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Building consensus

Today marks the 100th day of the Duterte administration. It is a good time to pause and take stock.

We in business are quite pleased with the economic team and its early consultations and policy pronouncements. In particular, business favorably views the announced 10-point economic agenda, and we fully support its early and full implementation.

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But certain areas of concern have arisen, as manifested mainly by the peso’s recent weakening, the large drop in the Philippine Stock Exchange index, and the significant outflow of foreign investments from our stock market, making our peso and stock exchange among the worst performing in the region since July 1. These indicate concerns specific to the Philippines.

Many of my colleagues prefer not to discuss these openly, but I believe that in a democratic system, fundamental policies should reflect the concerns and aspirations not just of our leaders but also of all Filipinos whom they represent. Our President proudly reminds us of the strong mandate he received in May. But he should remember that that democratic mandate carries with it the responsibility to look after the concerns of all, including the 62 percent who did not vote for him. The mandate to lead also carries with it the need to consult and listen so that policies and programs address the aspirations of the greatest number.

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Let us focus on just two basic issues.

Our international relations. Where are we headed and why will the administration’s fundamental shift best serve the interests of Filipinos? While we understand and support better relations with China and Russia, why must we simultaneously distance ourselves from our traditional strategic allies, the United States and the European Union? Why does China seem to be our strategic partner of choice when it denies our fishermen access to our traditional fishing waters, claims significant parts of Philippine territory, and appears to be the major supplier of banned drugs to our country? And why are we vigorously alienating America when it is our major strategic security ally and the strongest supporter of our territorial integrity, one of our most reliable investment and trading partners, the largest source of remittances and BPO business for our economy, and the home of millions of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans who enjoy good lives and the hospitality of a friendly people? Where is this strategic shift bringing us? What is our ultimate aim?

The campaign against illegal drugs. We all strongly support legitimate efforts to eliminate illegal drugs as we see the impact of this menace on our society and on many families. Again, basic questions remain: Unless root causes are addressed, how effective can current efforts be?

Why do so many need to die without due process? After the killings and the commitment of hundreds of thousands in rehab centers, what happens next? Surely treated users cannot be detained permanently. When they are released, will they not return to their usual lives and their drug habit? When drug dealers and pushers are eliminated, don’t others quickly take their place? Where then does this cycle of violence end? As there is clearly no quick fix, does the government have a realistic comprehensive plan? What is the ultimate aim, and at what cost to our society and values?

Toward more transparent and effective policy formulation, I respectfully suggest to President Duterte that he look to his mentor, President Fidel V. Ramos, as his role model. Mr. Ramos built his successful presidency on a deliberate effort at consensus-building. For example, he used the Ledac (Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council) most effectively to push his legislative agenda as one of the linchpins of his administration. But he also convened numerous summits and consultations, all designed to develop genuine consensus so that policies and programs gained the widest possible support. He succeeded because he listened. My hope is that similar consultations by the Duterte administration, with the President’s direct participation, will result in more enlightened policies for our country.

Ramon R. del Rosario Jr. ([email protected]) chairs the Makati Business Club.

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TAGS: drug war, Duterte administration, first 100 days, foreign relation, peso weakening, Rodrigo Duterte
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