Thinking Beyond Politics


PPP is not a new acronym for many Filipinos. Public-private partnerships have been around for many years and have been an essential part of governance, in fact even before the term had been coined to depict it.

Use of the term, however, recently picked up during the first year of office of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.

This is a stark departure from the previous administration’s alienating posture against the private sector characterized by the unfortunate, unfounded, and unproductive demonization of Philippine businesses who had always been willing and ready to engage with the government.

Still, as we saw in the early days of the pandemic, it was the private sector that stepped up to the challenge and provided immediate relief and assistance to millions of employees and the most challenged communities that were suddenly stranded by the lockdowns.

Filipinos themselves are cognizant of the significant role played by the private sector in national development. In a Stratbase-commissioned survey by Pulse Asia conducted in September 2022, almost nine in 10 respondents agreed — with 46% strongly agreeing and 41% somewhat agreeing — that the private sector plays a crucial role in accelerating economic growth, and that public-private partnerships will fuel such growth.

The survey was done just a few days before the 100th day mark of the Marcos administration.

And now that President Marcos Jr. has spent nearly a full year in office, it is apparent that he has responded to the people’s sentiment as he pursues a collaborative partnership with the private sector and with civil society in crucial aspects of government.

In energy, for instance, in pursuit of the objectives of the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, it is acknowledged that we need investments in energy infrastructure to ensure a reliable and stable energy supply to support our economic activity and growth. Here, PPPs are important in terms of opening up investments to achieve an optimal energy mix with the view in mind of transitioning to cleaner sources of energy in the long run. Increased reliance on renewable energy will, in turn, reduce our vulnerability to price shocks and other headwinds from the world market.

For trade and investments, the administration, judging by its actions during its first year, seems intent on establishing an environment conducive for doing business. It created green lanes for strategic investments and released the Implementing Rules and Regulations for the amendments to the Public Service Act. The improved guidelines for joint ventures between public and private entities will, in turn, breed healthy competition and encourage better performance among actors in the private sector.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has been ratified, and the economic zones in Batangas and Bacolod City have been established. These developments will no doubt result in a more vibrant business environment, extending the benefits further to outside the capital and into the provinces.

There is likewise greater focus on encouraging investments in manufacturing, specifically for its multiplier effect on job creation, income generation, and enhanced quality of life for Filipinos. A more dynamic manufacturing sector remains possible and attainable and will correct recurring trade deficits by lessening the Philippines’ dependence on imports. Indeed, investment-led growth is a good formula for economic growth and resilience.

Protecting the environment and fostering climate action is another avenue for greater public-private collaboration. Achieving economic targets requires cooperation with the private sector for the entry of sustainable investments as well as a shift to a circular economy. Companies have also moved beyond corporate social responsibility activities and embraced sustainability components in their actual operations. Resilience in the face of natural disasters can also be achieved by harnessing technologies that can also be introduced and implemented by private companies.

Finally, on the issue of the West Philippine Sea, a whole-of-society approach is needed to address foreign and security policy. The private sector is also an indispensable partner to the government in pushing for initiatives that defend the rules-based international order. The President famously said, just a few weeks after assuming office, that he would not give up a square inch of our territory, and that his foreign policy would only be driven primordially by the national interest. Along with indispensable help from like-minded states, the government needs the expertise and technological assistance from the private sector in carrying out this truly Filipino-driven, truly independent foreign policy.

One year done, five more to go. The challenges that we face as a nation are real, daunting, and cannot be overcome by the government acting alone. At this crucial juncture, we find it heartening that the Marcos administration appears to be cognizant of the need to reach out to other actors — like-minded states, civil society, and, especially, the private sector — in carrying out its goals and programs.

If we proceed on this road and at this rate, in the next five years, we have no doubt that the Philippines would be a much better place for Filipinos.


Victor Andres “Dindo” C. Manhit is the president of the Stratbase ADR Institute.