Former Finance Secretary Dr. Bobby de Ocampo and Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) President Ambassador Donald G. Dee at the Pandesal Forum with media in Kamuning Bakery Café in Quezon City urged legislators to quickly approve the proposed tax reform bill before the end of 2017 and they lauded the Duterte government’s new infrastructure projects as two big factors for sustaining “robust Philippine economic growth of 6.5% to 7% this year”. Dee complained that cost of living in the Philippines is higher than those of Thailand and Vietnam, a challenge which all sectors of the Philippines should work to improve.

Both De Ocampo and Dee also expressed support progressive efforts for charter change on the economic provisions, but they urge more careful studies on the federalism proposals.

Dr. de Ocampo said the many new infrastructure projects will ensure sustainability and inclusiveness of fast Philippine economic growth, while Amb. Dee urged politicians and other sectors “not to lose focus away from the positive economic growth story of the Philippines so that we wouldn’t be sending wrong signals to the world about our true situation”. Ambassador Dee urged Philippine legislators to help lessen political noises, “stop wasting time” and support important socio-economic reforms. Dee said to politicos: “Let us be constructive or shut up.”

Philippine Veterans Bank chairman and Makati Business Club co vice-chairman Dr. de Ocampo said that if legislators can fast-track approval of the tax reform bill and if government can implement its many new infrastructure projects, he foresees “Philippine economic growth can accelerate next year 2018 to 7% or higher, and this shall continue in the coming years”. De Ocampo said many businessmen are bullish about the Philippines’ “Build, build, build” infrastructure projects from new bridges, highways, the proposed new subway, new train and MRT lines to airport constructions. He said investors shouldn’t be shocked by the unorthodox woprds of President Duterte but “appreciate his being more a doer than a talker, his leadership style can best be described as that of action-orientedness and authenticity”.

De Ocampo said the Senate proposes a tax reform bill which can raise net of P130 billion pesos of new revenues for government, while the Department of Finance has proposed a tax reform bill to raise P160 billion pesos, he expects a compromise can be reached for an amount in the middle of both proposals.

De Ocampo also said one source of good news for the Philippine economy is the Duterte government’s nationalist independent foreign policy of boosting ties with China and Russia, thus helping the Philippines benefit from rising economic power China’s trillion-dollar “Belt and Road Initiative” or new Silk Road plan of trans-continental infrastructures linking east China to Central Asia, Moscow and south Europe. He compared this new Silk Road program of China for the vast Eurasia region with the 1950s project of constructing interstate highways all over the United States which boosted that economy. He urged Philippine diplomacy to be guided by the national economic interests, by pragmatism and by recognizing the economic resurgence of Asia.

Educated in Ateneo de Manila University, University of Michigan and London School of Economics, Dr. Bobby de Ocampo is now chairman of Philippine Veterans Bank, co vice-chairman of Makati Business Club and past president of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). Educated in De La Salle University, Ambassador Donald Dee is now also honorary chairman and chief operating officers of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PCCI), chairman of Confederation of Garment Exporters of the Philippines (CONGEP) and vice-chairman of Philippine Exporters Confederation.

A special member of the panel at the September 21 Pandesal Forum with media in Kamuning Bakery Café was National Security Council Deputy Director-General Admiral Damian Carlos, he said President Rody R. Duterte hopes to end all insurgencies of the Communist rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA), the Muslim rebels of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) by the end of his term and by concluding peace agreements with these groups. Admiral Carlos described the national security situation of the Philippines now as “robust and good”, thus conducive to sustained economic development and growth.(KBC)