Your move, Mr. President!
Politics must uplift, not debase; bring out the best, not the worst; bridge gaps, not create distance; heal, not harm. Words create worlds.â"Florin Hilbay (Solicitor General, 2014-2016)
These words of wisdom come at the time when the country struggles to wake up from a bad dream in which blood and tears soak the streets.
President Duterte promised change and the 16 million peopleâ"mostly coming from the ranks of overseas Filipino workers, the middle class and those in the business-process outsourcing industry (BPO)â"who elected him embraced his mantra to cleanse the country of illegal drugs, solve the traffic problem in three months, put an end to the endo system in business, stamp out corruption and accelerate economic development.
More than a year under his term, the country is still mired in the same problems he says heâll solve with dispatch. What we are now witnessing is the almost daily killings of suspected drug users and the seeming leniency to those who peddle these banned substances. Whatâs worrisome is that these problems have gotten worse than before.
The world noticed and Duterte was advised to recalibrate his governance methods. But he wonât listen, because as he often says with conviction: âI listen to no one.â
His governance is best defined by divisiveness. Heâs overly sensitive to dissent and anyone who crosses his path will be dealt with trump up charges. Sen. Leila M. de Lima was put behind bars, Supreme Court Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales are now facing impeachment before Congress, which composition is beholden to the President.
But Duterteâs abrasive and uncouth actions and his brutal war on drugs are now slowly turning off the very people who elected him to office.
The mercurial leaderâs approval rating has dropped to its lowest level in his 16 months in office . His net satisfaction rating, likewise, fell 18 points to 48, according to a nationwide Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey in late-September. His net trust rating fell from 75 in June to only 60. He lost badly in poorer areas, long seen as his support base.
As his approval rating nosedive, the Philippine economy goes down with it. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) records on the latest foreign direct investments (FDI) showed a momentous slowing down in new investments. The entry of new investments, not money ploughed into existing businesses, went down by 90.3 percent in the first six months of 2017â"$141 millionâ"compared to the same period last yearâ"$1.448 billion.
On Tuesday latest Central Bank record showed that the net inflow of job-creating FDI in the first seven months continued to fall behind year-ago levels, falling 16.5 percent to $3.9 billion. In July alone, FDIs declined by a faster 37.9 percent to $307 million, from $493 million in the same mont h last year, reversing the 182.7-percent year-on-year jump posted in June.
To make matters worse, an international human-rights group and a mission of international parliamentarians and civil-society leaders have cautioned that the Philippines is likely to be sanctioned from the United Nations and European Union (EU) if it fails to halt the killing of suspects and permit an independent investigation of the Presidentâs violent war on drugs. It is noteworthy that many EU countries have bilateral relations with us and Duterteâs policy is risking the countryâs good relations with governments around the world.
Also, parliamentarians affiliated the Progressive Alliance and the Party of European Socialists warned that the country may lose a preferential trade deal, which
allows 6,200 of our products to enter the European Union duty-free. The Generalized System of Preference Plus (GSP+) deal is under review and an EU report is expected in January.
The GSP+ re fers to the complete exclusion of tariffs on two-thirds of all product categories. The EUâs GSP affords developing countries, such as the Philippines, to pay less or no duties at all on their exports to the EU, giving these countries vibrant access to EU markets.
Although the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has issued an assurance that Philippine exports can endure the aftermath of such a possibility, its long-term negative effects should not be ruled out. The danger is in the snowballing of sanctions, which will affect EUâs direct investments in the Philippines. This is not farfetched, considering how these countries strictly adhere to the rule of law.
I cannot see any leeway for us to avoid such sanctions. For one, the President remains undeterred, and his bullheadedness is legendary. Also, his allies have closed ranks to protect at whatever cost Duterte and his governance. Combative against critics of the Duterte anti-drugs war, they often bring the fight straight to the gutter.
Whatâs more troubling is those who have current businesses in the Philippines are likely to pull out, including large BPO companies that employ thousands of call-center agents. The migration is not limited to American and European companies. As I have written in my previous column, the Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines had announced that several of its member- companies involved in manufacturing are moving to Vietnam, naming peace and order issues, rising costs and difficulty in doing business in the Philippines as the reasons.
The war on drugs has proved to be a bane and that wanton killings and disregard for the rule of law will not even exculpate the next generation from drug dependence and its hazards. It will fence it in to a life of poverty since the drug war will only lead the country to starvation by losing the investments it severely needs to push the economy onward.
The Duterte administration is banking on its â Build, Build, Buildâ program, which it trumpets to be the âgolden age of infrastructureâ. But its funding remains suspect with even Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia declaring that it will only be the âbronze ageâ at best.
The end of the year is just months away and from where I sit, projects that are to break ground this year, such as the 100-kilometer Clark-Subic railway; the 93-km Tutuban-Clark (via Malolos) railway; Phase 1 of the Mindanao railway; the Tutuban-Bicol line (via Calamba); and the Light Rail Transit-Metro Rail Transit Common Station in North Edsa, a monorail to connect Bonifacio Global City and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and a Bus Rapid Transit to traverse Edsa will not make it on time.
Records show that the Department of Transportation only spent 18 percent of its budget so far, in effect accomplishing less than 20 percent of its planned programs.
Where are we headed? The Duterte administration has four mo re years to effect meaningful changes. But I personally donât see a change in the firebrand Presidentâs flawed policies.
For comments and suggestions, e-mail me at [email protected]Source: Google News