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Focusing on the task at hand

In the middle of all the political noises we have been hearing recently, two pieces of good news went largely (and sadly) unnoticed. The first is the 7.1% growth in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the 3rd quarter of 2016. The second is the recent announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte that he has approved a new batch of infrastructure projects worth P270 billion.

Our politics has a way of focusing on the negative, on what destroys rather than what creates. And this is something that we need to change. But no amount of cynicism can deny the spectacular GDP report by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) National Policy and Planning office about two weeks ago.

The 7.1% growth in the third quarter makes the Philippines “the fastest-growing among major Asian emerging economies.” Surely, this is something that even doubters and critics can be happy about. The business community, including micro, small, and medium enterprises are certainly happy about this development.

We outperformed China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia as we stayed on track to achieving an annual growth rate of 6% to 7%.

The third quarter of course covers the first three months of the Duterte presidency. I think that this validates the renewed focus by President Duterte on ensuring peace and order. Despite criticisms from political foes, his war against drugs and criminality have certainly contributed to citizens and businesses feeling secure and safe. And this is very important to economic activity.

Related to the first good news is the announcement from NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia that government will roll out R270 billion worth of infrastructure projects.

This amount represents seven projects, including the scaling up of the Second Cordillera Highlands Agricultural Resources Management Project, the expansion of the Philippine Rural Development Project, improvement and widening of the General Luis-Kaybiga-Polo-Novaliches Road to Valenzuela City, the construction of the New Cebu International Port, the South Line of the North-South Railway Project, Stage 2 of the Malitubog-Maridagao Irrigation Project, and the New Nayong Pilipino at Entertainment City.

This fresh infusion of infrastructure money follows the rollout of R171 billion in September which included the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) public-private partnership (PPP) project, the Metro Manila Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in EDSA, the first phase of the Metro Manila Flood Management Project, the Inclusive Partnership for Agricultural Competitiveness project, the second phase of the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement project for the Philippine Coast Guard, the New Bohol Airport Construction and Sustainable Environment Protection project; the project to increase the area of Bicol International Airport’s passenger terminal building in Albay; the modernization of Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center in Leyte; and the modernization of Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital in Bohol.

I remember Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin M. Diokno promising that the six years of the term of President Duterte “will be the age of infrastructure in this country – the golden age of infrastructure in this country.”

I fully support this direction that President and his economic managers are taking. Infrastructure is critical to economic growth. It will provide jobs, sustain growth, and trigger countryside development necessary to decongest our urban areas especially Metro Manila.

More than anything, I really admire this administration’s focus on the tasks at hand – what we really need to do to uplift the condition of our people. Despite the bad international press that he is getting and the political noise surrounding our public discourse, the President and his team has to be given credit for doing what it set out to do from day one-restore peace and order, fight corruption, and liberate our people from poverty.

I only hope that our people continue to support these reforms, see beyond the fog of political infighting, and look towards a bright future for their family and for our country.

(For comments/feedback email to:mbv.secretariat@gmail, or visit www.mannyvillar.com.ph.) (Senator Manny Villar)