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    SPEECH OF VICE PRESIDENT LENI ROBREDO 10TH ARANGKADA PHILIPPINES FORUM

    SPEECH OF VICE PRESIDENT LENI ROBREDO 10TH ARANGKADA PHILIPPINES FORUM

    Hello everyone. Thank you to the Joint Foreign Chambers and everyone who helped organize this forum. I hope that I can make the next several minutes worth your while as I outline my plans and views as regards the economy.

    By now, everyone who has a keen interest in the Philippine economy will be familiar with the Ambisyon 2040 Philippine Development Plan. It was a major project that required the sharpest economic minds in the country to take a deep dive into the data, building on decades of policies and economic themes to draw a roadmap for national progress. Some of those who had a hand in its crafting are probably present in this forum today. I also understand that some of its projections and insights had already been adjusted to reflect the disruptions that all of us experienced over the past twenty months or so. Be that as it may, it remains the main pathway towards the fulfillment of an enduring vision: To make the Philippines a prosperous, predominantly middle-class society; to lift our people from poverty; to have them live long and healthy lives, as they use their smarts and creativity within an enabling environment that allows them to achieve their dreams.

    This is a goal that I fully subscribe to. With the goal set, and a roadmap already drawn in the form of Ambisyon 2040, the role of government becomes clearer: To make sure that gaps are filled, obstacles are addressed, and interventions are done so that the journey towards the vision becomes faster.

    This is easier said than done, and it is where many challenges persist. For those of us applying for the highest office in the land, the question that cuts through the clutter is: What should government do to rise to these challenges? This is the necessary question, and today I would like to respond to it by taking a step back and folding it into the larger conversation of "What should government be?" In doing so, I hope to give a view of the economic philosophies that form the bedrock of my policy approach.

    First, government should be trustworthy. When rules are unevenly applied; when they are changed in the middle of the game to favor one interest over another; when government cannot be trusted to keep its word, then the economic environment becomes unpredictable. It is this unpredictability that breeds a lack of confidence and keeps investments away. Conversely, a credible and trustworthy government inspires confidence because investors will know that rules will be followed, and that those who don't follow these rules will be held to account. Outcomes are more predictable, projections more reliable, and horizons come into clearer view.

    How do we restore trust? Two things go hand in hand: First, a professionalized bureaucracy, led from the top by people with unquestionable integrity, will build a culture of honesty and efficiency. They will spearhead efforts to map the points where corruption enters the process, and fix these points. We will allow science to inform decision-making, and minimize the arbitrariness of systems—enforcing, for example, evidence-based cost estimates and regular audit checks to ensure the integrity of processes. Second, as a professionalized bureaucracy ensures that public servants will have nothing to hide, institutionalizing transparency and accountability will ensure that they will have nowhere to hide. For example, as a Representative in Congress, I filed a Full Disclosure Bill—something that my late husband already put in practice in Naga when he was Mayor, with financial transactions and documents of public interest readily accessible by the scrutinizing public. This is something I intend to prioritize should I be elected.

    Going back to the question of what should government be, the second imperative is that government should be empowering. By this, I mean a government that seeks to engage businesses and come up with solutions, rather than one that is overly fixated on restrictions, and merely waits to pounce and penalize those who step an inch out of line. It is a government that listens and actively builds a workable and dynamic consensus with stakeholders, understanding that national progress is a goal that is shared by all.

    To this end, we will create spaces for such engagement. One mechanism we will revive is the National Competitiveness Council. The Anti-Red Tape Authority is an important instrument to streamline processes, but the broader vision of a more competitive economy needs to have its own space—and the NCC's role can be further strengthened so that dialogue becomes an integral part of the process, concerns can be addressed with good will, and ideas can be threshed out and developed in line with Ambisyon 2040.

    The strategy here is clear: Find ways to unlock the energies of the economy. Whether it is through more rigorously implementing existing laws such as the Ease of Doing Business Act, or reviewing some of the more restrictive policies and legislation that serve as roadblocks for businesses to thrive—for example, the Public Service Act—you can rest assured that my administration will be on mission mode in executing this strategy.

    The third imperative: Government should be agile. The glacial pace of many of our processes can be addressed through modernization—by harnessing technology, and as I said in an earlier point, allowing the system to work with minimal arbitrariness and human intervention. Digitization, therefore, must be treated as a front-end domino to unlock the economy—we must hasten the transition that has already been forced upon us by the pandemic, and formulate new, practical processes that reflect our online reality.

    We know, however, that agility is often a function not only of processes, but of mindsets. I know, for example, that for some industries, the private sector is raring to go, but it is the tentativeness of regulators—sometimes due to political considerations—that holds up the process.

    For government to truly be quick on its feet, a shift in mindset is necessary: Agility, after all, is a function of urgency. The entire bureaucracy must be made to understand that at the end of every decision is a family that might go hungry, a community that remains poor, or a child that is stalled on her way to her dreams. There is no other way to do this but through leadership. Those who govern must show that it is willing to go against vested interests and exhibit decisiveness, moral courage, and political will in the name of the public which it serves. From the top down, from the highest office in the land, cascaded through heads of agencies down to entry-level bureaucrats, a culture of urgency and true solidarity with those that we serve must be cultivated—by our example, by our hard work, by our willingness to hold ourselves against the highest standards of service.

    Trustworthy, empowering, and agile: This is what government should be. It is not too difficult for anyone to come up with laundry lists of steps. We should, however, consider first of all the character of the government that will be tasked to implement these steps. What is the big picture that they see? What are their core philosophies? Most importantly, can we trust that their actions will reflect the words that they speak?

    I have worked with many of you over the past several years—not only during the time of the pandemic, when we reoriented the OVP's operations to fill the gaps in government response, but through our Angat Buhay projects, where we leveraged our linkages to help the farthest reaches of the archipelago. My track record is out there for all to see. You know how I work. You know what I believe in. You know my intentions. I have absolutely no doubt that our values and our dreams for the country align. I ask only that you consider all of these—my history as well as those of my fellow candidates'—as you reflect and decide in the coming months.

    Thank you, and good day.

     

    Posted in Speeches on Dec 07, 2021