the first Sulong at the PICC was the refinement of the K-12 basic education program through the skills enhancement of instructors and integration of in-demand skills in the curricula.

Landing at second and third places on the list, respectively, were the promotion of water security through the rehabilitation of existing water dams and the creation of a Cabinet-level Department in charge of water resources management; and ensuring the effective implementation of the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Law and appointment of the head of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), which was accomplished shortly thereafter, Lambino said.

Other recommendations on the list, ranked Nos. 4 to 6, were: making grants available to startups and enabling technology transfer to stimulate the growth of innovative digital startups; strengthening agricultural infrastructure and logistics to boost farm productivity; and amending the Magna Carta for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), enacting the Warehouse Receipts Act and Weather-Indexed Agricultural Insurance plus accelerating efforts to address high foreign shipping costs and port congestion.

The rest of the recommendations, ranked Nos. 7 to 10, were: ensuring strong agency performance by appointing competent technocrats as secretaries of key departments; enacting a modern and sustainable national policy in land and marine use; rehabilitating and upgrading major railways and airports to boost tourism; and amending the Public Services Act, Right of Way (ROW) Act, and the economic provisions of the Constitution to fast-track infrastructure development, Lambino said.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar, who responded during the PICC gathering to the recommendations on behalf of the Office of the President (OP), has said these inputs will continue to “help shape government direction in its crucial second half, as the administration redoubles its efforts to complete its human capital development and inclusive growth agenda.”

At Sulong Pilipinas–Leyte, the number one recommendation was the imperative to invest in and research on alternative, unique focus areas and tourism industries, particularly Agri-Tourism.

Also on the list were incentivizing or supporting the creation of farmer cooperatives and joint ventures with agri-investors; educating the public on solid waste management and providing more funds for Climate Risk Reduction and Resiliency (CRRR) programs; and incentivizing the acquisition of risk insurance for companies in disaster-prone areas.

“Diverse opinions – points of view from all over the archipelago – are crucial to the success of Sulong,” said Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua, who formally accepted the participants’ recommendations on behalf of government during the Leyte Sulong. “This was an excellent opportunity for government to listen to your thoughts on the progress the administration has made and what else needs to be done.”

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