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IS Duterte good for business?

Butch Valdes, commentator, stood up and said, “Yes, but not all his economic managers.”

Next was Alex Santos, with an NGO called Think Tank Convenor for Duterte Governance. “Governance,” he emphasized, “not government.” Mr. Santos set off a round of noisy chatter as he and his colleagues, including the physicist Dr. Rogelio Posadas, are for nuclear energy: “The only way to create jobs is to industrialize. The only way to industrialize is to bring down the cost of energy. That means nuclear energy, 79 percent cheaper than oil.”

The forum was not designed to be a staging ground for a pro-nuclear power movement, but after 30-plus years of a mothballed but still well maintained plant in Bataan, after decades of paying through the nose for imported fuels, the eruption of interest on the floor was not a surprise.

Ramon Pedrosa, chairman emeritus of the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands, added fuel to the fire by narrating how “we were took” by propaganda paid for by a petroleum company warning against the risks posed by nuclear energy. The pendulum may have swung now that research shows how a new generation of plants “feature safety systems which simply shut the plant down” as soon as an operator error or equipment failure occurs. All over the world today, said Jose Luis Yulo Jr., president, 65 plants are under construction.

If you scramble the letters in nuclear you get unclear. Will the Duterte administration send a clear signal to rehabilitate the Bataan plant or build a new one? In the meantime, the Chamber wants to focus on “2030” – an echo of DU30? – given that it takes 40 years to grow a generation of talented, productive, successful citizens. Mr. Yulo noted how the Philippines has been slipping in competitiveness within ASEAN. Our English is not English but Taglish.

With per capita income of $3,000, what good is a 7 percent GDP growth? We lack infrastructure, we need to make government work, we must care for the environment and love our country. Easier said than done. “But it must be done, before Vietnam replaces us at No. 5 in ASEAN,” he sighed. (Jullie Y. Daza)