Businessmen bare reforms, Cabinet wish list for Duterte

Chrisee Dela Paz
The mood changes the day after elections, with local businessmen and industry leaders welcoming and expressing support for presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte

'BEST BET.' Asia CEO members talk to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on the sidelines of a forum in June 2015. File photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – It’s a fresh start for local businesses, as tough-talking Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is on course for a landslide presidential win.

Duterte led from the beginning of the unofficial tallying of votes after polls closed on Monday, May 9, and has since enjoyed an insurmountable lead. (READ: Philippine economy ready for any president)

Before the polls, some analysts reported that the Davao City mayor’s vague economic plans and threats to kill thousands of criminals are spooking the financial market.

The mood, however, changed on Tuesday, May 10, when local businessmen and industry leaders welcomed and expressed support for Duterte.

“It’s a fresh start for all. The general efficiency and reporting speed of the results make for a credible election process. Hopefully, contenders rally behind the president elect,” Hans Sicat, president and CEO of the Philippine Stock Exchange, told Rappler in a mobile phone reply.

The PSE chief said the business and financial community hope Duterte will name “credible people” into economic advisory positions.

Sicat said that aside from providing the right environment for business and industry to function, it would be good for Duterte to signal what he prioritizes in the economic front.

Sicat said Duterte’s call for reviewing restrictive constitutional provisions, broadening the tax base, and making government less bureaucratic “are strong signals” for investors.

MBC: Propel PH to ‘greater heights’

In a statement on Tuesday, the influential Makati Business Club (MBC) urged Filipinos to rally behind the country’s new set of leaders and help them in further boosting the economy.

“We call on all Filipinos to come together, to support our new leaders. Let us focus on those aspirations that unite us, rather than on the issues that divide us. After all, despite our divisions, we all aspire for the common goal of authentic freedom and inclusive development,” it said.

The MBC said that the Philippines “remains in a special spot with numerous positive forces converging in our favor” and “propelling the country to greater heights requires the cooperation of all sectors of society.”

“On the part of the business community, we welcome the clear mandate given our new leaders by our people and the credibility of the elections, and we stand ready to be an active and participative partner of government in ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth that benefits not just a select few but all Filipinos,” it said.

Cabinet wish list

On Monday night, Duterte said a good number of his appointees would be retired military men.

He said former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr would definitely have a place in his Cabinet. Esperon was Presidential Management Staff head during the Arroyo administration.

Duterte said he also wants his longtime friend, businessman Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez III, to head the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) or Department of Finance (DOF).

Dominguez served as agriculture secretary during the presidencies of Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos.

Duterte also wants his high school classmate, Jesus Dureza, to become his chief peace adviser. Dureza held the same position, and also served as press secretary, during the Arroyo administration. 

Rappler asked some businessmen and industry leaders if they want Duterte to retain some incumbent Cabinet members.

For Alfredo Yao, founder of the Zest-O Corporation and Macay Holdings, Incorporated, it would be Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.

“I also want former interior chief Raffy Alunan and former trade chief Gregory Domingo to be part of Duterte’s appointees,” Yao said.

Alunan ran under Duterte’s senatorial ticket.

It is somehow the same for Dan Lachica, president of the Semiconductors and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Incorporated (SEIPI).

Lachica said he wants Singson, Purisima, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Emmanuel Esguerra, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr, and Customs Commissioner Bert Lina to be retained.

“For his cabinet, people like Secretaries Luistro and Jimenez would be good to retain. I personally look forward to working with Dureza, with whom I have served before as part of Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP),” MBC’s Peter Perfecto said.

Hopes and expectations

Yao hopes Duterte will stay true to his promise of promoting peace and order, shortening bureaucratic processes, as well as implementing tax reform.

“My wish for him is to fulfill his promises. What he promised is peace and order. He also promised to act on shortening bureaucratic processes. Now, whenever you apply for tax-free incentives, you have to go to the DOF then Board of Investments then back to DOF,” the Chinese-Filipino businessman told Rappler in a phone interview.

Aside from these priorities, Yao said Duterte should also get the side of businessmen before putting an end to contractual labor.

“He’s very aggressive about contractual labor and I think he will face resistance from the business side. He should hear both sides first,” Yao said.

For Perfecto, he said the business community wants Duterte to prioritize 3 things: “Integrity, innovation and infrastructure.”

Asked for his advice to the incoming president, Lachica said he should “think carefully before speaking spontaneously, ensure ease of doing business, and improve infrastructure.”

He was apparently referring to Duterte’s habit of giving off-the-cuff remarks that had drawn the attention of the international media, but not in a good way. 

“Automate government processes, eliminate corruption, bring cheap and adequate power, improve international airport, increase utilization of Batangas and Subic seaports, as well as connect South Luzon Expressway and North Luzon Expressway,” SEIPI’s Lachica said.

With the Philippines’ young demographic, strong remittances figures from overseas Filipino workers, surge in foreign direct investments, and strong household spending, businessmen said economic growth performance will continue whoever will win the elections.

But for Perfecto, the winner is pretty clear. “Congratulations to President-elect Duterte. The people have spoken, and they have spoken loud.” –