Key 2022 election issue is opening the economy and breaking the oligarchs’ stranglehold on infrastructure

President Rodrigo Duterte hasn’t been able to make good on his promise of charter change but Congress is doing what it can in the time left before the President steps down on June 30, 2022. The Public Service Act is 85 years old. It is obsolete yet it is only now that this issue is being addressed. Writing for BusinessWorld Online, Victor Andres C. Manhit in his piece “Sovereignty and economic advancement are not binary options” writes…

Amending the Public Service Act (PSA) is an appropriate and timely move by our legislators. The manifest intention is very clear — open up the public service/utility industry to more competition, especially during this time of pandemic. Through this, we would be able to encourage the entry of more foreign direct investments (FDIs), which, if managed correctly, will improve the delivery of public services and lead to the creation of more jobs.

Dindo Manhit is the President of Stratbase-ADR Institute. It is supposed to be a think-tank of sorts but functions more as a lobbying firm. It is bankrolled by former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. Manhit registers his apprehension over the Senate and House versions of the amendment by arguing that sovereignty and allowing foreign investors to control critical infrastructure is not mutually-exclusive but inclusive. It’s his way of saying that the status quo should be maintained; telecoms should be controlled by a Filipino-owned corporate majority.

The reality is that this does not hold true. Former Ambassador to Greece Rigoberto Tiglao has exposed how SingTel, the Salim group and the Japanese NTT have majority shareholdings in Globe and PLDT. The fact is, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been powerless in enforcing the Constitutional limit on foreign ownership of a domestic corporation as further defined in the corporation code. This is a major issue going into the May 2022 election. The pandemic has tipped the economy into recession.

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The other day, Senator Franklin Drilon expressed alarm about the country’s debt levels even if there was no need to do so. The debt-to-GDP ratio stood at 54.5%. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) average since the pandemic is 51.5%. Other more advanced economies have higher ratios with some reaching as high as over 100%. The country’s economy cannot be financed by borrowings which is why increased foreign direct investments (FDIs) is imperative if the economy is to stage a recovery. What Manhit does not say is that the oligarchs are clearly threatened by these reform measures pending in Congress.

On that note, it is interesting that Manhit quotes Senator Grace Poe who asserts that “it is incumbent upon Congress and the concerned administrative agencies to make sure that those investing in our country are above board and are not controlled by a foreign state.” I doubt very much that Senator Poe applies as good a grasp of the issues in the manner that Ralph Recto did as Chair of the Committee on Public Service. Poe’s weakness has been made evident in several committee hearings in the past where she was presiding. This is why there is a need for the public to be focused on issues in this election cycle. The Opposition has not presented a clear platform of government moving forward. I was expecting this from the 1Sambayan launch last June 12. Unfortunately, it was all the old rhetoric and propaganda about “freedom” and “democracy” being “at stake” on May 2022.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has done an excellent job of managing the economy in the five years he has been at the helm of the Cabinet’s economic cluster. Leftist-militant groups insist the government should give more fiscal stimuli but Dominguez has been adamant on his position that infrastructure investments are the best approach to pump-priming the economy because it generates jobs and tax revenues for the government. The public should keep their guard up as the oligarchs will be running candidates who will serve to protect their interests. The problem with the opposition’s economic gurus is they practice voodoo economics in favor of their oligarch patrons. We should vote into office candidates who present platforms about moving forward instead of those who insist on maintaining the status quo.

3 Replies to “Key 2022 election issue is opening the economy and breaking the oligarchs’ stranglehold on infrastructure”

  1. In my opinion the only effective way to end the stranglehold of our economy/infrastructure by the oligarchs is to remove ALL restrictions on foreigners to invest. They should be allowed to own or invest 100% in any kind of business just like a Filipino citizen. I do not even care if our economy will be dominated by foreigners as a result. This may give every Filipino the opportunity to look for a job first right in his own country rather than be forced to go abroad, be separated from his family, especially minor children who are in their formative years. Right now Filipinos working abroad are at the mercy of a foreign employer and foreign government. If he works here for a foreign employer, at least he has our government to protect his interest. Also the local consumers will be paying for goods and services at competitive prices. I even believe foreigners should be allowed to own lands. In fact lands are the only investment foreigners cannot bring outside the country without disposing them first.

    1. Good idea. The problem with many nationalist Filipinos is they think foreign investment is foreign invasion, like it was said here.

      We really need to get rid of the protectionism from the system. Philippines is not totally a capitalist country, it’s more of a protectionist country than a capitalist country because foreign investors and products have too much restrictions. The safeguard duty bond for many imported cars is totally for protectionism purposes. Who cares if there’s no local products anymore? As a customer, I buy what’s best for me regardless where it was made, be it a local product or imported product. Protectionism hinders improvement because people will have no choice anyway but to buy local products or suffer the expensive taxes for buying foreign products. When they said that the safeguard duty bond was imposed because they should also level the playing field, I didn’t believe that because I don’t think that producing a product with better qualities is unfair. Local manufacturers and companies should push hard to improve and be able to produce products which can beat foreign products and if they can’t, then they should just close down and leave because it means they have no business staying there. It’s really annoying that people prefer that we buy local products and suffer from its inferior qualities for the sake of patriotism. That kind of patriotism doesn’t do us good, it only burdens us, this is another reason why I don’t care if local products go extinct as long as I’m happy with the products I buy.

  2. The idea of a country being “protectionist” is the one of the many reasons why The Philippines doesn’t work. I understand in the past many resources have been exploited, but it is possible to let the free market work in areas that cant be exploited. Don’t let big corporations come in and access large areas of land/sea. Any service/retail/manufacturing type of company should be 100% open imo, but the country would rather have “protection” than success.

    The government and red tape essentially protects the “haves” and gives no chance for the “have nots”

    Sorta related: Any economist in the world would recognize the idiocy behind smashing expensive cars that are illegally imported. You are spending money to smash a car in a country that is poor…..

    The profits from selling those cars overseas (if you dont want to sell them in the country) could pay for many things.

    Somehow protection becomes more important then efficiency/success. That is not intelligent.

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