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After the success of the Negosyo Talks: Meet the Presidentiables with Vice President Jejomar Binay last October, we had the second part of this series with former DILG secretary and Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas.
We had a good audience with more than 600 entrepreneurs and guests from different organizations who want to hear Mar’s policy direction and plan of action, as well as to answer pending issues that need to be addressed.
He opened the program with a good talk discussing how the Philippines has transformed from being the “Sick Man of Asia,” as Lee Kuan Yew labeled us, into “Asia’s Bright Spot.” Mar, who spoke from the heart, said we have come a long way. From the fight for democracy in 1986, (where he acknowledged my father, Joecon’s, role in Namfrel and as one of the few who stood up against the dictator), to the continuous growth and progress of the country today, Mar commended everyone for participating in the transformation of the Philippines. He also recognized that the last five years had the most improvements when the current administration installed a new kind of management and was and not afraid to put people in jail.
“We have made substantial progress,” Mar said talking about the growth in GDP and investment capital. Also, he mentioned that in the last five years, 180,000 classrooms with complete chairs and tables, and teachers have been provided to assure the next generations with quality education and facilities conducive for learning. This is the greatest improvement that we have seen. He said, “Because what is a population, and what kind of future will we have if our kids are not educated?”
Mar, who promised to continue the “daang matuwid” in his past interviews, mentioned the programs of the Aquino administration that have contributed a lot in the progress. Some of these are the CCT program which has produced 330,000 scholars, the health care services with a P75 billion budget (which translates to savings and disposable funds for the people), and the aggressive fight against corruption. The investment in infrastructure and the people, he said has led us to where we are today.
As the discussion with the panelists started, Mar was asked with questions on programs for foreign investments, constitutional change and inconsistency in policies, tax reform, traffic decongestion, and internet issues to which he answered straightforwardly and with full conviction.
He was asked by Mon Lopez regarding the foreign ownership restrictions that would require constitutional change to attract more foreign investments Mar answered that are other operational issues and to have a constitutional change might even pose some risk. Investors might adopt a wait-and-see attitude if there will be a change in the system. He pointed out, “Walang investor and nagreklamo na ang nakakahadlang ay ang batas o konstitusyon.” He noted the issues which hinder the investments are the VAT, importation and shipping, and even the harassment in Customs, Immigration, and Internal Revenues. He said he wants an efficient distribution system that will improve business operations to more investors.
Vicki Belo asked if a ‘Vote for Mar’, is also a ‘Vote for Kim Henares’, to which Mar said “In fairness to Kim, she has done a good job.” But he added that many of the Cabinet members wanted to move on to the private sector. When pushed to answer whether he would give Kim a position in his administration, he said, “I’ll look at it at that point in time.”
Babes Romualdez asked him also about lowering taxes. Mar, who authored the bill that exempts minimum wage earners from taxes, answered the ‘money principally belongs to the people who worked hard for it’. But he admitted the progam this must be studied carefully as this will affect revenues and therefore there must be substitute sources of government revenues elsewhere or find ways to reduce expenses. “I won’t be here to mention policies that some popular and gain points from the public, he said. “I am for responsible governance.”
Babes also asked him on traffic decongestion. Mar said “I find it anomalous that buses are owned by different entities.” To have a more efficient bus transport system he said, “Terminate various franchises and bid it out.” With bigger operators, bus drivers will be paid properly and not on commissioned basis which usually lead to improper driving habits.
Jokingly, Mar added that majority of the problems we are encountering need only ‘common sense’ which he mentioned is not very common that is why he plans to establish a Department of Common Sense.
The panelists also recognized the Negosyo Centers established by the Department of Trade and Industry, Go Negosyo, and Sen. Bam Aquino who authored the Go Negosyo Law. This provided that easier process of registration to which Mar supported. He said, “Naniniwala ako na ang mga negosyante ay dapat nag-nenegosyo at hindi pumipila para kumuha ng permits.”
On the issue of internet which was asked by Tina Papillon, Mar provided two solutions: “On the supply side, the government must incentivize; and on the demand side, there must be a change in regulation.” Mar also mentioned that the internet is no longer a luxury but a necessity as we continue to reach for change and progress.
Babes also asked him about one of the most sensitive issues – the Mamasapano tragedy. He said that, “The President ordered coordination and he was disobeyed and lied to.” Until now, he honestly answered that it is an issue that is still on his mind even after months have passed. ““I keep thinking and re-thinking. What else could I have done?” He added, ““But I constantly go through in my mind, wondering. Forty-four people, 44 fathers, 44 husbands, 44 brothers, 44 sons, through no fault of their own, gave up their lives for our safety.” Lastly, he said, “I will live with it for the rest of my life.”
When asked by Henry Lim Bon Liong about his plans on how to increase the yield of production of our farmers, Mar said, “Agriculture is one of the areas that will experience a boom in a Roxas Administration.” He added, “We will find a way to consolidate the holdings. I don’t mean that in ownership. At least through cooperatives, joint ventures, or lease agreements.” Lastly, he added, “We will guarantee a minimum level of prosperity for him (the farmer) and his family.”
Apart from these, Mar gamely answered questions on how he will choose his cabinet secretaries and on his plans to continue “Daang Matuwid.”
Watch out for the next part of the series with Sen. Grace Poe on December 2, 2015 which will also be aired by TV5.