MANILA — Presidential aspirants Vice President Leni Robredo and Senators Manny Pacquiao and Panfilo "Ping" Lacson discussed their economic agenda in a forum with business leaders Tuesday.
During the Arangkada Forum organized by the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines and streamed live on Facebook, Lacson said he will first fully fund the Universal Health Care Act so it can provide health care coverage “to all Filipinos without the huge financial burden from out-of-pocket medical expenses.”
Despite the passage of the law, the government’s allocation for health has been “dismal”, he said.
“We will fund the high-cost requirement of the Universal Health Care Act to cover all barangays, provide subsidies for all indirect contributory populations, ensure optimal benefits for health care workers and achieve the target of one hospital bed per 800 population,” Lacson said.
The senator plans to support the business sector to make the country more “globally competitive”.
“It is high time that we do away over-regulation beyond our competition policy which does more harm than good to our partners in nation-building," he said.
Lacson also wants to provide financial assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises or MSMEs.
“Comprehensive and targeted fiscal stimulus packages, eviction and foreclosure moratoriums, lower interest figure loan programs from state-run financial institutions and employee retention incentives to encourage enterprises to literally go back to business,” he said.
Lacson is eyeing a "vigorous 'made in the Philippines’ campaign” to encourage more buying and consuming of Filipino products and services, boost the agriculture sector, complete the National Broadband Program, and fast-track the roll-out of the National ID system.
While he agrees that there is a “need to revisit the restrictions of foreign equity in certain industries or sectors” to boost economic growth, tinkering with the Philippine Constitution to accommodate possible amendments should be “dealt with utmost caution," he said.
“Opening the Constitution for possible amendment or revision, despite the intent to only revise the economic provisions will open doors for opportunities to revise even the present restrictions on our political system to suit personal interest, he said.
For Pacquiao, his economic agenda is “anchored on stopping corruption”.
“Our country and our people have remained poor and will remain poor if we cannot take out corruption from its roots. Matagal na tayong pinagsasamantalahan ng mga kawatan sa pamahalaan dahil patuloy natin silang binibigyan ng karapangyarihan,” he said.
“Kapag walang korupsyon, gaganda ang ating investment climate, mapapababa natin sa 15% ang ating corporate tax. Matutustusan natin ang mga proyekto na magpapa baba sa presyo ng koryente ... at sa lahat ng pangunahing bilihin at mapabilis ang internet signal."
Pacquiao also vowed to jail those who stole money from the government.
Robredo's economic agenda meanwhile lies on the factor that the next government must be trustworthy, empowering and agile.
“When rules are unevenly applied, when they are changed in the middle of the game to favor one interest over another when government cannot be trusted to keep its word, then the economic environment becomes unpredictable. It is this unpredictability that breeds lack of confidence and keeps investments away,” she said.
“Conversely, a credible and trustworthy environment inspires confidence because investors will know rules will be followed ... outcomes will be more predictable, projections more reliable and horizons come into clearer view,” she said.
To restore trust in the government, Robredo said her government will “establish a professionalized bureaucracy," fix points of corruption in the government, use science as basis for decision-making, and “minimize the arbitrariness of systems."
She also wants government to empower businesses by encouraging them to help with problem-solving, “rather than one that is overly fixated on restrictions and merely waits to pounce and penalize those who step an inch out of line”.
“It is a government that listens and actively builds a workable and dynamic consensus with stakeholders, understanding that national progress is shared by all. We will create spaces for such engagements. One mechanism we will revive is the National Competitiveness Council," Robredo said.
Harnessing technology and improving digitalization in the Philippines is also part of her economic agenda.
“For some industries, the private sector is raring to go, but it is the tentativeness of regulators, sometimes due to political considerations that hold up the process,” Robredo said.