Duterte to keep South Korean businessmen in PH “safe and sound”

Published June 5, 2018, 5:56 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Genalyn Kabiling

SEOUL – Grateful for the investor interest in the country, President Duterte has pledged to keep South Korean businessmen in the Philippines “safe and sound.”

President Rodrigo Duterte, left, speaks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a joint press conference after their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, June 4, 2018.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon. Pool / MANILA BULLETIN)
President Rodrigo Duterte, left, speaks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon. Pool / MANILA BULLETIN)

The President assured the protection of Korean nationals after revealing plans to reorganize the Philippine National Police (PNP) before the end of the year to enhance law and enforcement capability.

“For those of you who come to the Philippines, with our — coming with our guarantee that you’ll be safe and sound,” Duterte said during a business forum where he witnessed the signing of 23 business deals with an estimated value of $4.8 billion at the Lotte Hotel Tuesday.

“I assure you there will be law and order,” he added.

Duterte said he was willing to go “to the extreme” to clean up the police force, which has been beset with problems.

“Give me time. Maybe towards the end of the year. I should have reorganized the Philippine National Police. And I will go to the extreme if I have to. I do not want to do it but I said, if you box me in a wall and compromise the general welfare of my people and country, I will go for it,” he said.

Addressing some 400 Korean and Filipino businessmen, the President acknowledged that he was aware of about “a lot of misgivings” from foreigners about the law and order situation in the Philippines.

“I must admit there were some incidents in the past that did not augur well for people to even consider Philippines as an investment area. Like just any other country, we’re facing numerous law and order problem including my own national police,” he said.

The President, however, assured the businessmen about keeping law and order under his watch while defending his government’s campaign against crimes, illegal drugs and corruption.

“I will not promise you anything but I will force the issue with everybody. It’s either you stop it. And I will allow the human rights to continue [shouting] but I cannot compromise the greater public interest,” he added.

Duterte explained that his strong anti-crime drive was meant for the “bad guys,” assuring the protection of law-abiding citizens and visitors in the country.

“You might be hearing about hard stance but this is just really for the bad guys. If you are a law-abiding citizen of a country who wants to be more rich and you are handsome, you will be protected. I will see to that,” he said.

The President’s assurance came following the abduction and killing of Korean businessman Jee Ick-Joo inside the national police headquarters in the guise of an anti-drug operation 2016.

The murder of Jee prompted the President to temporarily suspend the anti-drug operations and apologize to Korea for the incident. Several policemen are facing criminal charges over the murder of the foreign businessman.

In the same speech, the President has welcomed the signing of the business agreements with the South Korean companies, saying he hopes these would become actual investments.

“I am happy to witness the signing of the Memoranda of Understanding [and] Letters of Intent between the Philippines and the Korean [companies]. These demonstrate the robust trade and investments partnership between our two countries,” he said.

Duterte recognized that South Korea remains one of the Philippines’ major sources of foreign investments approved by investment promotion agencies. “[With] the signing of new business agreements, it is my hope that these will be realized as actual investments and maximized to their full extent,” he added.

Duterte also seized the opportunity to invite other businessmen to consider investments on shipbuilding, manufacturing, food production and food processing, agribusiness, energy, finance and banking, infrastructure, tourism and real estate.

Apart from ensuring their safety, Duterte promised to continue to promote business-friendly environment, particularly in combating red tape and corruption in government.

He said investments in the country are assured protection and potential for profits.

“The Philippine Government will do its utmost to further strengthen domestic policies and regulations to promote ease of doing business and competitiveness of new businesses and industries,” he said.

Duterte said he was confident that investments and new businesses would thrive in the country given its sound macroeconomic fundamentals, intensified public spending on infrastructure, and great number of highly-skilled and fast-learning workforce.

The President, meantime, also urged the businessmen to shun corruption in government, particularly reject any bribery attempt.

He said they could slap or kick any official asking for bribes to facilitate government transactions or permits.

“If there’s somebody asking for money, do not give anything. Maybe you can slap him and say, ‘Look idiot. I spent money to come here to invest. I have incurred expenses. Do not do that to me because your President says I can kick you in the ass,'” he said.

Duterte also threatened to run after and kill anyone engaged in bribery in business transactions with government.

“Do not go into bribery. Do not ask for money because that is now allowed. And if you do that, as I promised before this forum, I will go after you. And if I find it necessary, I said, maybe I will kill you,” he said.

Duterte said the businessmen could consider him as their “agent” if they intend to invest in the Philippines.