Recovering from a wretched Duterte economic legacy

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide - The Freeman

A Business Mirror report the other day tended to cast a pall of our country’s economic gloom. If I sound negative, I am sorry. My true character, really, is that of being an incorrigible optimist such that in the most difficult of times, I always endeavor to view things with abundant positivity. The business paper, however, gave me a different aura. It was one of apprehension. Sourcing its news from an authoritative official of the Department of Trade and Industry, it indicated cold facts and revealing figures. Objectively, these data somehow showed how former President Rodrigo Duterte grossly mismanaged the economic side of his administration. I say that based partly on the factor that, accordingly, nearly 4,000 of our country’s exporters have stopped shipping their products to other countries.

While the report cited lack of supply, geopolitical reasons and market challenges as among the various reasons causing stoppage of their exports, it was to me, the monumental failure of Duterte to help address the concerns of the exporters that doomed the export industry. Well, of course, Duterte was most focused on his “war on drugs” than on anything else. What more can I say. The Business Mirror, citing the officials of the Department of Trade and Industry said it all. DTI-EMB Director Bianca Pearl R. Sykimte revealed the number of exporters in 2022 is just roughly half of the figure in 2018.

The years referred to by the DTI official, 2022 and 2018, are significant. We must remember that the economic data towards the end of the term of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, placed the Philippines as the new tiger in Asia. GDP growth rate rose from 5.5 percent in the first half of 2015 to 6.9 percent in the first half of 2016, enabling the Philippines to outperform regional peers such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Note that it was the last year of the Aquino presidency. The reports then glowingly showed the Philippines was “transitioning to a new economic policy framework.” The Aquino administration had grown at a yearly average rate of 6.2 per cent over the previous five years—the highest average rate of growth the economy had achieved since the 1970s. In other words, when Aquino stepped down from Malacanang, he left to the incoming resident in President Rodrigo Duterte a country in a best economic condition.

But, what did Sykimte say as regards the situation of the Philippine exporting companies in just a turnaround of four years (2018 and 2022) when Duterte’s regime came to an end? In its report, the Business Mirror quoted Sykimte as saying that “the Philippines lags behind most of its Asean competitors in almost all sectors from resource-based, low, medium, and high-tech sectors.” From an economic tiger to being the sick man of Asia again!

Cebu island must not wait for the economic plan of the national leadership. There must be Cebu-based exporters who are among those included in the Sykimte report that have either slowed down their exporting business or closed shop. The incorrigible optimist in me believes that Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and all the mayors of the nine cities in Cebu can sit down together, identify these businesses and tackle this specific issue of problematic exportation. It is a good starting block. Our leaders know that there will be multiplier effects when this sector rebounds from the doldrums. With their individual brilliant minds, indefatigable leadership and profound concern for their people, Gov. Garcia et al can surely make Cebu lead the country recover from wretched economic legacy of Duterte.

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