[OPINION] A forum for the future


Arangkada Philippines Project chief-of-party and American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) senior adviser John Forbes discusses the forum program and presents the latest Arangkada publication

The Joint Foreign Chambers of the
Philippines recently celebrated the
sixth anniversary of its Arangkada Philippines Forum at the Grand Ballroom
of the Marriott Hotel Manila in Pasay
City. With the theme Implementing the
Ten-Point Agenda, the forum discussed
key programs and policies that support
the achievement of President Duterte’s 
ten-point socioeconomic agenda for the
years ahead. Led by Arangkada Philippines Project chief-of-party and American Chamber of Commerce of the Phil
ippines (AmCham) senior adviser John
Forbes, the forum was attended by distinguished industry leaders from both the public and private sectors, including National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) secretary and director general Ernesto Pernia and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno. A prestigious roster of speakers, panelists, and moderators came together to discuss the many advocacies of the private sector that will surely lead to higher and more inclusive growth. Congratulations to the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines for a successful Arangkada Philippines Forum!

A new milestone for Robinsons Land Corp

Robinsons Land Corp., led by president Frederick Go, celebrated another milestone with the topping off ceremony for one of its prime projects, Chimes Greenhills. Located along Annapolis Street in San Juan City, the 40-storey mixed-use residential development under RLC’s Robinsons Communities brand also has a hotel component managed by Robinsons Hotels and Resorts. Seen in the photo during the noteworthy event are Robinsons Hotels and Resorts project director Bernardo Mariano, RLC project office head Rodanil De Silva, Robinsons Communities head of business development Edgardo Samson and head of sales Ferdinand Adriano, Robinsons Luxuria, Residences and Communities business unit general manager Henry Yap, Robinsons Infrastructure and Integrated Developments associate project director Glenn Encarnacion, Robinsons Hotels and Resorts director of sales Monica Casperino and RLC Allied Services and Support Departments assistant vice president lawyer John EvangelistaCongratulations to Robinsons Land Corporation for this award- winning development!

Source: https://www.philstar.com/business-usual/2017/11/20/1760440/forum-future

[OPINION] Continuity in advocacy

By Melito Salazar Jr. | Published 

If we want change to happen, there is a need to constantly and continually hammer on the advocacies that we espouse. Once we stop, there will be absolutely no chance for change to occur. That is why I understand and appreciate the unceasing efforts of family, friends, and sympathizers of Jonas Burgos who, up to today despite the frustrations including the acquittal of the military officer allegedly responsible for his disappearance and the non-appearance of witnesses, continue to persevere in ferreting out the truth.
Their hope is that at some future time they will succeed. Their yearnings are bolstered by recent developments that seem to indicate the creeping sensitiveness of the Duterte administration to public sentiments. The Duterte decision to make the PDEA the lead government agency in the fight against drugs and shifting the PNP focus to criminality is an example how overwhelming public concern can lead to meaningful change.
It is not only in societal issues that continuity of advocacy can produce results. A good example in the business arena is Arangkada Philippines, a derailed source of policy documents with recommendations from the foreign investment community to support increased foreign investment and the resultant job creation. Since the late 2010, Arangkada has prepared and published five policy briefs and seven policy notes in addition to its original book – Arangkada Philippines 2010: A Business Perspective. While sponsored by the seven members of the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFC) the policy papers and notes are a product of a consultative process involving academe, other thought leaders in a diverse field of expertise and other businessmen.
Building on the Seven Big Winner Sectors (agribusiness, business processing management, creative industries, infrastructure, manufacturing and logistics, mining and tourism, medical travel, and retirement), the recommendations are monitored to indicate progress and a sense of the seriousness of government. They are complemented by other reforms in the general business climate – business costs, environment and natural disasters, foreign equity and professionals, governance, judicial, labor, legislation, local government, macroeconomic policy, security, social services for education, health, and population and poverty.
Progress of implementation are brought up to the highest level of the Philippine government like President Benigno Aquino just as was done in March 7, 2016. Recently, the JFC organized the six annual Arangkada Forum on the theme “Implementing the 10-point Agenda of the President Rodrigo Duterte Administration” with five panels discussing key programs, policies, and programs supporting the agenda and grouped as follows: Muscling the Economy: Filling the Infrastructure Gap; Philippine Industrial Revolution: Manufacturing, Logistics, and Mining; Game Changers: Agribusiness, Creative Industries, and Tourism; Disruptive Technologies: Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Drones, Robots, etc.; and Philippine Workforce 2030: Human Capital Challenges and Solutions. Even just a cursory look at the Duterte economic agenda reveals that much is anchored on previous recommendations of Arangkada and thus it was not difficult to marry the two and identify priority areas for action. Such areas can be gleaned from comparing 2017 metrics with 2016 such as average broadband speed at 4.5 Mbps compared to 1Mbps; BPO employment of 1,300,000 compared to 536,128; foreign direct investment of $7.9 billion in contrast to $1.1 billion; and unemployment rate of 5.5% compared to 7.30%.
Accomplishments are clear but the road ahead is replete with challenges for the Philippines still lags behind its ASEAN partners in terms of overall competitiveness. The World Economic Forum 2016-2017 Global Competitiveness Report identified problematic areas that affect competitiveness – inefficient government bureaucracy, inadequate supply of infrastructure, corruption, tax rates, tax regulations, policy stability and restrictive labor regulations.
It is clear that while the 10-point Duterte agenda addresses some of these areas, it can only succeed if all of the areas are acted upon. We are fortunate that we have JFC through Arangkada that will continuously monitor and sustain their advocacy for inclusive economic growth. One wishes all other advocates would ascribe to continuity and sustainability. Only then can real change occur.

[OPINION] Faster than average

SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 11, 2017 – 12:00am

The actual numbers are still high: 67 percent satisfied, and 73 percent with “much trust” in President Duterte.

Since pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS) started taking surveys when Corazon Aquino was in power, all presidents have seen their ratings slide, with the initial high score never regained.

So Duterte need not be overly concerned. The fall in his satisfaction and trust ratings was just a matter of time.

What should bother him is the sharpness of the fall. The satisfaction rating plunged from 78 percent in the second quarter to 67 percent in the next three months, and trust from 82 to 73 percent – a decline that SWS president Mahar Mangahas described as “a little faster than average.”

The fall is steeper in net figures, or the number of satisfied against the dissatisfied: 48 percent, down from 66. The net trust rating also fell sharply, from 75 percent to 60. If Duterte continues to suffer a double-digit drop in every quarterly survey, his numbers could fall below zero in less than two years.

As Mangahas pointed out, Noynoy Aquino enjoyed the longest “honeymoon period” among the post-EDSA presidents, enjoying good ratings for over three years, with the numbers falling only after the slaughter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos also did better than Duterte but Joseph Estrada fared worse.

Mangahas said Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did not enjoy a honeymoon period. This should be reassuring for Duterte and his supporters; GMA has been the longest serving president of the republic since Ferdinand Marcos.

Echoing the reactions of previous presidents, Palace aides said Duterte is not engaged in a popularity contest. Asked if the honeymoon is over, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said, “The love is still there.”

Mangahas said presidents should expect respect rather than love, and should give “satisfactory service.”

* * *

I don’t know if you can call it respect, but lawmakers’ support for the Malacañang occupant tends to be influenced by popularity as reflected in survey ratings. Congressional support can of course be swayed by Malacañang’s clever utilization of public funds, including the crude but timely distribution of cash gifts in brown paper bags during crisis situations. But high popularity is the easier, cheaper way for a president to keep a super majority intact in Congress.

When there’s a precipitous drop in a president’s survey ratings, the political butterflies smell blood. There can be greater resistance to a president’s legislative agenda.

A steep drop in popularity this early in a six-year term also weakens a president’s endorsement power, which is critical for his allies in the mid-term elections less than two years from now.

If alliances, tenuous to begin with, begin fraying, even Duterte’s top priority, his war on illegal drugs, can suffer. There will be greater resistance to his brutal methods, and more cooperation with the individuals now documenting abuses that could bolster accusations of state-sponsored summary executions of drug suspects.

* * *

The other major pollster, Pulse Asia, is expected to come out with the results of its third quarter survey shortly. The two pollsters usually have similar results, so the SWS findings will likely be affirmed in the Pulse Asia survey.

Without waiting for the affirmation, the administration can start assessing what can be done to stop or even reverse the slide in the President’s ratings.

The steep fall indicates growing impatience for results in several areas. Since the President failed to deliver on his self-imposed deadline of six months to eliminate the drug menace, as he claims he did in his home city of Davao, he should deliver solid results in other areas.

He can jettison some of the incompetent members of his team, whose appointments are clearly just for political accommodation. Public services are suffering, the incompetents are wasting people’s money, and it’s the President’s image that’s taking a hit. After a year and a half, amateur hour and the period for repaying political debts should be over. The public can be spared from these NPAs or non-performing asses (that’s right, the donkey).

The President can address some of the sources of disaffection during the previous administration, which contributed to his dramatic rise to power. For example, I still don’t have my driver’s license card a year after I was given a provisional license, and my car still doesn’t have license plates. These are common complaints.

Last week the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Employers Confederation of the Philippines expressed exasperation over the political bickering and the weak focus on project implementation. They’re “sick and tired” of the political noise, one business leader lamented. The Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines also recently released its assessment of progress on the President’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda.

No one expects Duterte to stop his war on drugs because of his slipping ratings. But the sharp fall should tell him that the means to his end could use a recalibration. His ratings plummeted during a survey period that covered public dismay over the killings of teenagers and other abuses related to the campaign against the drug menace and criminality.

The campaign has also suffered from perceptions of being selective, with Duterte supporters shielded from Tokhang and Double Barrel. He has accused Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, not entirely without basis, of selective justice, so he should also avoid selectiveness in his own causes. Whether in fighting the drug menace or corruption, he must be an equal opportunity tormentor. Admittedly, this may be a pipe dream in our society.

Duterte’s avowed abhorrence of corruption, shaken by accusations against him and his family, can still be burnished if he launches an anti-graft campaign with the same zeal that he has applied in going after notorious drug dealers.

Much can be achieved by a popular president, and there are many world leaders who can only dream of having satisfaction and trust ratings in the 60s and 70s.

Popularity is a precious commodity that must not be squandered.

Source: https://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/10/11/1747575/faster-average

[VIDEOS] The Arangkada Philippines Forum 2017

Watch the full coverage of the recently concluded sixth anniversary Arangkada Philippines Forum 2017 below:

Opening Remarks and Keynote Speech

Filling the Infrastructure Gap

Manufacturing, Logistics, and Mining


Agribusiness, Creative Industries, and Tourism

Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Drones, Robots, Etc.

Human Capital Challenges and Solutions

Arangkada Lifetime Achievement Award and Closing Remarks

[OPINION] The war on poverty

DURING the Arangkada Forum on September 14, there was much focus on sectors with substantial growth potential—including agriculture, creative industries, ICT, manufacturing, mining, logistics and tourism. In my panel, we discussed agriculture, creative industries and tourism. Inclusive growth and raising the poor out of poverty through employment generation were issues raised by all panelists, given the fact that the high rate of poverty and the high number of poor citizens has been a persistent development challenge in the Philippines.

Within the Asean region, Malaysia and Thailand have nearly eliminated poverty below $1.25 a day in their countries, while Indonesia and Vietnam have made better progress in this indicator of development than the Philippines. These countries in past decades (to varying degrees) have had more economic growth, more investment and quality job creation, fewer national disasters and better political and policy stability than the Philippines.

In recent years, however, the Philippines is doing better. With consistent stronger economic growth, higher domestic and foreign investment, better governance and a declining population growth rate, the poverty rate is declining. The targeted rate of reduction of the Duterte administration is 1.5 percent per year so that the percentage of Filipinos in poverty in 2022 will decline to 17 percent.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, farmers and fishermen are among the poorest in the country: “Among the nine basic sectors, farmers, fishermen and children belonging to families with income below the official poverty threshold or poor families posted the highest poverty incidences in 2015 at 34.3 percent, 34 percent and 31.4 percent, respectively. These sectors consistently registered as the three sectors with the highest poverty incidence in 2006, 2009 and 2012. Also, 5 of the 9 basic sectors consisting of farmers, fishermen, children, self-employed, unpaid family workers and women, belonging to poor families  had higher poverty incidence than the general population estimated at 21.6 percent in 2015.”

The poor are often hungry. Their diet is inadequate. Their children are frequently malnourished and stunted. In Metro Manila there are more than 300,000 families living without shelter and under bridges. These families need a massive improvement in nutrition. Urban farming is one of the options to address this and improve the learning capacity of poor children in school. Better nutrition needs to go hand-in-hand with the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. CCT now assists 4.4 million households totaling 20 million Filipinos. The transfers are provided directly to recipients on the condition that their children are inoculated and participate in school feeding programs to combat childhood diseases and malnutrition. Total funding increased from  P10 billion in 2010 to P79 billion in the 2017 budget.

Quite a number of recommendations were made at the Arangkada Forum to improve social-protection programs, including the government’s CCT program, to protect the poor (I selected a few).


  • Continue to reduce number of poor in absolute terms and as percentage of population.
  • Continue to reduce the incidence of hunger.
  • Expand insurance coverage to include more poor.
  • Successfully implement expanded CCT program to include all 6.9 million poor
  • Implement unemployment insurance as a social safety net.
  • Enhance CCT program to ensure that the rights of poor children are upheld and to help child beneficiaries and their families to become more self-sufficient and self-reliant. (Urban farming is the way to go; the city of Quezon City is doing well along this line).
  • Create jobs and economic opportunities. Job creation in the industrial, agricultural and service sectors will be facilitated by the government, in collaboration with the private sector.
  • Implementation of national identifaiction card (ID) system for improved targeting of social services. Participants identified the pressing need to institute a national ID system that will allow government agencies to provide more targeted social services, and prevent double counting or leakage.

As the focus of my column is agribusiness, we need to deliver support services to farmers and fishermen, such as financing, incentives, technology, irrigation, post-harvest facilities, farm-to-market roads, improved logistics and integration in the supply chain to fully develop the potential of the agricultural industry to develop rural areas and the countryside.

As a consequence, some 20 million rural Filipinos can be lifted out of poverty. And the children of farmer will stop moving from rural areas to urban centers or become  overseas Filipino workers. Isn’t this what the 10-point socioeconomic agenda of the Duterte administration has in mind? Fighting poverty in agriculture?      

Source: https://businessmirror.com.ph/the-war-on-poverty/         

[OPINION] Competitiveness

DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) 


HANOI – I arrived in this city past midnight last Thursday curious to see what makes this once war-torn country so attractive to foreign investors. I am here more as a tourist out to enjoy the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam which is actually over 1000 years old.

I was just reading on the history of Vietnam before I boarded the CebuPacific flight and couldn’t help but marvel at how the Vietnamese people handled the Chinese, its neighbors, the French and the Americans. It seems they played them off through the thousand years and ended up the strong nation that it is today.

Hanoi is a fascinating city, rich in history with the fine mingling of the various influences it had through the years. The French influence is strong, and so is the Chinese. A proud people, it has fought and won wars against China, and later on with the French and the Americans.

Today, it has emerged as one of the most competitive nations in ASEAN, overtaking the Philippines in terms of ability to attract direct foreign investments. Though it had problems with corruption in recent years, the communist government has been able to fight back and, unlike us, they have executed and jailed some senior officials accused of corrupt practices.

Even Filipino capitalists have been attracted to invest in Vietnam. Aboitiz is the most recent investor here, buying 70 percent of Vietnam-based Eurofeed for $3.7 million. Already operating in Vietnam for decades is Filipino snack food maker Oishi, Jollibee, San Miguel and Universal Robina.

Low key Vietnamese communist leaders have been providing the necessary leadership that has been powering Vietnam, helping it emerge as an economic powerhouse in Asean. As one Vietnamese commented to me, their communist leaders were pragmatic enough to adopt free market policies that made their economy grow.

We can learn from their experience to improve our investment climate. We need a leadership who believes strongly in our country’s economic potentials that he will do everything he must to get us back in fighting form. For the country, that someone can only be the President. His economic managers alone will not be able to do it.

As we drove on Vietnam’s superb highway on our way to Halong Bay, our guide talked of how the Build Operate Transfer scheme was well utilized by their government to quickly expand infrastructure. Indeed it is easy to see why Vietnam is overtaking us from the extent and quality of their infrastructure.

Of course their airport is a lot better than our NAIA. When we left Manila, the air conditioning of Terminal 3 was not working well. It is as if P-Noy’s old airport manager is still running NAIA. Ano ba yan?

A recent Arangkada business forum highlighted things we should do by way of reforms and practices to make us more competitive. The daylong forum had an audience of stakeholders providing insights on how government can address the same old investor concerns.

Indeed, the concerns are well founded and haven’t changed much. The most recent Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018, didn’t have good news. While it showed the Philippines going up in global competitiveness rankings by one notch, from 57th in 2016 to 56th in 2017, it showed us sliding down the ASEAN rankings. We are now standing at 8th in the region from 6th in 2016.

This two-point drop in regional standing means we are now below Vietnam and Brunei Darussalam, which both scored large improvement in competitiveness. We are the only country with a considerable decline in regional ranking.

The ratings are calculated by drawing together country-level data covering 12 categories – the pillars of competitiveness – that collectively make up a comprehensive picture of a country’s competitiveness. The 12 pillars are: Institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication, and innovation.

The Executive Opinion Survey, a major component of the report, showed the most problematic factors for doing business in the Philippines also remain the same: Inefficient government bureaucracy (same rank in 2016), inadequate supply of infrastructure (same rank in 2016), corruption (same rank in 2016). Tax regulations are now in 4th, a spot higher than last year, while tax rates slip fee one spot, now at 5th.

The indicators that showed our bad side include: the number of procedures to start a business (ranked last out of 137), tuberculosis incidence (126th; not in the top five disadvantages of the previous year), burden of customs procedures (ranked 125th, down four spots from 2016), business cost of terrorism (ranked 125th, down five spots from 2016), and quality of air transport infrastructure (ranked 124th, down eight spots from 2016).

We made gains in terms of market size, but that’s a function of increasing population.  Labor market efficiency is up four notches and higher education and training is up three notches.

Macroeconomic Environment remains as the country’s highest-ranking pillar; however, now at 22nd, it has slid down two spots from its 2016 ranking at 20th. Financial Market has also slid down, four notches from 48 in 2016, to 52 in 2017, but remains the third-highest pillar of the country.

We ranked first out of 137 countries in inflation, HIV prevalence (ranked 1st), government budget balance (ranked 24th), business impact of malaria (26th), domestic market size index (27th), and available airline seat kilometers (27th).

Out of the five top-ranked competitive advantages, government budget balance slid down seven spots from 2016, while domestic market size gained three notches up from the previous year.

In the region, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Brunei Darussalam made the largest strides in terms of rankings, with Indonesia going up five notches, Vietnam with a five-notch gain, and Brunei with the most significant improvement in the region, jumping 12 spots from its rank the previous year.

The report also highlights why Build Build Build must happen and faster than our bureaucracy seems capable of implementing. We trail behind our ASEAN neighbors in almost all measures of infrastructure. We ranked lowest in ASEAN in terms of “quality of overall infrastructure”, in “quality of roads”and in “quality of air transport infrastructure.”

The quality of air transport infrastructure was identified as one of the country’s greatest disadvantages, ranking 124th out of 137 countries. This is why I nag DOTr.

DPWH must also move faster. The quality of other infrastructure such as roads and ports are also seen as big disadvantages.

Analysts say the Philippines should equal or exceed Indonesia and Vietnam in the next few years, and Thailand in the medium term in terms of rankings in major global competitiveness indices… or be truly left behind. According to the report, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Lao PDR, and Mongolia could all make large gains in competitiveness at a relatively lower cost by improving their performance on infrastructure, health, and education.

Commenting on my Facebook post on how Vietnam overtook the Philippines in competitiveness, business professor Rogelio Viray Paglomutan, who used to teach in Vietnam, said this should be expected.  Vietnam and Indonesia, he said, have the lowest costs of electricity in the region, coupled with excellent peace and order in Vietnam (as a gunless society) and much less bureaucratic red tape in government permits/approvals.

But ironically, he said, many of the supervisors/managers of companies there are Filipinos. He has personally interacted with Filipino supervisors/engineers in Vietnam.

Prof. Paglomutan is correct. We have what it takes to be competitive and beat Vietnam in the rankings. But we need to have the heart and the imagination to make ourselves economically competitive with our neighbors. We just need our leadership to make that happen.

Source: https://www.philstar.com:8080/business/2017/10/09/1746790/competitiveness

EDITORIAL – Remember the socioeconomic agenda


Business confidence remains up and the stock market is hitting new highs. Recent political turbulence, however, is starting to stir concern in the business community. The other day, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged the government to focus more on project implementation and less on politics.

Last month, the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines came out with the latest assessment of proposals for accelerating the country’s economic growth, with a report focusing on the implementation of President Duterte’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda. The 10 priorities were applauded when they were announced by the President at the start of his term.

In the report published by the Arangkada Philippines Project, there’s a long list of detailed proposals for accelerating growth that should keep the Duterte administration preoccupied for the next five years. The business community has remained generally bullish about the country’s economic prospects under President Duterte. This positive sentiment, however, must be sustained by stability, clear objectives and a viable plan for attaining them.

The President has been bickering with his critics both in the country and overseas since Day One, but he has made the right noises about creating a business-friendly environment nationwide. The Arangkada report includes data showing that the country is lagging behind the five other major economies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in terms of numerous growth indicators. Recent developments, however, are raising concerns that efforts to implement the President’s socioeconomic agenda might take a backseat to political feuding.

The Arangkada report includes assessments and recommendations on macroeconomic policies, improving competitiveness and ease of doing business, infrastructure building, rural development including tourism and agribusiness, human capital development and reproductive health as well as promoting science, technology, manufacturing and the creative industries.

People generally acknowledge the seriousness of the drug menace and the need to fight it decisively. A low crime rate is always good for business and economic growth. The dispute stems from the approach to the problem and the abuses committed by some of those tasked to wage the war on drugs. This battle can still be recalibrated to blunt criticism, and the government can then give appropriate attention to many other pressing matters of state. There’s a 10-point socioeconomic agenda waiting to be pursued in earnest.

Source: https://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/10/08/1746555/editorial-remember-socioeconomic-agenda

[OPINION] Strong democracies


Two strong democracies celebrated their National Day yesterday, although their embassy receptions in Manila are always held on different dates. Last night was the reception of South Korea; today is the reception for German Unification.

The two countries are good examples of functioning democracies that sprung from wars including fratricidal armed conflict. Germany has overcome the challenges of unification to become Europe’s strongest economy.

All countries have problems, but both nations have worked to ensure that the elements needed for democracy to work are in place, starting with the rule of law, which is one of the foundations of free rather than anarchic societies.


Germany is now promoting not merely justice for its people but “global justice” and “strength of the law” as foundations for “global governance.” We’ll be happy with justice for ordinary Pinoys, and not just for those who can afford expensive lawyers and accountants.

Several expats from advanced economies have told me that perhaps the only thing that can end our intractable problems – patronage politics, the stranglehold of a miniscule fraction of the population on power and wealth, the shameless rent-seeking, corruption and tribalism – is a war as blood-drenched as their civil wars and revolutions. There should be so much blood in the streets, the expats said, that people would be sickened by the violence and vow to work together to prevent further bloodshed.

Our bloodless people power revolt, they acknowledged, restored democracy – a feat so impressive it truly seemed like a miracle. But structural weaknesses and social injustice remained in place. And those behind the world-class looting and gross human rights violations during the dictatorship have never been punished.

Modern South Korean society emerged after a civil war that divided the Korean Peninsula. The war was brutal and drenched the country in blood, but Koreans told me that it had an unintended upside: it became a social equalizer. A Korean who was a young boy at the time of the war remembered everyone becoming impoverished, scrounging for food, and then uniting to rise from the ashes of death and destruction.

Today South Korea is one of the few countries that can boast of economic growth that is generally inclusive. Graft and crony capitalism became problems after the war, but the country saw to it that anti-corruption laws were applied to all, sending to prison two presidents and crooked heads of the chaebolsor business conglomerates that are mostly family-owned.

The country remains technically at war with its increasingly belligerent northern neighbor, which could account for the South’s competitive spirit.

How does one succeed in competition? By capacity-building. Like other top Asian economies, South Korea has invested heavily in every nation’s most precious resource, its people – through quality education and constant skills upgrading, through programs encouraging innovation and creativity. It has also invested in decent public health care.

Like other prosperous, inclusive economies, the Koreans also strengthened institutions particularly the justice system so that the rule of law would prevail and leveling the playing field would not be mere political rhetoric.

From the results of Oplan Tokhang and Double Barrel, we can see the limitations of killing. By learning from others’ experiences, we can skip the bloodshed proposed by the desperate and get serious about implementing long-needed reforms.

* * *

Many proposals that don’t call for bloodshed have been offered by the business community. I’m going over the “Arangkada Philippines and the Ten-Point Socio-Economic Agenda of the Duterte Administration” – a publication of The Arangkada Philippines Project, with American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc. senior advisor John Forbes as the principal author. TAPP was launched by the Joint Foreign Chambers six years ago to encourage faster economic acceleration of the country.

I’m still in Chapter 2, but several suggestions on increasing competitiveness and ease of doing business are worth presenting here. One notable observation, from the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), is that the 1987 Constitution has an inherent flaw: “the integration of economic policies into its provisions.”

“While a Constitution embodies the fundamental law of the land and lays down principles and general guidelines, economic policy must be more specific, changeable, and consist of programs that cater to the changing needs and challenges of market fluctuations,” MAP declared in a position paper.

Amending the Constitution remains iffy at this point, but there are other proposals in the Arangkada report that are doable.

One is for the President to just issue executive orders for key reforms, instead of waiting for the necessary legislation. Congress can later pass the laws to formalize the measures in the EOs.

There’s a snag here, which we saw when Duterte issued an EO on the reproductive health law: the Supreme Court effectively stopped the EO implementation. Du30 might yet get his revenge on the SC and its chief.

Other sound proposals in the Arangkada, but which the notoriously self-absorbed congressional super majority will surely reject, are the strengthening of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, and the amendment of the law on the secrecy of bank deposits, so that all government officials, whether elected or appointed, can’t invoke the secrecy privilege.

Apart from several much-amplified proposals for improving the justice system, Arangkada suggests limiting the cases handled by the SC to national issues to reduce its workload and speed up the final resolution of cases.

Another is to strengthen “economic justice” by setting up special courts to handle specific matters such as contract enforcement and land dispute settlement. There can be courts dedicated to infrastructure cases, commercial issues, cybercrime and the environment.

Also suggested is the greater use of alternative dispute resolution and arbitration for out-of-court settlement of civil disputes.

The Arangkada calls for increasing the pay of members of the judiciary, boosting scientific investigation capabilities, hiring more judges and strengthening the Office of the Ombudsman.

We should also push for an improvement in the appointment and promotion system in the justice sector so that it becomes much less politicized. The flawed system is one of the biggest reasons for corruption, incompetence and inefficiency in the justice system.

The Arangkada report includes tables showing the Philippines lagging behind ASEAN’s top six economies in several areas including police efficiency.

We’re still a long way from achieving the levels of development of Germany and South Korea. But we’re aware of our problems and there are suggestions from various sectors on what can be done. Many of the suggestions, however, will put an end to rent-seeking and the monopolistic perks enjoyed by political clans and the nation’s wealthiest.

If the political leadership sits on the suggestions, it renders proposals born of desperation attractive.

[OPINION] Judicial Issues and Corruption


During the very well attended Arangkada Forum on September 14, there was much focus on sectors with substantial growth potential—including agriculture, creative industries, information and communications technology, manufacturing, mining, logistics and tourism. But—not surprisingly—the cost of doing business, judicial issues and corruption were raised in many panel discussions.

In building a competitive business environment, judicial and anticorruption policies are very important to attract and to keep investors. Reforms in the administration of justice are ongoing, but their implementation should be continuously intensified.

Some of the problematic factors in the WEF competitiveness ranking pertained to the judicial and security problems that afflict the Philippines. According to the WEF ratings, investors also identified corruption (16.9 percent), policy instability (7 percent) and crime and theft (3 percent). The Supreme Court and the judicial system it administers face major challenges, such as case backlog, using modern technology and obtaining more funding. These are factors that investors very much consider before they invest in a particular country and comprises of what makes a country competitive.

Clogged courts have long been an issue in the Philippine judiciary system. It often takes numerous years to have a case decided and, as new cases come every year, caseloads have piled up. Major reforms have been introduced under the leadership of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno, including computerization of decisions, court records and continuous trials.

Corruption has long been a major concern for doing business in the country. Only in recent years has it moved down from first to third place in the WEF assessment to be slightly below red tape and poor infrastructure. In the Transparency International annual Corruption Perception Index the Philippines improved from 134th in 2010 to 101st in 2016, yet is still ranked in the bottom 50 percent, along with Indonesia, Thailand  and Vietnam.

The Arangkada Team has listed 26 recommendations; I have taken the liberty to reduce the recommendations a bit:

  1. Continue to increase judicial salaries and hire more judges, encouraging new judges to reduce the case backlog more. Steadily raise the budget for the judicial branch.
  2. Make greater use of alternative dispute resolution and arbitration to resolve civil disputes outside of courts, which should reduce the backlog of cases and hasten justice.
  3. Reduce the caseload of the Supreme Court by limiting acceptance of cases largely to cases involving national issues.
  4. The Ombudsman should improve its capability to investigate and prosecute allegations of corruption against public officials. The Sandiganbayan should reduce its backlog of cases and increase it conviction rate.
  5. Pass amendments to the Ombudsman Act to Strengthen the Ombudsman as an Institution, Upgrading of Ombudsman Employee Skills, Augmenting Compensation and Benefits, and Enhancing Fiscal Autonomy.
  6. The government must demonstrate through consistent example that it has the political will to greatly reduce corruption. Investigating, bringing charges against and successfully prosecuting government officials and private-sector persons and corporations guilty of not paying proper taxes, bribery and other major corrupt acts must be sustained.
  7. Public officials and private persons found guilty of major corrupt activities should, after a fair trial, be punished with heavy sentences, including imprisonment and seizure of assets.
  8. Strengthen the anticorruption legal framework by passing: a) anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act amendments; b) Witness Protection Act; and c) Whistleblowers Protection Act.
  9. Pass laws to exempt BIR and BOC employees from the Salary Standardization Act (or, better, privatize the activities of both government organizations).
  10. Appropriate resources should be provided to the justice- sector actors to support the fair administration of justice.
  11. Strengthen economic justice. Establish and enhance special courts that will address specific cases and pursue contract enforcement. For instance, infrastructure courts, commercial courts, cybercrime courts and environmental courts.
  12. Streamline rules on the disposition of land cases. The Supreme Court should study the need to designate special courts on land- dispute settlement.
  13. Raise scientific-investigation capabilities and strengthen witness and whistleblower
  14. Reinforce alternative ADR mechanisms so that courts can refer cases for ADR and help in the speedy disposition of cases.
  15. Information and communication technology should be used sector-wide to help address fragmentation in the justice system and greatly enhance the information management of the whole justice sector.

There is no doubt that good intensions by the government and the private sector are not enough; judicial reform and anticorruption initiatives are needed to successfully implement the 10-point socioeconomic agenda of the Duterte administration.

Image Credits: Skypixel | Dreamstime

Source: https://businessmirror.com.ph/judicial-issues-and-corruption/

Eastern Communications joins JFC in support of Phl economic growth at 6th Arangkada Philippines Forum

Posted on Sep 26 2017 – 8:45pm by Upgrade Staff

The Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFC) held the 6th Arangkada forum, themed “Implementing the 10-Point Agenda”. Co-sponsored by Eastern Communications, the 6th Arangkada Philippines Forum tackled the acceleration of the country’s economic growth using the administration’s 10-point Socioeconomic Agenda, which includes recommendations on key programs and policies in the fields of agribusiness, business processing management, infrastructure (telecommunications, water, transportation and power), manufacturing, logistics, mining and tourism.

(From left) Mary Grace Villaruel, Eastern Communications Market Intelligence Specialist , John D. Forbes, Chief of Party, The Arangkada Philippines Project and Senior Adviser, The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Bruce Winton, President, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Jurelyn San Antonio, Eastern Communications, Campaign Management Coordinator, Hiroshi Shiraishi, President, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, Inc., Melanie Tabuena – Eastern Communications Product Management Specialist and Sidney Esteron, Eastern Communications Associate Account Manager

The 10-point Socioeconomic Agenda aims to spur self-sustaining and inclusive growth throughout the country, with its successful implementation depending not only on the efforts of the government but also the active participation of the business community. The fastest growing of the larger ASEAN-6 economies, Philippines’ economy has been seeing significant developments , with its gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaging 6.3 percent from 2011 to 2016.

However, National Competitiveness Council (NCC-private sector) Co-chair Guillermo M. Luz also pointed out the struggle to keep up with neighboring countries.

“In the report for global competitiveness or global competitiveness Index, we’re ranked 47th in 2015 but we slipped in the last year to 57th. This is a reminder that if we slow down (even) for a little bit, if we relax too much, other countries will move up,” Luz said.

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To speed up the country’s economic growth, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Usec. Denis Vilorente stressed the importance of filling in the infrastructure gap. Among the projects needed are the proposed Mega Manila subway, construction and rehabilitation of airports and seaports, construction of 13 new bridges across Pasig River, and the rehabilitation of Guadalupe Bridge.

The modernization of the country’s telecommunication infrastructure is another challenge that needs to be addressed. As estimated by the World Bank, a country can achieve a 1.38-percent increase in its GDP if the broadband penetration is increased by 10 percent. Competitive digital connectivity can lower the cost of doing business while the digitization of processes and providing convenient online applications and licensing can cut down processing time and curb red tape, thus increasing the ease of doing business in the country.

DICT Undersecretary Dennis Vilorente said that they are now working on the reform of the public sector document processing through digital transactions and urging the local governments and agencies to make use of the GovCloud to reduce the paper filing for private firms and individuals.

The JFC recommends supporting start-up ventures to encourage the industry to move up the chain towards more technology and innovation driven ventures.

As one of the country’s telecommunications companies, Eastern Communications understands the role played by digital connectivity in spurring a country’s continued economic growth. Modernizing the country’s telecommunication infrastructure coupled with stronger start-up and SME support prompts a series of positive effects on the economy, such as bringing in investments, creating jobs, initiating innovations, and forming a progressive entrepreneurial industry.

Source: https://www.upgrademag.com/web/2017/09/26/eastern-communications-joins-jfc-in-support-of-phl-economic-growth-at-6th-arangkada-philippines-forum/