Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 23) — President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has done a lot in reforming the economy, but it still has some remaining business to take care of, the Asian Development Bank said.

“If you look back at what the government’s done in the past five years, they have had a huge economic program, a reform program. I would classify the government’s efforts as hugely reformist,” ADB country director for the Philippines Kelly Bird told CNN Philippines’ The Exchange in an interview aired on Friday.

Bird noted the Duterte administration’s programs like Build, Build, Build and comprehensive tax reform along with the introduction of universal health care and more social protection.

“The agenda has been very large, very reformist,” said the ADB official. “And I think that would bode very well for the Philippines to recover and get back on track to its 6% growth by 2023.”

The regional lender recently maintained its 4.5% projection for domestic economic growth this year and 5.5% for 2022 — both below the government’s 6-7% and 7-9% target bands for both years.

In April, it scaled back its growth forecast for the Philippines for 2021 to 4.5% from 6.5% as it expected “fragile” recovery for the country. 

Weeks after, the government announced a 4.2% economic plunge for the first quarter of 2021, meaning the country remains in recession this year. 

Into Duterte’s last year as president

While Bird acknowledged the Duterte government has done a “lot already” in the past five years, he says it still definitely has “unfinished business” for the year ahead.

For instance, he counts on the passage of amendments to key economic measures like the Public Services Act and Foreign Investments Act — which he dubbed as big “game-changers.”

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This is a view seconded by House Ways and Means Committee chair and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, who emphasized the need for lawmakers to devote much of their legislative time to improving the country’s investment climate.

This may be done by passing the said measures along with amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, Salceda told The Exchange.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier urged Congress to immediately pass these measures in a bid to jumpstart economic recovery amid the health crisis. 

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“The bigger relief really comes from recovery because we need to produce jobs. And the only way to produce jobs is through investments,” explained the solon.

Alongside the passage of key economic bills, Bird also called on the government to continue boosting its skills funding programs.

He cited as examples the reformation of its apprenticeship program — which falls under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority — and introduction of new workplace skills funding schemes that can help workers transition to new job opportunities as the economy bounces back from the COVID-19 health crisis.

“That’s where I think some of the focuses could be for the next 12 months. But as you know, the government has announced quite a lot of structure reform programs and they seem to be working double hard to get (those) through,” he said.

Duterte will be holding his sixth and last State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 26, at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City. 


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