DAVAO CITY—Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has said that spinning off the annual “Sulong Pilipinas” consultative conference into regional forums across the country underscores the importance given by the Duterte administration to the business sector in its pursuit of high and inclusive growth.
Dominguez said the government doubled its efforts this year to connect with the private sector by involving small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), which represent “a crucial component in our economy,” given that they account for 99 percent of business entities and employ the bulk of the country’s workforce.
To also step up such efforts, regional workshops, now dubbed the “Sulong Pilipinas-Philippine Development Forum (PDF),” were held earlier in Cebu City last Nov. 9, in San Fernando City in La Union on Nov. 14, and on Nov. 26 at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.
“We believe consultations between government and the private sector should be an ongoing affair,” said Dominguez at a news conference here during a break at the daylong “Sulong” workshop held here on Wednesday (Nov. 28).
“To improve representation of all parts of the country and increase access for stakeholders, we have decided to hold regional forums, with the purpose of primarily gathering the inputs and recommendations of representatives from our small and medium enterprises or SMEs,” he added.
“Here in Davao, where businesses are flourishing, and the spate of infrastructure investments under President Duterte’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program will catalyze its growth potential, we anticipate a lively discussion in the country’s robust economic and fiscal position,” Dominguez said. “We also anticipate a wealth of insight from the private sector on how to power our economic breakthrough.”
Dominguez said the earlier forums held in Luzon and Visayas secured for the government the support of SMEs and the rest of the business sector in its proposed lowering of the corporate income tax (CIT), which, they said, would enable them to expand their businesses, raise their employees’ salaries and even hire more workers.
He said SMEs have also backed the reforms outlined in the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) law, especially the provision on the “zero-contact” policy, which they believe will create the most significant positive impact.
“Sulong Pilipinas has proven to be an effective mechanism for providing SMEs a voice in the shaping of policy,” Dominguez said.
The forums in Cebu and San Fernando yielded a new set of action programs for the government, with the need to increase agricultural output through better access and improved public investment in new farm technology emerging as the business sector’s top recommendation.
Dominguez said the business sector also cited the need to implement efficient mass transport systems to ease traffic congestion; simplify loan requirements and offer low interest rates, especially for SMEs; speed up processing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of licenses and certificates of product registration; allow the filing and paying of taxes by SMEs online; and streamline government processes and further reduce red tape.
In Clark, improving the access of poor communities to education and healthcare; modernizing agriculture; increasing police visibility; and decongesting Metro Manila were among the top recommendations of the private sector.
Earlier at the “Sulong” forum here, Dominguez said the Duterte administration has delivered on several key recommendations put forth two years ago by the private sector to help the government supercharge the economy and fulfill its goal of inclusive growth, notably on improving the ease of doing business, implementing a national identification (ID) system and instituting tax reform.
Dominguez said the government also responded to the call of the business sector to modernize the country’s infrastructure and logistics network with an ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program that is now powering the economy and providing a strong base for sustained high growth.
These recommendations, Dominguez recalled, were fleshed out by leaders of the business community during the first-ever “Sulong Pilipinas” consultative conference held on June 2016 here in the midst of the preparations for the then-transition to the new presidency of Rodrigo Duterte.
This year’s “Sulong” regional workshops are jointly organized by the DOF and the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), along with the Departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), of Trade and Industry (DTI), of Transportation (DOTr), and of Budget and Management (DBM); National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA); Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP); Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA); and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).