Drilon: Constant insults vs allies could put $3-B aid in jeopardy

Drilon: Constant insults vs allies could put $3-B aid in jeopardy
In response, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III says, 'I am not the foreign affairs minister, but I would say that yes, there is some logic to what you're saying'

MANILA, Philippines – While Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon welcomes the Duterte administration’s plan to pursue an independent foreign policy, he warned that President Rodrigo Duterte’s tirades against the country’s allies could lead to the loss of crucial assistance.

“The government and the administration’s assertion of an independent foreign policy is something that we should all support, because, in fact, that is in the Constitution that we should have, we should maintain an independent foreign policy,” Drilon said Wednesday, October 12, during the Commission on Appointments (CA) hearing of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

“But the question that is in everybody’s mind is, in maintaining an independent foreign policy, do we have to displease, insult our allies?” (READ: Duterte to EU, US: Withdraw aid, we will survive)

Drilon’s main concern is that the country could lose Official Development Assistance (ODA) from developed Western nations and institutions.

It’s a sentiment that’s been raised by Vice President Leni Robredo and former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario. (READ: Del Rosario: Count economic cost of shift in foreign policy)

Dominguez told the CA that the combined aid from the United States, Australia, the European Union, and the United Nations stands at $3 billion.

“Kapag araw-araw pong ininsulto ang ating mga kaibigan, hindi ba ito malalagay sa alanganin itong $3 billion ODA?” asked Drilon.

(If we insult our allies every day, won’t the $3 billion in ODA be jeopardized?)

In response, Dominguez said, “I am not the foreign affairs minister, but I would say that yes, there is some logic to what you’re saying.”

Impact on trade

Drilon also aired concerns about the possible impact of Duterte’s strong words on the country’s trade, notably on the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) agreements.

The GSP allows preferential tariff rates for Philippine products into the US and EU. (READ: Duterte gives middle finger to EU lawmakers again)

“We enjoy GSP privileges in the EU where the principal benefactor and beneficiary is our tuna from General Santos. Maybe 25,000 or so of our seamen are in EU-registered vessels, which though not directly affected by the GSP, will certainly be enhanced or adversely affected depending on our relations with the EU countries,” Drilon said.

The senator pointed out that these preferential trade agreements could be withdrawn and that maintaining them “is in the national interest,” a point which Dominguez agreed with him on.

DOF TURNOVER. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III (right) took over the reins of the Department of Finance from Cesar Purisima on July 1, 2016. File photo by Chris Schnabel/Rappler

Dominguez appointment confirmed

Meanwhile, after outlining several economic issues, Dominguez was officially confirmed as finance secretary.

Drilon himself lent his support to the confirmation, adding that “Dominguez faces challenges on all fronts.”

Senator Francis Pangilinan, in his sponsorship speech during the session, had described Dominguez as “one of the most trusted members of the Duterte Cabinet.”

Pangilinan added, “Secretary Dominguez seeks to build on the success of the previous administration and make the country’s economic growth more inclusive.”

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto as well as senators Loren Legarda and Juan Miguel Zubiri seconded Pangilinan’s motion to have Dominguez’s appointment confirmed by the CA in the plenary session, which was presided over by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.

In seconding the motion to confirm Dominguez’s appointment, Recto said that “if the present crew of secretaries has been referred to as the professors who replaced the ‘student council,’ I consider the nominee as its dean.”

Under Dominguez, the Department of Finance (DOF) has spearheaded the creation of the Duterte administration’s centerpiece economic plan, the 10-point socioeconomic agenda.

The DOF has also been focusing on tax reforms, the first batch of which was submitted late September. These reforms include lowering personal income tax and raising fuel excise tax, among others.

Dominguez also recently approved an order raising the tax​-​exemption value of small importations from P10 to P10,000, the first of a series of reforms aimed at modernizing the Bureau of Customs. – Rappler.com

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