Roxas ‘breaks away’ from Aquino
CANBERRA—As the country comes closer to the May 2016 presidential election, the latest opinion surveys present a decline in the power of the outgoing Aquino administration to influence the outcome of the polls in favor of its presidential candidate.
A survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations on Dec. 5-8 found that net satisfaction with the performance of the administration dropped to +32 percent (described as “good”), the lowest this year. The net satisfaction rating represents the difference between the 58 percent satisfied and 26 percent dissatisfied, with 16 percent undecided. The full-year (2015) net satisfaction average of +29 (“moderate”) was the lowest compared to previous averages recorded in 2010 (a “very good” +62 percent), 2012 (a “very good” +53 percent), 2013 (a “very good” +55 percent), and 2014 (a “good” +26 percent). The latest rating of +29 percent is down from +41 percent in September .
The drop in averages in the past five years raises questions over how this record would help the administration’s candidate, former interior secretary Mar Roxas, improve his popularity ratings. He is running fourth in a field of five presidential candidates, and he is facing an uphill struggle to close the gap between him and his rivals in the “winnability” survey ratings.
The survey results indicate that President Aquino’s endorsement of Roxas as his successor has not helped the former interior secretary’s prospects in catching up in the ratings race. As to the impact of the President’s endorsement, another survey found that Roxas may not benefit at all from it. An SWS survey last November found that the endorsement had a negative impact on Roxas. This result may have prompted Roxas to revise his campaign strategy by stepping out of the shadow of the President and defining himself as someone other than an Aquino clone.
With the election a mere six months away, three front-runners have emerged—Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Sen. Grace Poe. Roxas has a number of things going for him, including the established national apparatus of the ruling Liberal Party. He has a solid record as a competent technocrat who served as secretary of trade and industry in the administrations of Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But there is a perception that he is hanging on to the coattails of the Aquino administration. He has been criticized for pledging to pursue Mr. Aquino’s anticorruption reforms although he did not have to commit himself to the latter’s “Daang Matuwid” campaign in the light of his public service record that has not been sullied by any corruption scandal.
In short, Roxas did not have to make protestations of honesty and did not need the blessings of President Aquino.
Roxas appears to have realized the futility of this position, and recently, he was clear in defining his own identity. The opportunity to do so arose at the Inquirer Multimedia forum late in November when he contradicted the Aquino administration’s position that the Philippines should join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. He expressed concern over the adverse effects of the 12-nation economic treaty on Philippine farmers, who have protested the entry of cheap agricultural products from China, Vietnam and other Asia-Pacific countries.
“We should not just rush into entering an agreement which could be disadvantageous to us,” the standard-bearer of the Liberal Party warned. “For me, no deal is better than a bad deal.”
He added: “I think we should be very careful with the TPP. It’s not an automatic buy-in for us.”
On the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit held in Manila two weeks ago, President Aquino told reporters that he had told US President Barack Obama in a bilateral meeting about the Philippines’ “keen interest” in joining the TPP.
Obama, in response, said the agreement was intended to be “an open and inclusive trade pact for countries that can meet high standards.” Drafted last October, the TPP agreement is aimed at removing tariffs, trade barriers and other protectionist policies in the Pacific countries.
But according to Roxas, the nations pushing for the TPP, led by the United States, enjoy comparative advantages in terms of agricultural technology over smaller economies like the Philippines. “They subsidize their farmers, they give them price support. And they actually spend for farm inputs for their farmers.” He pointed out that farmers in developed countries are more productive because they receive state subsidies and are able to buy inexpensive farm inputs. Also, farms in the United States and Europe are mechanized and make use of modern technology to increase their yield. In contrast, farmers in the Philippines still use traditional farming methods.
“The major threat of TPP will be in the agricultural sector because as much as it will allow us to sell our products, we will also allow them to sell their products to us,” Roxas said.
Our agriculture sector is not competitive, he observed. “We should be very careful. Otherwise, you will have mass-produced goods coming in, drowning our local agriculture which cannot compete.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.