Businessmen give Aquino 'high marks' for first 100 days

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 08 2010 05:13 PM | Updated as of Oct 09 2010 06:36 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Business leaders on Friday gave "high marks" to President Benigno Aquino for his first 100 days in office welcoming his early moves to curb corruption, slash red tape and boost the economy.

Aquino deserves credit for his campaign against graft, bureaucracy and for efforts to improve the business climate, said Francis Chua, head of he Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country's main business group.

"The Chamber gives the president a high mark for his performance," Chua told a press conference.

Business confidence in Aquino is surging, according to Chamber vice-president Samie Lim, citing the stock market hitting record highs this week and the rise of the peso to 2-year highs against the dollar.

Lim, whose specialty is in tourism, expressed confidence that tourist arrivals could double from 3.5 million last year to 7 million by the end of Aquino's 6-year term.

"The president has planted very good seeds. There are very positive signs in terms of confidence of business," he said.

Aquino has shown his popularity with the public by weathering the storm over the botched hostage incident in August that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead, said Donald Dee, vice-chairman of the chamber.

"Clearly the charisma of the president has deeply embedded itself in society. Despite the problems... his support has held," remarked Dee.

He cited a recent survey showing a 71% approval rating for Aquino despite the apparent bungling of the hostage situation in Manila on August 23.

"He is carrying the ball and has the support (of the people.) He has the opportunity to make dramatic changes," remarked Chua.

The business group said it would formally propose to Aquino next week a road map on tackling the country's most pressing problems, including high power rates, environmental protection, and population growth.

Aquino, son of the revered late democracy heroine, former president Corazon Aquino, won the May presidential election by a landslide, running on an anti-corruption platform.

In a speech on Thursday, President Aquino said his 100 day-old campaign against graft had restored business confidence, yielding tens of thousands of new jobs and better economic growth prospects.

However critics have said it is too early to tell if Aquino will deliver on his promises and have scored his handling of the hostage crisis that cooled relations with China and Hong Kong.