Time for Change

PHOTO CAPTION: My father JoeCon together with the now Speaker of the House Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during a party last week. SPGMA was one of my father’s undersecretary during his stint as trade secretary.

We are all aware the President will address Congress at the opening of its regular session every fourth Monday of July as mandated by the Constitution. It has been a yearly event where Philippine presidents deliver the State of the Nation Address discussing significant milestones, developments, and actions moving forward.

Just this Monday, I started my week by attending President Duterte’s third SONA. I witnessed the President deliver his speech at the Batasang Pambansa Complex. I would like to congratulate the President for an excellent speech. It was direct to the point and very clear on which areas and issues will be prioritized in the coming years. He also mentioned the priority bills that need to be passed by both Congress and Senate in order to be more inclusive.

He discussed several points including the continuous war on drugs, a priority in his administration. He also stressed that corruption must stop in all areas of the government and reduce red tape. He congratulated the legislators for passing the Ease of Doing Business Law which improves the service delivery of all government agencies. He directed government units and agencies to “faithfully implement this law and simply simplify the process.”

Our President once again recognized the importance of our micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). He reported that more than 99 percent of our businesses are micro enterprises and that they employ 65 percent of our workers. With the Ease of Doing Business, we expect a spur in economic activity and encourage more negosyantes to start and prosper in their businesses.

He also briefly discussed the Bangsamoro Organic Law, terrorism, foreign policy, our relationship with China, the plight of our OFWs, contractualization, telecommunications, Boracay, and other islands’ rehabilitation, mining, federalism among other things.

He also mentioned the TRAIN Law and its Package two which will gather more funds to support other government projects.

Clearly, you can feel the President’s heart for the poor. It has been evident in all the events he has attended — even those entrepreneurship activities we have organized. He has never faltered in his reminder to large corporations that they need to help others as well.

But prior to the President’s arrival, I witnessed first-hand what made this year’s SONA memorable and first in Philippine history. In the midst of the preparation for the President’s arrival, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and now Pampanga representative took her oath as the new speaker of the House. She is the first woman to be installed in the position. As the events unfolded, I personally saw how democracy is at work.

What Rep. GMA, or now SPGMA, can bring to this administration is to ensure the passage  of legislation needed to bring about greater inclusivity. Being an economist, she is well aware of what must be done in order to fulfill this.

Over the past two years since I was appointed as an adviser to this administration, we have always invited her to our events on MSME development. On more than one occasion, SPGMA and PRRD were seated side by side as guests of honor. I can see the good chemistry between the two. This is very important as we tackle a critical legislation on federalism and parliamentary.

In fact, only 25 countries in the world have federal governments, and only Malaysia has that kind of government in the ASEAN region. In Malaysia, the state can only legislate on issues of land and religion.

With the passing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, it is somehow similar to a federal system but done only in a part of Mindanao. If this will be ratified by the President, like what he mentioned during his SONA, we will see its effects. If it works well, it can be implemented nationwide. I am exposed to the idea of federalism as my grandfather also wrote a book explaining its advantages and why must it be applied in the country.

However, it is important to note that this will change the landscape in the structure of the government. The questions are: Will this make businesses more competitive versus the other countries as the world opens up to free trade? Will it bring down the level of bureaucracy and make it easier for Filipinos?

On a side note, SPGMA attended my celebration last week and she had a chance to talk to my dad, JoeCon. Even with his memory lapses, he was able to recognize SPGMA and even had a photo with her.

I believe SPGMA as an economist, as a former trade undersecretary, and as an advocate of MSMEs will ensure the Philippines’ level of competitiveness.

Now is the best time for change. Let us work together hand-in-hand in pursuing inclusive growth and development in the country.