Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III lauded Wednesday night the second Sulong Pilipinas workshop as a “rich ground” to mine new ideas and forge consensus behind the Duterte administration’s agenda of high and inclusive growth between the government and various groups that have a stake in the country’s future.
Dominguez said he expects the Sulong Pilipinas workshop to be institutionalized “into the medium term at least,” to provide “policy-making reliable grounding in the thoughts and opinions of stakeholders.”
“As expected, this has been an extremely productive effort. Putting our heads together, we looked at the best approaches to the relevant, urgent issues that need to be threshed out. We found consensus where that was possible,” Dominguez said in his closing remarks at the second Sulong Pilipinas national workshop held at the EDSA Shangrila Hotel in Mandaluyong City.
“I am glad that we all sat together today with openness to all possible ideas and approaches. We began our work today with trust in each other. No one came to this forum with a closed mind and impermeable orthodoxy. That is the reason our work has been productive. All sides were willing to hear the other out,” he added.
He said at the opening of the forum that substantial progress has been achieved on the socioeconomic reform agenda crafted during the first Sulong Pilipinas workshop held in Davao City before the Duterte administration took over last year.
Among the “actionable recommendations” in the first Sulong later adopted as the zero-to-10-point socioeconomic reform agenda of the then incoming Duterte administration was the proposed Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), which aims to support the government’s ambitious infrastructure program that the country “direly needs” to modernize the country’s poor logistics backbone and sharpen its global competitiveness, Dominguez said.
Dominguez called on the participants at the forum to actively support the CTRP that “will help us build a strong middle class, encourage investments into our economy and put more disposable income in the pockets of wage earners.”
According to Dominguez, tax reform “will enable government to undertake a massive infra program amounting to 7.4 percent of gross domestic product [GDP] without breaking the limits of fiscal discipline.”
The CTRP, he said, is necessary to achieve genuine economic inclusion, as it would, among others, help build 113,553 classrooms for public school children and hire 181,980 more teachers.
The CTRP is also crucial to improving the country’s national gravel roads, irrigating 1.3 million hectares of agricultural land and providing road access to 7,894 isolated barangays and 23,293 isolated sitios, he said.
“It will also enable the government to upgrade 704 hospitals and establish 25 new ones, achieve 100 percent Philhealth coverage with higher quality services, upgrade 263 rural and urban health units to disaster-resilient facilities and hire an additional 176,922 health professionals,” Dominguez said.
Moreover, Dominguez said the CTRP will help fund socioeconomic programs such as the Targeted Cash Transfers for the bottom 50 percent of the population; Pantawid Pasada and the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program, which will benefit PUV drivers and commuters; and Pantawid Kuryente for small electricity consumers.
The CTRP will likewise help finance the proposed National ID System, which will also serve as social welfare cards for those qualified to avail themselves of targeted cash transfers and other social benefits.
“The economic program of this administration aspires to achieve a regime of high growth. Our economic policies seek to make that growth more inclusive in the next few years as we enable our economy to be investments-led. By the end of this administration, we expect to bring down poverty incidence to just 14 percent,” Dominguez said.