THE head of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) is “cautiously optimistic” about the economic agenda of the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
During an interview with The Manila Times Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dante “Klink” Ang 2nd on SMNI's television program “Business and Politics,” PCCI President George Barcelon said that while he was guarded about the economic agenda, he noted that the administration's economic team is composed of people with impressive track records.
“We're cautiously optimistic… But the mere fact that we see that the President took time in selecting his Cabinet members, and if you noticed the economic team, the way it is right now, composed of people that have track records and their past involvement or role in the government, that gives us the assurance you are talking to people who hit the road running,” he said.
By deciding to take over the most challenging Cabinet portfolio, the Department of Agriculture, Marcos is “taking the bull by the horns,” Barcelon said.
“He realized the agri sector must be addressed because a big portion of our citizenship is in the rural areas and based on surveys, the poverty rate is highest in the rural areas, and many of them are in the agricultural sectors,” he said.
The agriculture sector needs investments in infrastructure, irrigation, post-harvest facilities, harvesters, and making it happen needs political will, he said.
Barcelon said PCCI also approves of the President's aim to rightsize the bureaucracy.
“That issue is close to our heart because at every businessman's core, nothing is set in stone and sometimes you have to reorganize or restructure,” he said.
“I just hope that the President does not only focus on removing agencies and people, but also reinstating them to other departments if needed,” Barcelon said.
Making the Philippines more competitive requires resolving longstanding problems in power generation, he said.
Barcelon suggested that the government fast-track the development of a “grid link” so that available power could be channeled to areas that need it most.
He also stressed the need to make power affordable.
Barcelon said the country's power generation mix of fossil fuel, geothermal and renewable is “quite balanced.”
Because the war in Ukraine has jacked up the price of fossil-based energy, it highlights the need for a long-term energy policy, he said.
Barcelon sees the country benefiting from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that the Senate has yet to ratify.
“Even prior to the RCEP, we already have this Asean trade relationship or the Asean Free Trade Area. And many items in these countries are basically about non-tariff matters. Of course, there are issues within it that the President is well aware of, especially the smuggling side, but on the other side we also know that most farmers in the country must really improve their productivity in order to compete,” he said.
Asean is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
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