Interview: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte
What is the ideal timeline for the transition to federalism, and how will it foster inclusive development?
RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE: I hope it will be realised before my term ends. The shift to a federal government was one of my most important campaign promises, and I remain committed to it. Federalism will allow us to hasten the development of other parts of our country. By redistributing power from the capital to the regional states, local governments will be able to more effectively respond to the needs of the people, especially during crises.
How will the US’s shift towards trade protectionism shape the Philippines’ economic relations?
DUTERTE: We are ready to work with partners constructively to bring to a conclusion the negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in 2018. It is important to promote a free, fair and rules-based trading system, and to forge ahead with regional economic integration amid the threat of rising protectionism and anti-globalisation sentiments. Economic progress must be inclusive and equitable. Micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises are our economic backbone, and their capacity to participate in global value chains will be enhanced through multilateralism.
What measures will be taken to ensure security and improve investor sentiment in Mindanao?
DUTERTE: The success in liberating Marawi is not the end of our mission to ensure security in Mindanao. Rebellion is still taking place, which is why we extended the implementation of martial law, but we recognise that the problems in Mindanao cannot be solved by military action alone. We are implementing the Madrasah Education Programme in public and private schools to provide Muslim Filipinos educational opportunities in the context of their cultures, customs and beliefs. I am hopeful that this will help those affected by the conflict move on and be able to take part in nation-building, particularly in order to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.
We mobilised the Department of Trade and Industry to provide livelihood training programmes and facilitate the sale of Maranao products in trade fairs and events. The Department of Agriculture has also distributed vegetable seeds, sprayers, garden tools, fishing boats, post-harvest equipment and several types of machinery, which should encourage residents to return to work.
How is Build, Build, Build (BBB) progressing?
DUTERTE: Between 2018 and 2021 the BBB infrastructure programme will have a budget of more than $69bn. We are seeking to partner with responsible local and foreign businesses to drive progress. We have improved peace and order, combatted corruption and adapted the policy framework to allow businesses to thrive. With good governance as the basis of our economic policy, we will do more to increase investment, particularly in infrastructure, innovation and interconnectivity.
What is being done to support OFWs?
DUTERTE: The government remains committed to ensuring the welfare of OFWs. While this administration negotiates for better terms and working conditions for our citizens working or planning to work abroad, we are also looking after them and their families here at home through the establishment of an OFW Bank, and the implementation of other livelihood and integration programmes. We are also working hard to create jobs and opportunities in our country so that our citizens need not work abroad and leave their families.
To what extent will TRAIN impact investment?
DUTERTE: We have been working to make the economic environment more attractive to investors. TRAIN will reduce corporate income tax rates and rationalise fiscal incentives. Revenue from TRAIN will fund priority projects to ensure quality education and health care, social protection, conditional cash transfers, BBB’s infrastructure goals and the reconstruction of Marawi.
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