Key takeaways from the 5th Dutertenomics Forum

Dutertenomics is about the socio-economic policies of President Rodrigo Duterte that focus on building infrastructures and developing industries in the Philippines.

The 5th Dutertenomics Forum was held at Fairmont Hotel, Makati last August 10, 2017. It is the last of a series forums introducing to the public to President Duterte’s legacy project called, “Build, Build, Build”.

Laying the premise: The Philippine Economic Breakout

The event was opened by the PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar where he noted that the Philippine Economy, under the leadership of President Duterte, will undergo an economic transformation shifting to an investment-driven economy with better physical infrastructure and equipped human resources.

National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary-General Ernesto Pernia described our economic growth as having a “sharp, upward trajectory.” Secretary Carlos Dominguez added that that in addition to this much growth in our economy, we should also be looking forward to a “demographic sweet spot” where the median age of Filipinos in the workforce are in their mid-20s.

It is on these premises that the government’s strategized methods towards an inclusive development by providing for meaningful jobs to this workforce and a comprehensive, pro poor, tax reform package that will fund the upgrade of public education, health facilities, and many infrastructure programs of the administration.

In line with these strategies, President Duterte issued Executive Order No. 5 or “AmBisyon 2040: The Life Filipinos Want” seeking to adapt a high-trust and resilient society by creating programs and projects that respond to innately Filipino concepts of “Matatag, Maginhawa, at Panatag”. In the same event, DTI Secreatary Ramon Lopez also introduced his project, “DTI: Trabaho, Negosyo, Kabuhayan, Konsyumer through Comprehensive National Industrial Strategy” that seeks to employ a new industrial policy, bolder trade policy, intensified investment promotion, skills training and human resource development, innovation, research and development, and modern small and medium enterprises technology.

Changing the Game

The “Build, Build, Build” project was estimated to be valued at P847 billion, or 5.3% of GDP. The annual infrastructure spending will be increased from 5% to 7.4% of GDP in 2022. There will be a total of 64 major projects and 5,000 smaller projects. Part of these projects, BCDA President and CEO Vince Dizon says, will be the conversion of Clark, Pampanga to a new Federal Capital. Funding will be sourced from a “hybrid-type” of modality between the General Appropriations Act (GAA), Public-Private Partnership (PPP), and Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) (notably from Korea, Japan, and China).

The floor was skeptical that the Philippines may not be able to sustain the financial demands of this multi-trillion peso legacy project in addition other smaller projects and activities. They were also speculative about the country’s absorptive capacity to integrate these projects in this scale and range.

DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, NEDA Director-General Pernia, and DBM Secretary Diokno in reply said that all projects to be implemented by DPWH and DOTr shall be complimentary to the DTI’s micro SMEs project, DICT’s technological “info structure” project, and BCDA’s massive infrastructure projects in Clark, Pampanga and strategies to be employed to fund this has been carefully planned. In fact, they all form part of the President’s 10-point Agenda.

Sec. Diokno emphasized that the strategies they intend to employ are sustainable and suitable for us because even with increased spending, the Presidential Economic Team foresee the GDP out growing the proposed spending and closing the debt-to-GDP ratio to 32% versus Japan and USA’s 200 to 400%.

Members of the Economic Team were firm in “changing the game” to see these projects through. DPWH Sec. Villar said that they are open to arrangements from public and private contractors on how to go about these projects where ongoing and prospective construction will be completed simultaneously, 24/7. CEO Dizon underscored the words “unity”, “decisions”, and “actions” in describing the dynamics of the Economic Team. According to him, they have been hard at work operating as a unit. They have been seeing each other almost every day for the past year to see through the implementation of these projects, supporting each other through their technical expertise, and making prompt decisions when necessary.

Finally, in behalf of the Economic Team, CEO Dizon ended on a high note reminding the audience that unlike the administrations of the past, this government is not in the business of speculating and debating. They are in the business of making decisions because decisions lead to actions; actions lead to results; and results are something that President Duterte seeks to achieve at the end of the term in 2022.