President Duterte says he is pro-business, assures investors of government support, 13 Dec. 2016

President Rodrigo Duterte assured businessmen on Monday that his administration will honor contractual obligations, fight corruption and red tape, and allow businesses to flourish under a free market environment.

During the Wallace Business Forum Dinner in Malacanan, President Duterte addressed various concerns of investors in the country particularly on his economic policies and agenda.

A representative from the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry expressed concern about the stability of BPOs amid changes in policies of the current administration.

“Forget your fears. This is a democracy. We follow the free enterprise. There would be changes, there would be changes for the better, not to kill businesses,” President Duterte said as a response.

“You can stop worrying, it’s actually a product of the other side. They would like to create an economic situation whereby there would be a tilt of balance there somewhere and destroy the economy and blame it on me,” he added.

The President said he believes in free enterprise and businessmen could come in and invest, and should not worry about contracts as long as they pay the right taxes.

“I am a lawyer and I believe in free enterprise, I believe in democracy that’s why I ran for President. I’m duty-bound by the Constitution. And about the outsourcing there, I would even guarantee to you that the Philippines would honor its contractual obligations,” he further said.

He then encouraged businessmen to put more money in the Philippines.

The President likewise assured investors that there will be no graft and corruption in his government.

He vowed to fight red tape in the bureaucracy and told investors to approach members of his Cabinet should they encounter problems.

Also discussed during the forum were moves to amend the present Constitution, with the President saying he is ready to reverse the 60-40 foreign ownership as long as Congress is ready.

“I will go along with it,” he said, stressing however that he would not allow selling of lands to foreigners.

With regard to the Philippines’ hosting of the ASEAN Summit next year, the President said he will particularly focus on spurring economic activity in Mindanao.

“Well, one thing is that we lack the connectivity. We have to have our own BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area). We have to create an economy over there,” he said, adding the reason why the Abu Sayyaf prospered was because of lack of economic activity when the barter trade in the southern region was shut down.

He said the barter trade was good and it provided livelihood to many people, especially the Muslims.

The country’s terrible traffic congestion problem was also discussed and the President expressed his frustrations over the moves of Congress for not acting fast enough to give him special power to tackle the traffic situation.

There’s no movement at all, and he told Filipinos that he is sorry but his government is trying to overcome the challenges.

Mining operations and the appointment of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez was also discussed. The President said his office is always receptive to any abuse of authority or if they exceeded the normal limitations of their discretion. He added that he will see to it that everything is fair.

He insisted that companies must follow the Canadian or Australian mining practices, but said that there will always be a “trade-off” somehow because mining operations affect nature and environment.###PND