Wednesday August 15, 2018

Business asks: What will you build here?

LOCAL business leaders want the government’s planned infrastructure program in Cebu to take off in the third year of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.

“Starting in the third year, we hope to see implementation of his Build, Build, Build program in Cebu to solve our horrendous traffic,” said Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Antonio Chiu.

Chiu pointed out the implementation of a mass transport system for Cebu as a priority.

Cebu Business Club (CBC) president Gordon Alan Joseph said in a separate interview that the P8-trillion infrastructure program should be implemented correctly.

He said that government should weed out unnecessary projects and ensure that the projects are contracted correctly and implemented with the highest quality standards.

Infrastructure is also on Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s wish list for what the President might cover in his State of the Nation Address tomorrow, July 23, but he pointed out that some of the President’s men have gotten in the way of projects intended for Cebu.

“It affects us like our BRT (Cebu Bus Rapid Transit project) because the self-proclaimed experts said it’s no good. There’s a presidential assistant, what does he assist in?” he said.

Tax reform and infra

The transportation secretary and the presidential assistant for the Visayas recommended last April the cancellation of the Cebu BRT project, which is funded in part by the World Bank. But a BRT was included in a more recent list by the transportation department of priority projects for Metro Cebu, provided it’s implemented on wide roads.

President Duterte did mention his administration’s infrastructure targets in his previous two SONAs, particularly when he asked Congress to pass the first of five packages of a tax reform program that would raise funds for mass transit systems, roads, airports, and other projects.

A second tax reform package, this time to bring down corporate income taxes and rationalize incentives, has already been submitted to Congress.

Joseph said he hoped the President would also focus on inflation and on making the country more competitive in attracting foreign investments.

Political will and priorities

A representative of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) community wants Duterte to focus on the economy and address the issues of unemployment, inflation, peso depreciation, and higher poverty incidence.

Rey Calooy, president of the Filipino-Cebuano Business Club Inc., praised Duterte’s political will on programs that concern the environment and peace and order.

But while the government still has a lot of priority projects to address, Chiu said the campaign against illegal drugs should continue.

Mayor Osmeña, in a separate interview, said he considers the campaign against illegal drugs as one of the administration’s strong points.

The first two years have been “OK ra, because he’s not perfect,” but if Duterte hadn’t emphasized going after illegal drugs, “if he didn’t do that, we’d be finished,” the mayor said.

Osmeña said he expects the President to talk about the updates on the “war on drugs” in his SONA. (KOC, RVC)