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Three major obstacles may upset Duterte fiscal plan

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The fiscal thrust of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration which it plans to implement in the coming years—like aggressive infrastructure and emergency powers to remedy the traffic problem—and which was applauded initially is now being seen by some fiscal experts as something to be alarmed about.

For instance, Emilio Neri, Jr., who is head economist at the Bank of the Philippine Islands, notes: “Their methods mark an innovation, but a little bit complex.”

Rosario Manasan, research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, on the other hand said “it will all be a matter of projects to be prioritized,” but contractor Ibarra Paulino foresaw how implementation will be “crucial.”

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The three then concluded that there are three major challenges facing Duterte’s fiscal plan, namely:

  1. Government projects aren’t ready.

“You can increase the budget as much as you want, but if agencies cannot absorb it or spend it because projects are not ready, it will be useless,” Manasan said in a phone interview with PhilStar.

Without ready and well-planned projects and yet at the receiving end of a bulk of funds, “Agencies are being choked with funds. They are not used to having so much money to spend,” Manasan observed. She attributed this to how the fund allocations of the former administration were not used up completely and whatever deficits happened were more due to of low revenues rather than high spending.

Manasan also noted how Duterte, under the proposed bill of Rep. Gloria Arroyo Macapagal on granting presidential emergency powers, will be allowed to transact negotiated contracts dealing with critical infrastructure, facilities and projects though subject to certain conditions.

“That will help, but as far as public spending is concerned, the bottleneck is not really in the procurement side but on the agencies,” Manasan explained.

Neri, for his part, was concerned about fast-tracking spending. He said that it is always welcome, but such step should not be done at the expense of public funds being misused, which, some experts say has often been the case in the past.

“If special powers are used to the extent of resorting to bending the rules, that’s a sign of wanting to take short cuts and that’s not good,” Neri warned.

His statement was similar to what Melissa Yan, Government Procurement Policy Board executive director, said on how laws on procurement, no matter how dreary, are made primarily as “an anti-corruption measure.”

But Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez assured everyone. “We will make sure that projects will undergo scrutiny.”

  1. Budget gap

All the planned government spending is seen to widen the budget gap to three percent of what the economy produces from just a 0.9 percent spending last year.

Where will this money come from?

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno assured that the figure is sustainable, although Manasan cautioned how everything would hang on the fact about where deficits would be coming from. She asked: “What is the context of increased deficit?”

“They have plans to have tax reform and reduce income taxes. It remains to be seen if they can offset that, but I don’t think tweaking VAT exemptions would do it,” Manasan said doubtfully.

Instead, she suggested how “They should be careful because we might go back to a situation where we lack money,” hinting on how the present budget availability was the result of government savings from the Aquino administration.

However, Duterte’s tax reform measures lacked details, although some sources say former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima left a tax package said to give government some P77 billion during the first year. But Dominguez allegedly said he won’t use it. Instead, he would start tax measures that are similar to what Purisima had, like filing smuggling and tax evasion cases, reviewing fiscal incentives, changes in the bank secrecy law, and especially making tax evasion a step closer to money laundering.

“The impact would really depend on the timing when these measures are rolled out. If they come in later than lowering income taxes, that could be revenue eroding,” Neri warned.

  1. Problems in the private sector

Paulino, Philippine Constructors Association executive director, said another major challenge is if contractors would be able to cope with the heavy burden. He said non-stop, round-the-clock construction of major infrastructures, first in Metro Manila, is welcome.

But the question is, Paulino said, how many construction firms are willing and able to do it, especially contractors from Mindanao?

“There are not much qualified contractors who would want to go to Mindanao because of the peace and order situation there. Most of them are here (in Manila) and Cebu,” Paulino disclosed by phone.

Meanwhile, Cosette Canilao, Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center former executive director, warned how projects should also be carefully scrutinized, particularly those from the private sector.

Unsolicited PPPs—like the Metro Rail Transit 3 and even the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3—are particularly susceptible to corruption, although good consultants may help lower that risk as they to assess the projects and improve Swiss challenges.

“The challenge process should be clear. The challenge period should also be increased, but that can only be done via amendment of the BOT (build-operate-transfer) law,” Canilao stated in an e-mail.

However, Neri said this would have to wait for the moment.

“What (the Duterte administration) is doing is contrary to institutional reforms,” Neri warned. “We have not seen that yet,” he noted.

“I think they are trying to put out fires first. Focus on very urgent matters that need attention. Hopefully after, they would go on long-term reform, which is much more important,” Neri added.

Sources: (philstar.com)

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Netizens slam Duterte for saying women ‘could not stand threats and intimidation’

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President Rodrigo Duterte drew flak for another controversial comment involving women after he remarked on May 24 that women “could not stand threats and intimidation.”

Duterte said that while he believed in women’s competence, it does not necessarily ring true in all aspects of life.

“I believe in the woman, the competence and capability, pero hindi lahat sa buhay dapat.Hindi ka, hindi, hindi. Dapat lang. It’s not appropriate when you cannot stand threats and intimidation,” he said in his May 24 speech.

He also said that women should be “prim and proper” and talked about his reservation in sending women police and soldiers to the field because unlike men, they did not grow up with a mindset that involves violence.

“Ang mga babae, sundalo pati pulis, ayaw ko ‘yan sa bukid. Unlike men kami, maliit pa lang, suntukan, bakbakan, barilan. And we grew up with a sort of a mindset na sometimes prone to violence. Itong mga babae, prim and proper man ‘yan, isang tingin lang sa nanay niyan, wala na tunaw na ‘yan. Tapos gawin mong pulis, ipaaway mo doon. Naku,” Duterte remarked.

Netizens then took to social media to react to Duterte’s most recent statements, making #BabaeAko trend again on Twitter.

“Mr. President, you just horrifyingly disrespected your own mother who bravely fought against the Marcos dictatorship. She withstood threats and intimidation. Siya ay babae! #BabaeAko,” a Twitter user remarked.

Forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun spoke out, too, saying “I am threatened and intimidated a lot. All my life. Don’t me. #BabaeAko.”

So did film and theater actress Chai Fonacier, who said, “Encouraging women — and I mean including those who identify as women — and our friends from the entire spectrum to share your #BabaeAko statements to fight the misogyny that the President and his ilk normalize through their behavior. Make them remember the feminine strength.”

KABATAAN Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago also reacted, saying she refused to be stereotyped.

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay urged other Filipinos to protest against Duterte’s misogynistic statements.

Other Twitter users weighed in on the issue.

Duterte’s previous misogynistic remarks

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His remarks in his speech on May 24 seemed to have sought to explain another controversial remark he made on May 16 when he said that he did not want a politician, especially a woman, to become the next Ombudsman.

“Mag-nominate sila, pero I choose, but gusto ko ‘yung bilib ang tao sa integrity niya. Of course it could not be a politician, lalo na hindi babae,” he said during a chance interview.

This gave birth to the launching of the #BabaeAko movement on social media on May 21 by women activists and other people who also want to protest Duterte’s misogynistic and sexist statements.

One of  the women who joined the #BabaeAko campaign was former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo who said, “Akala ko taumbayan ang boss ni Duterte. Yun pala sina Marcos, Gloria, Trump at China. Para sa bayang makatarungan at malaya, lalaban ako.”

In February, he was also slammed for telling his audience of former NPA rebels that he told his soldiers to shoot female rebels in the vagina.

Sources: ( rappler.comphilstar.com )

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New DOT chief to ask Montano why he rushed official New York engagement to watch Broadway show

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Newly installed Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she plans on talking with Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) COO Cesar Montano to ask for his side on certain accusations that were hurled against him.

Among these accusations came from an Abante report where Montano was said to have rushed a speaking engagement staged by the DOT in New York to watch the Broadway musical show “Hamilton.”

DOT reportedly launched the Philippine Tourism Presentation and Dinner Reception on May 9 to showcase Philippine tourism and fashion at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. Montano was introduced as the event’s keynote speaker, but he was said to have only spoken for a bit before hurriedly leaving the venue, disappointing the guests, which also included US officials.

Montano was said to have been invited to the event in behalf of the now-resigned Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo. He was also named as one of the two hosts, the other being Teo, of the said event.

In reaction to this report about Montano, Puyat said she would talk to Montano as well as the Tourism attache and other DOT officials who attended the event to verify the accusation in the report mentioned above.

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Puyat said that she would investigate into the “Buhay Carinderia” program that the TPB is set to implement. This was after Philippine Star Boo Chanco accused Montano of issuing P80-million worth of three checks to the event proponent and organizer.

“I still don’t have the papers. I will be asking [and] will be arranging a meeting with Mr. Cesar Montano to ask about ‘yung mga nabasa ko sa ‘Buhay Carinderia’ – kung totoo ba na walang bidding ‘yung P80 million na advance,” Puyat said on May 15.

“I’m planning to talk to him and ask his side. I want to ask all those who were there if it actually happened,” Puyat added.

In March 2017, TPB employees filed a complaint against Montano for his alleged corruption and mismanagement of the agency. These include hiring friends and relatives, using TPB’s funds for personal trips, and showing incompetence in fulfilling his obligations as the agency’s COO.

Sources: ( tnt.abante.com.phphilstar.comrappler.com )

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Eldest Tulfo vows to help Wanda clear her name, berates ‘black sheep’ Ben over controversial P60-M DOT ad deal

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Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo spoke up about the controversy involving his siblings, now resigned Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo and hosts Ben and Erwin Tulfo, over the P60 million tourism ad deal.

The eldest Tulfo wrote in his Inquirer column on May 10 that while President Rodrigo Duterte himself advised the Tulfo family to avoid talking to the media, he took it upon himself as the family’s acting patriarch to tell the story behind the controversy.

First up, Ramon blamed Teo for not hiring smart staff members who could have advised her against inking a deal with PTV 4, where one of the Tulfo brothers, Ben, was a blocktimer.

As a blocktimer, Ben pays for his TV show’s airtime on the state-run channel.

According to Ramon, Wanda was only complying with President Duterte’s injunction for his Cabinet secretaries to support PTV 4, adding that she did not know Ben’s company would get most of the multimillion advertising contract with DOT.

He also hit Ben, whom he called a “black sheep” with a “middle child” syndrome as the fifth child out of 10 siblings, for signing the P60-million advertising contract with PTV 4 despite knowing that there would be a conflict of interest on Wanda’s part.

Ramon also said that Wanda still tried to save Ben, who insisted on his innocence amid the controversy, leading her to resign from her post. He also explained that Wanda seemed to have forgotten the fact that her husband was on the board of director of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), a part of DOT, when Duterte appointed her as tourism chief. He added that it should have been up to her husband to step down from his post upon his wife’s appointment.

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In the same column, he also slammed Wanda’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, whom he said did not even consult the Tulfo brothers on returning the P60-million funds from the ad deal. He also described the lawyer as “all talk,” a counsel who’s only focused on gaining publicity for himself.

Unlike what has been previously reported about Wanda resigning out of delicadeza amid the controversy, Ramon let it slip that he commended President Duterte for “sacking Wanda,” prompting some people to ask whether Wanda was fired instead of resigned.

Before he ended his column, he vowed to support “Wanda’s fight to clear her name, but not Ben’s.”
Wanda resigned on May 8 to show delicadeza and to spare everyone, especially Duterte, from the pain caused by the controversy, according to her lawyer.

The issue started with the Commission on Audit’s report showing the DOT paying P60 million worth of commercials to PTV 4, which in turn, tapped Ben’s Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. to air the tourism ads during Ben and Erwin’s show “Kilos Pronto.”

Malacañang said that Teo’s resignation does not mean that she is off the hook since the Ombudsman is still looking into her and other government officials involved in the controversial ad deal.

Sources: ( inquirer.netnews.abs-cbn.com , nnphilippines.com )

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