Business groups urge Aquino to act on 8-point economic reform
MANILA, Philippines – Energy and power; education and human resources development; economic integration in Southeast Asia; port congestion; traffic congestion; transportation and infrastructure; agriculture; and rehabilitation in Super Typhoon Yolanda-hit areas in Eastern Visayas are the 8-point reform areas that businessmen urge the government to act on.
At the concluding ceremonies of the 40th Philippine Business Conference (PBC) on Friday, October 24, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) urged the administration to formulate an integrated and sustainable energy and power roadmap in anticipation of the looming power crisis in the summer of 2015.
Accompany that roadmap with a definite target level of power supply capacity and well-defined process and timeline, PCCI urged.
PCCI also supports the implementation of the Energy department’s (DOE) demand aggregation and auctioning policy to promote transparent and efficient supply contracting, thereby attracting more direct investments in power generation while creating greater competition.
In turn, President Benigno Aquino III called on the businessmen to contribute in providing a solution to one of their very own concerns – power supply – by being “merchant power producers.”
Just-in-time supplies of energy do not produce more investments, and “therefore, there is a need to change the business model, and that is also a work in progress,” the President said.
On October 22, Aquino warned that the economic cost of a power outage in the summer of 2015 would range from P9.3 billion ($207.59 million) to P23.3 billion ($520.009 million), depending on the duration of the power outage.
Aquino said during the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines on Wednesday, October 22, that the estimate does not include foregone investment and tourist arrivals arising from the negative impact of the power outage on the country’s image as investment and tourist destination.
Ease port congestion
PCCI also urged the national government to maximize the utilization of the Subic and Batangas ports to decongest the Port of Manila.
Aquino said that as the government finds a more permanent solution to port congestion that is effecting the movement of cargo, the business sector is encouraged to continue operations during the weekend.
Diverting the traffic to Subic and Batangas is only a short-term solution, Aquino said, adding that high utilization rates for both is risky as it would only transfer the problem encountered in the Port of Manila to those ports.
“Right now, the more effective solution in addressing the issue of congestion is to continue operations through the weekend. In support of this, the Bureau of Customs and the port operators, among others, are open on Saturdays and Sundays to facilitate the movement of cargo,” Aquino urged.
The government also needs to immediately ensure the smooth flow of traffic in Metro Manila, PCCI said.
On transportation and infrastructure, the government should prioritize the full development of the Clark International Airport, parallel with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, to be followed by development of other airports.
Immediately decongesting Metro Manila through countryside development is also being pushed by PCCI. It added that development efforts in the provinces should complement and sustain the capital’s growth and development.
Be ASEAN-integration ready
Drawing up strategies and programs to integrate small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the regional and value chains are also urged by PCCI, to make SMEs more competitive in time for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) integration next year.
PCCI also asked the government to develop with the private sector, strategies for the promotion of Philippine brands amid the ASEAN economic integration. The chamber also seeks improved physical connectivity between Mindanao and the East ASEAN Growth Area consisting of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Also aligned with ASEAN integration and another area for reform is education and human resources development. As such, PCCI urges the government to enter into partnerships with the private sector to provide the country’s workforce with relevant skills for employment.
Infrastructure and policy directions
PCCI also wants the Aquino administration to implement proper infrastructure and policy directions to ensure food security in the country.
Fast-tracking the completion of post-typhoon recovery in Eastern Visayas was also urged.
In his address at the PBC closing Friday, Aquino said he appreciated proposals from the private sector, saying the government is now undertaking steps to address pressing concerns, particularly power supply and port congestion.
Aquino also said the reforms in key systems and processes have also led to leaks being plugged and resources being maximized, with more contractors and investors registering not only interest in infrastructure projects, but also competing to build what the country needs.
Overall, Aquino enjoined the private sector to further strengthen its ties with the government to resolve the numerous challenges faced by industries.
“I invite you to join us in building on our already strong partnership and in redoubling our collective efforts to surpass the challenges that remain,” Aquino said. – Rappler.com
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