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By Roy Stephen C. CanivelReporter

Businesses generally satisfied with SONA

Posted on July 26, 2016

BUSINESS LEADERS were, on the whole, satisfied to hear the plans of President Rodrigo R. Duterte in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), calling it “music” to their ears even as the country’s new head of state tended to stray from a prepared speech when he dealt with the war on drugs.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Honorary Chairman Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. said the President covered all important points that investors would have wanted to hear, while noting that the speech took longer than the 38 or so minutes it was expected to last.

“What was expected to be one of the shortest SONAs tended to be extra long, maybe longer than usual, because he got carried away of the prepared speech in the issue of drugs, and peace and order, and security, and of course ‘yung (the) extrajudicial killings na napagusapan (that was discussed),” Mr. Ortiz-Luis said in a telephone interview.

“But nevertheless, it was very comprehensive and I cannot even think right now of any issue that I’d like him to tackle that he didn’t cover.”

In giving his first SONA yesterday, Mr. Duterte reinforced his tough stance against the illegal drug trade, his advocacy for regional inclusion and his request for Congress to provide him with emergency powers to fast-track development, among other issues.

Occasionally straying from a prepared speech, he also made extemporaneous comments especially on controversies that have marked his first month in office.

“There were people who will be unhappy with his comment on mining, and also the unilateral ceasefire of the government, but I guess with the clapping that I heard, mukhang suportado siya ng tao (It seems he’s supported by the people),” Mr. Ortiz-Luis added.

Mr. Duterte said in his speech that he chose anti-mining advocate Regina Paz “Gina” L. Lopez to head the Department of Environment and Natural Resources because of their shared views on the importance of safeguarding the environment.

In the same speech, Mr. Duterte also declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army in order to pave the way for peace talks

PCCI Chairman Emeritus Francis T. Chua said yesterday that he welcomed the President’s order to further ease regulatory requirements and processes for business, as well as pursue tax reform and improve governance.

“All of these are music to the business sector,” Mr. Chua said in a text message.

“We have a very sincere and honest President who pours his heart out. He has created a new culture where he departs from the tradition of spending time to point out the mistake and blame the previous administration.”

Last Sunday, the country’s biggest business group said it hoped to hear about the direction the government will take in agriculture, infrastructure, information and communications technology, development of micro small and medium enterprises and ease of doing business.

PCCI President George T. Barcelon, who expected to hear specific timetables for priorities similar to the six-month target the administration had set to win the war on drugs, said he was otherwise also generally satisfied with the SONA.

‘Yan ang medyo kulang (That’s what was where the SONA was slightly lacking). Give him 100 days,” Mr. Barcelon said in a phone interview.

“Maybe he needs more time to look at the details.”

Donald G. Dee, president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, shared this sentiment, even as he noted the SONA’s signals were “expected.”

“I can tell you, as expected he has covered all points and he is coming across that he will definitely implement the programs,” Mr. Dee said in a text message.

Peter Angelo V. Perfecto, executive director of the Makati Business Club, said his group particularly welcomed the new administration’s business-related priorities.

“We greatly appreciate that that recommendations from the Sulong Pilipinas consultations were included, which illustrates the administration’s commitment towards dialogue and partnership,” he said in a text message, referring to the two-day conference public and private sector leaders held last month in Davao City, Mr. Duterte’s home town. “We hope that this process continues and that it will be expanded to include civil society and other cause-oriented groups.”

Meanwhile, the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines is still considering if it would continue releasing its Arangkada Philippines report with the advent of a new administration.

In the preceding administration of former President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, the country’s major local and foreign business chambers made policy recommendations to speed up and improve the quality of economic growth and assessed the government had made each year in addressing each concern.

Henry J. Schumacher, external affairs vice-president of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said in a mobile phone message that “next year’s plans are still being discussed.”