'Nine million Filipinos out of poverty after Duterte admin'

Prinz Magtulis (Philstar.com) - June 20, 2016 - 6:09pm
DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- The incoming Duterte administration detailed on Monday an economic program focused on developing the countryside to lift around nine million Filipinos out of poverty in six years.
On Day One of a two-day workshop with the business community, incoming economic managers said the bulk of its budget and projects will be concentrated in the Visayas and Mindanao, instead of congested Metro Manila.
"We are targeting to reduce poverty rate between 1.25 and 1.5 percentage points a year. That will make a combination of around nine percentage points," incoming Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told reporters.
As of first semester last year, 26.3 percent or roughly 26 million of the 100 million Filipinos are living below the poverty line, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Plans were laid out toward hitting the goal before more than 300 businessmen attending the Sulong Pilipinas workshop here.
On government finances, incoming Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the bulk of the budget, currently allocated in Metro Manila, will be deployed to rural areas in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Funds, he said, will be deployed mostly for agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure. On the latter alone, up to P1 trillion will be allocated as early as next year from just P595 billion this year.
"We would like to make sure that (agencies) will not ask for a budget that they cannot implement...We also plan to have the budget approved before the start of fiscal year," Diokno said in a briefing.
Infrastructure-wise, incoming transport head Arturo Tugade assured all past contracts will be "honored", hence will not be terminated. 
The existing pipeline of public-private partnership (PPP) projects will be accelerated, but new ones concentrated in rural areas will also be crafted.
"I was really amazed that 80 percent of projects proposed are in Metro Manila. You're just going to further congest Manila with that," Dominguez said. 

Food security and fast-tracked projects

Food security will be prioritized, with Emmanuel Piñol of the Department of Agriculture planning free irrigation and support to farmers and exporters to market their products.
Incoming Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said a thrust to connect micro-, small- and medium- enterprises (MSMEs) and local governments with large companies will be established. 
"The strong partnership will help build inclusive business models. We want the big businesses to include MSMEs in their value chain to provide them a sustainable market," Lopez said in the forum.
Doing business with the government will also be streamlined. Tugade said he aims to cut business transaction time within his department by 50 percent over the next year.
Dominguez said fast-tracking of PPP bidding to between 18 and 20 months will also be pursued from the present average of 29 months.
Tax reform will be pursued, fiscal incentives will be rationalized and a review of tariffs will be conducted, he reiterated. Specifically, value-added tax exemptions will be shortened, and corporate tax rates lowered.
Businesses, for their part, vowed support to the next government's agenda.
"This consultation is a step in the right direction. We welcome this recognition of businesses as an important partner sector and we vow to make giant steps to make this happen," said George Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Vicente Lao, chairperson of Mindanao Business Council Inc., said: "There really needs to be a paradigm shift on how the government works and this is a good start."

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