4 regional ‘Sulong’ forums generate ‘Top 10’ proposals

DAVAO CITY—A consolidation of the actionable recommendations submitted by the private sector in the four regional “Sulong Pilipinas” workshops conducted in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in November yielded proposals ranging from improving agricultural output and simplifying loan requirements for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to enhancing peace and order measures, and stricter profiling of the government’s cash transfer or social protection beneficiaries.

The top recommendations from the regional workshops conducted in Cebu City, San Fernando City in La Union, Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, and here in Davao were merged at the conclusion of the “Sulong” event held on Nov. 28 at the SMX Convention Center in this city’s Lanang district.

The Davao event was the final leg of this annual consultative dialogue between the government and the private sector, said Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito Lambino II, who is also spokesman of the Department of Finance (DOF). Lambino is also one of Sulong’s organizers and has been involved in this event since it was first held in this city in June 2016 during the transition period for then-incoming President Duterte.

Improving agricultural productivity and raising farmers’ incomes through education and the use of new farm technologies emerged as the No.1 actionable recommendation from the private sector in all the four “Sulong” events; followed by the need to build more physical infrastructure such as seaports, airports and mass-based transport systems; and simplifying requirements for loans with reasonable interest rates for SMEs and the rural sector.

The other “Top 10″ actionable recommendations gathered nationwide are the following, ranked Nos. 4 to 6: Improving access to education, especially for the poor; implementing stricter profiling of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) recipients, monitoring their expenses and providing them livelihood training; and speeding up the processing and issuance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of licenses and certificates of product registration.

Consolidating the recommendations came up with three proposals ranked No. 7:  Properly planning infrastructure projects to reduce disruptions in business operations; simplifying processes at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR); and improving peace and order by ensuring police and military visibility in rural areas, intensively monitoring illegal trade activities in coastal areas, and continuing the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.

The rest of the recommendations were: Improving health services in every part of the country by building more health centers and hospitals, which will help decongest district hospitals; providing tax incentives to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and streamlining government processes and reducing red tape.

Lambino said that several of the “Top 10” actionable recommendations for this year are already being implemented and will continue to be improved by the government such as simplifying BIR processes; reducing red tape, which will be further enhanced with the implementation of the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Law; building more physical infrastructure via the “Build, Build, Build” program; and enhancing peace and order.

The rest of the recommendations will be thoroughly studied and acted upon “with as much seriousness as we have done in the past,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told the media after the Davao event.

Dominguez told participants at the Clark and Davao “Sulong” workshops that the Duterte administration has delivered on several key recommendations made two years ago by the private sector to help the government sustain high and inclusive growth,   notably on improving the ease of doing business, implementing a national identification (ID) system and instituting tax reform.

The Finance chief said the government also responded to the call of the business sector to modernize the country’s infrastructure and logistics network with its ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program that is now powering the economy and providing a strong base for sustained high growth.

These recommendations, Dominguez recalled, were fleshed out by leaders of the business community during the first-ever “Sulong Pilipinas” consultative conference in Davao City in June 2016.

Dominguez said the government’s swift response to the business sector’s recommendation of improving connectivity and upgrading the logistics backbone has spurred growth, with the government spending P571 billion in the first nine months of 2018 alone on infrastructure, which is 7.2 percent above target and 46 percent higher than the amount spent in the same period last year.