Initiatives to sharpen the competitiveness of the country’s future workforce, improve the delivery of social services and attract more foreign direct investments (FDIs) top the list of “actionable” recommendations from the private sector during the first ‘Sulong Pilipinas’ workshop held this year.
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar, who received the recommendations on behalf of the Duterte administration during the recent workshop at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City, 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.”
According to Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito Lambino II, the No. 1 recommendation presented by the private sector during this year’s first Sulong workshop 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 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), Lambino said.
‘Sulong Pilipinas’ is the annual consultative conference between the Duterte administration and the private sector. This year, participants from civil society, development partners, the academe, and youth leaders engaged in workshops to produce 10 actionable recommendations, which have been effective in helping the government focus its efforts in implementing game-changing reforms.
Lambino has been a prime mover of ‘Sulong Pilipinas’ since it was first held in Davao City in June 2016 before then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte took over as President.
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.
The top 10 recommendations were presented by George Barcelon and Ma. Alegria Limjoco, chairman and president, respectively, of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), which has been a strategic partner of ‘Sulong Pilipinas’ since its inception.
“Even before the Duterte administration formally assumed office in 2016, Sulong was a demonstration of its willingness to listen,” said Limjoco.
“In our experience, these workshops with the public have been complemented by decisive action on the part of government,” Barcelon added.
In receiving the recommendations, Andanar reiterated the Duterte administration’s “strong emphasis on the wider public’s input in the crafting of public policy,” as he pointed out that previous top recommendations from Sulong participants have led to thecrafting of multiple packages of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP); the implementation of the “Build, Build, Build” program; and enactment of the National ID system; the EODB Act; and the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law.
During the Sulong workshop, which was held after the Pre-State of the Nation Address (Pre-SONA) forum of the Economic Development and Infrastructure Clusters of the Duterte Cabinet, Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua spoke about the progress the administration has made thus far in its socioeconomic agenda.
Chua reiterated the five key economic priorities for the second half of President Duterte’s term, as discussed earlier that day by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
These are: the accelerated implementation of “Build, Build, Build;” the passage of the remaining CTRP packages; the pursuit of reforms related to the increase in FDIs and jobs; the improved implementation of reforms (e.g. Ease of Doing Business and rice tariffication); and the strengthening of farm productivity.
This provided context for workshop participants–they included representatives from business, civil society, the academe, and the youth–as they engaged in discussions to identify the top actionable recommendations for government, Lambino said.
Andanar said the administration “will press ahead with game-changing reforms and decisive government action” towards eradicating extreme poverty and building a prosperous society by 2040.
Held last July 1, the first in a series of Sulong workshops scheduled this year comes at the midterm of the Duterte administration. It is the 7th leg of the annual consultative forum, counting from the time it was first convened in 2016.
During the inaugural ‘Sulong Pilipinas’ in 2016, participants gave their inputs on the Duterte administration’s Zero-to-10 Point Socioeconomic Reform Agenda, which helped deliver the CTRP, infrastructure modernization, national ID system; and the EODB Law, Lambino said.
Lambino said that the 2017 ‘Sulong Pilipinas’ recommendations on ensuring accessible primary healthcare for every Filipino led to the passage of the UHC Law and a new tobacco tax reform measure to help finance UHC.
Meanwhile, recommendations from Sulong 2018 on helping guide the administration’s push for reforms in agriculture, led to the implementation of programs under the Rice Liberalization Act, Lambino said.