MALACAÑANG ON Sunday, Sept. 17, disputed a think tank’s report last week on governance in Asia which ranked the Philippines as having the weakest system in the region.

Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, Ltd. (PERC), in its latest Asian Intelligence report released last Wednesday, Sept. 13, ranked the Philippines at the bottom end in four out of five variables (government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, control of corruption) and at the lowest in terms of risk of disruptive political change.

“The quality of political governance has deteriorated sharply under the presidency of Rodrigo (R.) Duterte,” the report said in part, adding that “Many Filipinos support his tactics and policies, but they have seriously undermined the rule of law and raised the risk of an extra-constitutional government change,” particularly in terms of Mr. Duterte’s threat to declare martial law nationwide.

In response, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella said in a statement: “The comments of the HK-based consultants, PERC on the state of Philippine political governance and PRRD’s (President Rodrigo R. Duterte) ‘direct approach’ misread both the positive political mood of the populace and the positive outlook that respected ratings agencies have given the economy.”

Noting the report’s “critical” position on the Philippines’ “rebalancing of foreign relations with China,” Mr. Abella said, “PRRD’s decisiveness in restoring good ties with China definitely resulted in many gains that were not enjoyed before, particularly in exports and investments that translate to more jobs and business opportunities for Filipinos.”

“More immediate impact may be seen on trade as the stronger relationship has led to the opening of more exports to China. Recent high total export growth of 14% for January-June 2017 was led by exports to China/HK that grew 34%….”

“Purchase Orders or POs (not only commitments) worth $1.8 million are being serviced now and many of these are agriculture products that benefit a lot of farmers and jobs in support industries,” Mr. Abella also said in his statement.

He also cited “preparations for the groundbreaking of the Binondo-Intramuros and Pantaleon-Estrella Bridges (Construction Project) in November have started.” The said ₱5.97-billion project, to be funded by grants from China, is among the new projects approved last week by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Also disputing the report’s conclusion about Mr. Duterte’s “inability to deal with the insurgency movement in southern Philippines,” Mr. Abella said, “The Philippines, with the support of local Muslim religious leaders and public officials, is decisively dealing with the global menace of terrorism….”

The PERC report had said in part, “After more than three months of fighting in the city of Marawi against Islamist militants, the military has failed to retake the city….Southern Philippines might not have been a haven for training and regrouping the Islamic State movement when Mr. Duterte came to office a little over one year ago, but it is today.”

“We suggest that comments be based on more solid basis,” Mr. Abella said in response. — Rosemarie A. Zamora