IN THE first quarter of the Duterte administration ending September 2016, the Philippine economy grew by 7.1 percent, acknowledged as the fastest in Asia. To directly attribute this feat to the present government might be too premature as this record was achieved still with economic policies established under the rule of the previous president and may have been buoyed by the May election spending. Economists are, however, optimistic the economy will surpass 6.0 percent annual growth rate well into the second year of Duterte’s term.
With a young population expected to approach 105 million by the end of 2017, strong domestic spending, dollar revenues from overseas workers, and the outsourcing industry, the Philippines’ economy is indeed looking to sustain its upward trajectory. These factors alone will no doubt tide the economy over the global uncertainties expected to emerge from the assumption of Donald J. Trump as US president and Duterte’s drastic shift in foreign relations.
But the real game changer that could very well propel the country to dizzying economic heights is the administration’s plan to spend $160 billion in infrastructures. It is not only expected to generate more jobs, it is also meant to address the infrastructure gap that the country suffers due to timid spending by the Aquino government. More jobs mean more domestic spending. Better business inducing air and sea ports and other facilities mean more investments.
All these developments in the economic front seem to be overshadowed by the president’s constant rant against critics of his war on illegal drugs, both local and international, that it is easy to overlook the effort put in by his Cabinet in drawing up plans and programs to make the country more competitive. To his credit he lets his alter egos take care of the hard stuff while he focuses on his campaign promise to rid the country of the drug menace and eradicate corruption in government, to the delight of the long suffering Filipino.
However, for the economic pie to be better shared to the ordinary member of the population, growth cannot just happen in spurts. It must be sustained well into the future, even beyond the term of any one president. By any reckoning sustainable economic growth can only be achieved under a regime of political stability. Business hates unpredictability. Corporate decision makers want to be able to chart their business direction based on solid likelihoods. At the very least investors want a peaceful transfer of power in case of any disruption in the term of the incumbent.
It is therefore important for Vice President Leni Robredo to disassociate herself from the rumored efforts by certain groups to oust Duterte from office. She owes it to herself and to the Filipino people to help in ensuring an atmosphere of political stability in this critical juncture in the country’s history when hope has been restored and national unity is of utmost necessity to move the country forward. She should be patient and pragmatic. If the presidency is her destiny, nothing can prevent her from taking it.
At 71 and suffering from chronic migraine, back pains, and Buerger’s disease, the president is not in the best of health. In fact his recent absence from the public eye after spending New Year’s Day in Davao led to speculation he went to China for cancer examination or treatment. Without wishing any untoward incident happening to Duterte, every Filipino, most especially the vice president, must observe and support the strengthening of the country’s political institutions, more particularly in this regard the system of succession. She must unequivocally shun extra-legal means to attain the presidency.
The country must not resort to Edsa 2 once again where then President Joseph Estrada was forced out of office and replaced by then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. If Robredo is wise, as she seems, she should let fate take its due course, unhampered and unblemished.