HONG KONG — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte proved that he is not just a crime- and corruption-buster but also an economic ambassador during the recently-concluded World Economic Forum (WEF) on Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Cambodia.
This was how Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez described President Duterte, recounting how the latter conducted himself before the forum in Phnom Penh, which was attended by hundreds of top CEOs and executives and other world leaders.
“You know, every time we are out and we usually accompany the President, he is the one that’s really becoming the some kind of an economic ambassador as well,” Lopez said in a press briefing led by Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella on Friday, May 12, with other Cabinet secretaries at the Grand Hyatt Hotel here.
“He is not only known for the anti-drug campaign, addressing criminality and all that. That’s very well recognized. And the international community also understands that those are the basic foundation if we are to develop a very robust economy,” Lopez said.
Lopez said President Duterte ensures that in all of his trips abroad, and not only at the WEF, the President makes the pitch for the Philippines by underscoring significant developments in the country especially in trade and investment, industrial and infrastructure development, and economic growth.
“Kasi ang bottom line kay President, gusto niya talaga magkaroon ng trabaho, magkaroon ng negosyo ‘yung mga kababayan natin. Talagang ma-empower sila, lalo na ‘yung mga nasa baba na lahat pwedeng umasenso, lahat pwedeng magtagumpay,” he said.
Lopez meanwhile said other ASEAN leaders are “in full support” of the illegal drugs campaign of the President considering the harmful effects of illegal drugs in the society, adding that such problem impedes nation development.
“Let’s all realize, kung hindi iso-solve ni Presidente Duterte ang drug problem, sino magso-solve? I’m very passionate on this kasi itong kailangan ng Pilipinas. I-solve talaga itong ills of society. And this is the root cause that’s being solved,” he said.
“That’s why any effort to counter that is really counterproductive to me, na sinisira ‘yung momentum to solve that problem…Hanggang may problema ‘yan, eh talagang meron pa rin tayong magiging kahirapan and lack of development,” he added.
Trust in Duterte’s leadership
While in Cambodia, President Duterte had a bilateral meeting with Air Asia’s CEO Tony Fernandes.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade revealed that Fernandes has pledged to expand its air coverage in the Philippines as an expression of his trust and confidence in the leadership of Duterte.
“This is a specific, very clear indication on the acceptability of the President’s leadership insofar as his economic program is concerned,” Tugade said.
“Tama ho, nagpapalakpakan, nagtatayuan but beyond the standing ovation and the applause is a commitment to invest in real term in our country. That to me is a glaring manifestation of the very well accepted economic program exemplified and perorated upon by the President. In fact, lagi niya hong sinasabi, ‘Know me as a peace and order man; know me as a corruption buster; know me as a fighter of drug users and drug habits. Why am I doing this? Because I’m setting the environment for economic development,” he added.
‘Zero to 10-point agenda’
For his part, Socio Economic Planning and NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia underscored the importance of peace and order in order for the economy to thrive.
“It’s not a 10-point agenda. To remember this, it’s a zero to 10-point agenda, socio-economic agenda and the zero is precisely peace and order,” he said.
“Fighting criminality, fighting corruption, fighting smuggling and peace and order. And that’s because zero is the origin of the 1 to 10 points socio-economic agenda. It’s the bedrock that has to be addressed and this is what the President had been harping on during the campaign as well as now,” he added.
“He’s addressing that main bedrock of the 10 points economic agenda so that the 10 points economic agenda can materialize. Without this bedrock, then it will be difficult for the economy to thrive and flourish and for the country to prosper,” he further said.
Zero tolerance for corruption and fast implementation of infra projects
As President Duterte and his economic managers presented the administration’s economic agenda dubbed “DuterteNomics” at WEF, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar assured that the budget would be spend prudently and the infrastructure projects would be implemented at the soonest possible time.
“We all want to finish this in the short to medium term so para guminhawa kaagad ang buhay ng ating mga kababayan,” he said.
“We are ready to implement these projects and make sure that they are implemented at the fastest possible time and this is the commitment of us and the President that we will move and we will move quickly,” he added.
Villar likewise assured that he will not tolerate corruption in his agency.
“Sinasabi po namin sa baba na either you step up or you step down. This is the time that we have to work together and culturally, we also want to… In our department, we wanna make sure that everyone’s on board sa programa ni Presidente and if you’re not, then I think you have to step aside for someone else who’s on board with this program,” Villar said.
Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) President Vince Dizon meanwhile belied criticisms that DuterteNomics is just a way to divert the public’s attention away from the administration’s peace and order programs.
“They seem to be saying that this DuterteNomics, this Build, Build, Build is an aside to the peace and order platform of the President. In fact, some might be even insinuated that it’s a way for us to divert attention. This is absolutely false ‘no, absolutely false,” Dizon said.
He also assured that the government will be very transparent about the projects under the Build, Build, Build or the administration’s infrastructure program’s, noting the Build, Build, Build’s website.
“And I think this is a perfect way to hold the government to account na talagang seseryosohin at talagang hahabulin natin ang paggawa nitong mga kinakailangang mga project na ito,” Dizon added.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi meanwhile said that in the WEF, he encouraged investors to put up more power plants in the country, which will also contribute to economic development.
“We highlighted also that the Philippines in the energy sector, we are open for business,” he said.
Before proceeding to Beijing, China for the Belt and Road Forum, President Duterte will meet with the Filipino community in Hong Kong on Saturday, May 13.###PND