MANILA, Philippines - Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III is set for a strong victory in the Philippines' presidential election, and now faces the daunting task of reinvigorating the economy and tackling the country's parlous fiscal position.
A first-time senator, Aquino, armed with an economics degree from the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University but with very little administrative experience, ran on an investor-friendly platform of honest and transparent government, with a focus on raising educational standards and improving tax collection.
Below are some of the policy pronouncements Aquino, son of democracy icon Corazon "Cory" Aquino, had made during his campaign to succeed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, based on Reuters' stories and information on his Web site:
-- Target tax evaders and big smugglers, aiming to collect 150 billion pesos ($3.3 billion) and raise the tax efficiency rate -- a key measurement of tax collection -- by 2 percentage points from around 13 percent currently.
-- Strengthen an existing carrot-and-stick mechanism at the two main tax agencies to raise perennially weak revenues, and push for higher salaries to cut down on corruption.
-- May consider raising taxes if it was clear the budget shortfall was unlikely to be cut quickly by anti-evasion and anti-smuggling measures.
-- Streamline fiscal incentives offered to investors, such as tax holidays, to bring in more revenues.
-- Impose a "zero budgeting" measure, in which all major ticket items under the 1.54-trillion-pesos 2010 budget will be re-examined, aiming to get back some of the 280 billion pesos lost to corruption in 2009.
-- Reduce red tape and simplify procedures in doing business.
-- Improve transportation and housing infrastructure, invest in early childhood education, and achieve 100 percent health care protection in three years or less from 38 percent now.
-- Promote industries with the greatest potential for growth and where the Philippines has a competitive advantage, such as agribusiness, business process outsourcing, creative industries, infrastructure, manufacturing and logistics, socially responsible mining, and tourism and retirement.
-- Form a group to review possible changes to economic provisions in the constitution, one of the most important legacies of Aquino's mother during her term in office from 1986 to 1992, in his first 100 days as president.
There are some strongly nationalist economic provisions in the constitution, including restrictions on foreign investment in some sectors and on foreigners owning land.
-- Require department secretaries, heads of agencies, and senior officials to have their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) available and accessible to the public.
-- Strengthen the Justice Department and the Office of the Ombudsman. Implement fully the Prosecution Service Act to strengthen the national prosecution service, attract qualified lawyers, and institutionalise a more effective witness protection programme.
-- Upgrade the army and increase defence spending to 2 percent of GDP, or more than 100 billion pesos, from 1 percent or 57 billion pesos now, the lowest among the six major Southeast Asian states. He has also vowed to end corruption in military procurement and dismantle private armies.
-- Review the security treaty with the United States and pursue peace talks with Maoist-led rebels and Muslim separatists.
Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by John Mair & Kazunori Takada