Business reaction on SONA swings from good to worse

Published July 27, 2020, 8:38 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Reaction from the business community on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) swung from good to worse.

From the exporters sector, Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PhilExport) President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said they are happy with the SONA as he cited the President’s pronouncement under the proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act Bill.

He said exporters would have wanted to hear the economic stimulus package under the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy bill, which sought for a P1.3 trillion government fund support for economic recovery. The President did not even mention the National ID System.

The exporters sector, however, lamented that the private sector was not consulted in the crafting of policies on COVID-19 responses. He blamed the rising COVID cases in the country to the government’s lockdown, lack of testing, tracing, and insufficient and less decent quarantine facilities.

“We are already in a recovery period and it is proper to involve the economic managers and business sector in the consultation at the Inter Agency Task Force,” he said.

American businessmen in the country liked the President’s emphasis on e-government and online learning. 

John Forbes, senior adviser of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said “The emphasis on e-government and online learning is important and requires better broadband, which requires more investors and competition, including foreign firms. We had recommended he call for the PSA amendments and Open Access for Data Transmission which would be policies to improve the telco sector.“

He also noted that several of the priority bills that AmCham had proposed were endorsed by the President. These include CREATE, Land Use, and Disaster Resilience Department.

“But he did not focus as much on the pandemic and economic recovery as many expected, although there were many proposals to help MSMEs survive,” said Forbes.

Francis Chua, founder and chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, cited the comprehensive report of the President that lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Chua also cited for his bold pronouncement to bring back death penalty through lethal injection for drug criminals. “He is bold enough to revive capital punishment by lethal injection just to prove he means what he says,” Chua said.

He also lauded for asking President XI of China requesting for the allocation of vaccines should they be able to produce one at and request for payment terms.

But business leader Jose Luis Yulo, Jr., president of the Chamber of Commerce of Philippine Islands, said that from the economic perspective of the West Philippine Sea, “The SONA makes me sad, feel betrayed, and cry for the country.”

On the COVID 19 responses, Yulo was critical of Duterte for asking China’s President Xi Jinping to that the Philippines be given priority allocation for the vaccine that China might come up with.

“I myself do not trust and will not want to take any vaccine from China. And what about vaccines from Europe, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Israel, or even Russia who are known leaders in medical research?  Why rely and focus on China to the exclusion of other global scientists,” he said.