Briones to Duterte: Form economic team ASAP
MANILA, Philippines – With more than a month left before president-elect Rodrigo Duterte assumes office, former national treasurer Leonor Briones said the incoming administration should prioritize the appointment of its economic managers.
"It's important that the new economic team is formed as soon as possible because by June 30, the president-elect will take over," Briones said in a mix of English and Filipino in a press briefing in Quezon City on Thursday, May 19. (READ: Who's who in the incoming Duterte Cabinet)
Briones, who is Social Watch lead convenor, was referring to the Department of Budget and Management and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). The position of finance secretary is set to be assumed by businessman and former agriculture secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who has agreed to accept the offer.
Duterte has asked Davao City 3rd District Representative Isidro Ungab to be his budget secretary. Ungab is a former banker and a consultant of the Asian Development Bank.
While campaigning in Albay, Duterte said he would appoint Albay Governor Joey Salceda as NEDA chief. Two days after the elections, when it became clear that Duterte would win the presidency, Salceda said he was willing to help the incoming administration's economic team.
Briones also said that the president-elect will have to present his development plan in his State of the Nation Address at the opening of the 17th Congress in late July. If this will be different from that of the Aquino administration, he does not have a lot of time to do this.
"Kung babaguhin nila iyan (If they plan to change the development plan), they have 3 weeks to do it," she said.
According to Briones, the incoming administration will have to work on a "limited budget," given that priorities have already been laid out until 2017.
In January, the budget department announced that 90% of the 2016 budget has already been released.
Apart from that, budget preparations for 2017 have already started, and Congress is set to begin budget hearings by June. Briones said that the president-elect will only have a month for inputs in the 2017 budget.
"2016 and 2017 budgets are the budgets of the present administration," she said. (READ: Next president limited by Aquino admin budget for 2 years – Briones)
"So kung may change, dapat pag-isipan na. (So if there's change, it should be strategized already.) Otherwise, the economic team will have to follow what the present administration does," she said.
Briones pointed out that Duterte's economic agenda is similar to the programs of other presidential candidates.
On May 12, Duterte's transition team revealed his 8-point economic agenda that he will pursue in the next 6 years. (READ: Transition team bares Duterte's 8-point economic agenda)
Briones called on the president-elect to discuss the details of his agenda for further public scrutiny and dialogue.
She also noted that while economic growth surged due to election spending, the challenge now is how to sustain this as it will have a substantial impact on the poor and unemployed.
The Philippine economy grew by 6.9% in the first quarter of 2016 – the highest since the second quarter of 2013 – making it the fastest growing economy in the region, ahead of regional giant China. NEDA had said that this makes the country well-positioned to hit its full-year target of 6.8 - 7.8%. (READ: PH GDP grows 6.9% Q1 2016)
"Expecting a 6.8-7.8% growth this year, increased activity during election season creates a picture of progress and upward growth. This is brought about by election spending which generates more jobs, albeit temporarily," Briones said.
"Now that elections are over, will this be sustainable enough to lift people out of poverty?" she asked.
Appoint professionals, not politicians
On the issue of appointments, Briones emphasized that Cabinet members and other officials should be professionals and not politicians.
"They are expected to be professionals who are experts in the assigned tasks of their respective departments," she said.
She further pointed out that members of the Cabinet should not only be experts but should also be prepared to implement the law and protect the Constitution.
Asked to comment about the nomination of members of the Communist Party of the Philippines to the Duterte Cabinet, Briones said this is nothing new.
"There have always been communists in the government, the only difference is that they do not label themselves as communists but as professionals," said Briones.
She added that appointing members of the CPP to Cabinet positions will only be legitimate after successful peace negotiations. According to her, CPP members are labeled as belligerents in the Philippines, thus, they have to agree to give up their arms and adhere to the Constitution.
"At the end of the day," Briones said, "it must be recognized that the Commission on Appointments will have the final say in appointments."
The Constitution has vested the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) with the power to approve or reject presidential appointments. – Rappler.com