Duterte must focus on pandemic, economy in remainder of term – experts

WITH 18 months to go into President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, experts agreed that the Chief Executive must focus on the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and its impact on the economy.

Political analysts Ramon Casiple and Edmund Tayao zeroed in on the President’s proposal to create a department for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Casiple, speaking in Filipino, said his “impression” based on the President’s pronouncement was that he was not saying goodbye as he still had a lot of things to do and the creation of a Department of OFW “could take a while”.

Duterte also urged Congress to pass amendments to the Foreign Investments Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and the Public Service Act, among others, Casiple said he was expecting the President to follow through on these bills.

Tayao said Duterte’s proposal to create more agencies may be ill-advised as the government was already top-heavy.

Other than this, Tayao said that Duterte was able to fulfill the expected talking points in his final address.

“He really made an enumeration of so much he had done, from education to health and so on … and [he talked about the] remaining things that he thinks could still be done in his remaining months in office,” said Tayao.

He said he agreed with the President on strategizing to economically recover from the pandemic by addressing issues on employment.

“[Duterte] mentioned working with the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop) to find ways to curb unemployment and find a way to jumpstart the economy. That was not only a plus but a necessity,” he said.

Given that there were people who lost their jobs, and businesses that had to close down amidst the pandemic, Tayao said that it was right to highlight the importance of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) to upskill Filipinos workers to ensure that they were work-ready and competent for jobs.

Former Labor secretary Ruben Torres, a columnist of The Manila Times, said he wanted to know from the President “how he would restart the economy because there is now a big unemployment situation in the country, and poverty has worsened due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic”.

At a pre-SONA roundtable hosted by paper’s president and CEO Dante “Klink” Ang 2nd earlier on Monday, Torres said that the Chief Executive must now think of “what should be done to address unemployment and the worsening poverty situation in the country”.

Torres was joined by three more Times columnists — Ma. Lourdes Tiquia, Antonio Contreras and Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, and Marit Stinus-Cabugon.

Tiquia said it was important for the President to establish the “three timelines of where we were, where we are and where we want to be”.

“I think it’s very crucial for him to focus really on the section in our geographics that are very anxious on the picture that has to be addressed clearly because they are the pictures of the new entrants to the economy,” said Tiquia.

Contreras, Stinus-Cabugon, and Fr. Aquino said the President should pay more attention to the ongoing pandemic and the worsening economy.

Contreras these were the “two things that are very important for now and what will happen in the next 18 months”.

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