MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has reiterated his strict orders to government officials, led by Cabinet secretaries, to act with dispatch on all papers that reach them, noting the country’s low ranking in a recent ease of doing business report by the World Bank.
“Meron doong desirability to open a business, pero ‘yang lead time ng ano — the ease, kung paano ‘yung magmadali na reflected doon sa report na medyo mababa tayo [People desire to open a business, but the lead time is . . . as reflected in the report, we’re rather low in the rankings],” Duterte said in his arrival speech past midnight Sunday from Vietnam, where he attended the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting.
He acknowledged as well the relentless efforts of the economic managers’ team led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to raise money, but stressed this must go alongside efforts to cut read tape and corruption.
“I need the money but tapusin talaga natin dito ‘yung corruption sa gobyerno [we really need to end corruption] . . . I do not know how much we have restored the faith of the people in government. Basta ako, sinabi ko, importanteng mawala ang graft and corruption, ‘yun ang kampanya ko [As for me, I’ve always said it’s important to wipe out graft and corruption, as], that was the number one promise.”
The need to eradicate illegal drugs, he added, was his second campaign promise in 2016, followed by law and order. He said the last one “would greatly depend on the talks going on about Mindanao” and “dito sa taas, itong naputol na usapan natin sa mga komunista [our stalled peace talks with communist rebels].”
Turning to the outcome of his attendance at the APEC Meeting, Duterte reported that he and other APEC Economic Leaders had “agreed to work tirelessly for free and open market and investment towards quality and innovative growth in the 21st century.
“Connectivity, the internet and digital economy, public-private partnerships, and the other inclusion of MSMEs in global value chains were some of the salient points and shared priorities of economies in the Asia-Pacific region.”
He said he had the chance “to discuss the importance of inclusive growth and the need to provide MSMEs with the opportunities to grow and become catalysts for national development.”
The MSMEs are important cogs in the economic wheel, he added, noting that in “almost . . . .70 percent of the total volume of trading all over the world, mga maliit [the smaller businesses are] contributing to the larger economy.”
He said efforts to win long-term peace in Mindanao is proceeding well, with the Bangsamoro bill in Congress, which he hoped would “find no really a good reason to deny it, unless, of course, it runs counter to the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, which I hope can be solved by negotiation.”
Turning to his first priority of ending corruption, Duterte said: “I am warning everybody, again, marami na akong pinalayas sa gobyerno, hindi ko lang — ayaw ko ‘yung [I have fired so many people in government; I just did not want] publicity. But I have fired so many people to date, at gusto ko pang kung sino ‘yung nagpapahirap, kasi ang bayan natin ang nahihirapan [and I especially focus on firing those who make life or transacting business hard for people].”
Graft and corruption, even at the local level, has a ripple effect on the economy, and that even though “an opportunity for investment [is] there, for as long as they hang on to the papers, documents, order, approval at inabot ng minsan six months, naghihintay lang ng pera [and the process takes sometimes as long as six months just because someone was waiting for a bribe]” then that would derail the economy, the President stressed.
Cabinet members, he said, are only given one month to clear particular transactions that they can either approve or reject. What more, he said, simple transactions? “Why can’t a new business venture go ahead with the least worry of the routine business permit?”
Duterte said he will suspend through the Interior secretary local officials who allow red tape and corruption in their areas to stunt business.
“We’re one of the fastest growing economies, but I want to hurry it more. And the only way to do that is” to ensure the ease of transacting, especially “the papers to start the business.”
He continued: “And again I reiterate my warning to the Cabinet members, one month, one month palabasin mo, either you deny it and state it clearly why or do not hang on to the papers or I will just . . . You know, give me a reason to doubt about your integrity and honesty and I will fire you.”
His priority in fighting illegal drugs stays, Duterte added. While he has transfered to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) the task of fighting illegal drugs, he would monitor whether there’s progress in that campaign, and may return the police to the campaign if the illegal drugs problem is growing.
“Titignan ko lang kung tataas, pagka tataas babalik ang pulis. ‘Pag magbalik ang pulis, ‘yun ang trabaho nila, destroy the drug syndicates. How? Gamitin na ninyo ang pagkapulis ninyo, pagkasundalo ninyo [I’ll see if it returns. If that happens, I’ll bring back in the police, and their task will be to crush the syndicates. How? By using their skills as policemen].”