Arangkada in the News

Continuity and consistency

by Melito Salazar Jr.

March 5, 2015

If one were to look for a model project of a business association, one would immediately choose “Arangkada Philippines” of the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines funded by USAID and administered by the American Chamber.  A 470-page document containing 471 recommendations that came out of a more than six months consultation and nine focus group discussions with nearly 300 Filipino and foreign investors supplemented by research into the advocacies of leading Filipino domestic business associations and foreign chambers of commerce, Arangkada Philippines is an example of how business groups with the interests of the Filipino people at heart consistently prod government to take the roadmap to Philippine progress.  Since its inception in 2010, its proponents continue to monitor government progress in each of the recommendations and praise government’s efforts to implement the recommendations and remind government when it begins to slow down or even standstill in making the right things happen.

Now on its fourth anniversary, the assessment shows that 76 or 17.04% of the recommendations have shown progress, meaning improved; 327 or 73.32% are steady with recommendations having unchanged ratings and 43 or 9.64% of recommendations with downgraded ratings meaning declined.  Compared to 4.11% in 2013, 4.55% were completed; 25.32% showed substantial progress in 2014 while it was only 20.35% in 2013; only 41.77% were started compared to 2013’s 46.10%; 19.05% compared to 2013’s 20.355 were not ongoing and 5.84% showed a regression or backward movement compared to 2013’s 5.63%.  It is clear that while there is progress, it is not the kind that will bring in the substantial harvest of progress for the Philippines.

Specific areas where the government needed to aggressively act but did not are reiterated in the group’s letter joined by domestic business associations to President Benigno S. Aquino III in July 21, 2014.  In institutionalizing integrity and good governance, the group asked for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act and for the rest of the government bureaucracy to follow the lead of the Department of Public Works and Highways to insist that companies wishing to bid for government contracts should sign the Integrity Initiative and submit themselves to doing clean and ethical business.

A roadmap for specific subsectors in agriculture as has already been done for certain industries by the Department of Trade and Industry was seen as necessary, together with adequate investments to increase agricultural productivity and improve the welfare of the farmers and fisher folks.   The retention of the existing Philippine Mining Act (why fix what is not broke?) and an internationally competitive fiscal regime for mining could result in substantial dividends to communities in mining areas and to the country as a whole.

An unending reminder has been the need to accelerate infrastructure development as the country outpaces the ASEAN and Asia in GDP growth rate.  The group reiterated its position for a multi-airport system, particularly NAIA, Clark and a future third airport to serve the current and prospective aviation requirements.  The expeditious construction of the NLEX-SLEX Connector, as well as to construct a feeder road that will connect it to the Port of Manila supplemented by shifting cargo traffic from the Port of Manila to the Ports of Subic and Batangas with parallel initiatives to stimulate economic activities in these areas and to reduce the cost of logistics.

With a power crisis looming, the group batted for the full and proper implementation of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act rather than introduce amendments leading to further investor uncertainty.  More investments would be seen if the government opens certain areas of the economy to greater foreign participation stimulating competition for the good of the Filipino consumer.

One wishes that next year as Arangkada Philippines celebrates its 5th anniversary just as President Aquino is about to end his term of office, all of the above will come true.  That would be a fitting Aquino legacy and a tribute to the continuing and consistent advocacy of the Arangkada Philippines advocates.


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