Romualdez urges colleagues to help push Duterte agenda

Martin Romualdez

LEYTE Representative-elect Martin Romualdez yesterday prodded his colleagues in Congress to support President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s structural reforms that will guarantee the country’s economic takeoff.

“We, the incoming members of the 18th Congress, are faced with the important task of pursuing vital economic legislation needed to sustain higher productivity growth. Global industrial giants see a great potential in us, but we just have to work hard to gain their trust and confidence,” said Romualdez, shortly after arriving home after joining President Duterte on his official visit to Japan.

“The President has issued the marching orders, and we need to follow if we all want to become a prosperous middle-class country free from poverty by 2040. The way I see it, we need to focus more on institutionalizing reforms that will encourage the influx of more investments, the creation of more jobs, improvement in human capital investment, and the building of better infrastructure,” Romualdez, one of the frontrunners in the Speakership race, added.

Romualdez, president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) and Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), appealed to his fellow legislators to consider as an urgent task the approval of important legislative measures that seek to reform the country’s relatively restrictive and less competitive economic policies.

He cited in particular the amendments to the Foreign Investments Act, the Public Service Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, which are meant to encourage investments in industry and services and boost private construction.

“We also need new pieces of scientific legislation alongside improvements in communication, technology, entry of foreign investors, total expenditure on research and development, easing of start-up procedures, implementation of public sector contracts, knowledge transfer, total public expenditure on education and development and application of technology,” Romualdez, the former House Independent Bloc Leader of the previous 16th Congress, pointed out.

“At the same time, we also have to address the urgent concerns of controlling inflation, improving the pay of workers, creating more jobs, fighting criminality, reducing poverty, fighting corruption and enhancing national security,” he added.

Romualdez admitted that approving all of the President’s priority economic measures in just three years may be a tall order for the 18th Congress, but he said “nothing is impossible if we all set our sights on that goal.”

“All we need is to unite as one body and set politics aside. If need be, we have to cross party lines to help the President lift our people from poverty. Sayang naman ang lahat ng ginagagawa ng ating Pangulo kung mauuwi lang sa wala,” he said.

Romualdez said he personally experienced in Tokyo how the teamwork among Filipino government officials and business leaders made it possible for President Duterte to lure Japanese businessmen to invest in the Philippines.

“The Japanese investors were impressed with Team Philippines, led by President Duterte. They see that we all work as a team and they see that as good for business,” the Leyte congressman explained.

According to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, a total of 26 business deals were signed between the Philippines and Japan just before President Duterte addressed the Japanese businessmen at the 25th Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo last Wednesday.

The total estimated investment value is $5.5 billion or P288.804 billion. It is expected to generate 82,737 jobs.

The deals cover infrastructure, manufacturing, electronics, medical devices, business process outsourcing, power, electricity, transport, automotive, food manufacturing and marine manpower industries.

Aside from enacting economic measures, Romualdez said the 18th Congress also need to exercise its oversight function to ensure the swift implementation of the Ease of Doing Business Act, whose implementing rules and regulations have yet to be issued one year after its passage.

This law, which includes the organization of the Anti-Red Tape Authority, is seen to simplify procedures and establish timelines in securing permits and other transactions with government.

Republic Act 11032, also known as the EODB Law, was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last year. It aims to reduce processing time of transactions, simplify steps for securing documentation requirements, Interconnectivity Infrastructure Development, and creation of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), among others.