The stage is set | Inquirer Opinion
Like It Is

The stage is set

/ 05:03 AM March 03, 2022

Since Marcos Sr. was ousted from office, we’ve had one government after another. A range of leaders from the proven corrupt Estrada to the undeniably honest Cory. But regardless of their personal qualities, all of them appointed generally qualified people in their economic team and tried to introduce sound economic policies. Their success depended on their leader’s capability. From the hyperactive Ramos where much got done to the inutile Erap who didn’t know the meaning of the word.


Cory gave us back democracy and a new Constitution, albeit seriously flawed in several areas. She also devolved more power to local government units and signed the build-operate-transfer law to encourage private participation in infrastructure development. Some opening up to foreign investment was also achieved.

Ramos gave us back 24/7 power after Cory failed to. He created the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, established the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, opened up telecom and water distribution to the private sector, and deregulated the oil industry. He also put in place a new, simplified tax regime during his time.


Estrada signed a few bills into law before being kicked out.

Then came Arroyo who pushed Congress for laws of reform: The Electric Power Industry Reform Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, amendments to the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. She pushed for renewable energy and clean water, and took the unpopular but wise decision to increase the value added tax. She signed the Anti-Red Tape Act, which was then strengthened under President Duterte. It was also Arroyo who initiated the conditional cash transfer program which has now been expanded considerably, successfully.

P-Noy defended our seas from the Chinese government — successfully under international law. Basic education was expanded to 12 years, and the reproductive health law was achieved over the virulent objection of the Catholic church. Creation of a department of ICT was reluctantly, finally agreed to in the last few days. P-Noy also signed the Philippine Competition Act to protect consumers and prohibit anticompetitive mergers and acquisitions.

Then there’s Mr. Duterte who invested heavily in infrastructure development, lowered personal and corporate income taxes, gave teeth to the Anti-Red Tape Authority, established the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, provided free tuition for college students, introduced a national ID system. Other groundbreaking legislation he signed: rice tariffication law, Universal Health Care Act, and Doktor Para sa Bayan Act. He also opened up the economy for foreign investments with Congress approving laws amending the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and Foreign Investments Act. An executive order on freedom of information covering the executive branch was also signed under his administration.

Each of these presidents appointed an expert economic team. Then did what good leaders do: Listened to, and agreed with the experts. Then used his/her influence to our one degree or another to get the recommendations done.

What Mr. Duterte and the previous presidents have done is go from a protected, isolated economy to one that has a foundation for strong growth that is finally opening the Philippines up to the world, and forcing local businesses to become competitive to succeed within that world.

So THE MOST IMPORTANT THING the next president must do is maintain continuity, not in any way reverse it toward the failed path of protectionism. Protectionism doesn’t give disadvantaged sectors the time to become competitive. It gives them more time to remain cocooned in inefficient isolation.


What I’m terrified of is a new president who puts his cronies and loyalists in charge of the departments that matter in the growth of the economy. People who don’t have the expertise and, worse, do know how to steal. Someone who puts the “Filipino First” by keeping the Filipino last by bringing the economy back to the strictures of the 1987, even 1935 Constitution.

The opening up that has been achieved needs to be continued and expanded. We must have a president who rushes to take the progress of the past plunging into the modern, globalized world. Continue what’s been done with more of it.

If the candidates want me and my ilk to vote for them, they’ll announce their economic team now to reassure us they know what they’re doing, and will have expert advice to do it.

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