‘Saddened’ Palace defends government green policies


‘Saddened’ Palace defends government green policies

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang was saddened by the lower-than-expected economic growth in the second quarter but claimed there is nothing alarming about it.

“We’re also saddened by the fact that we failed to meet targets… We will do everything to meet them. If we don’t, we’ll find out why and we’ll try to achieve the further targets for the rest of the year,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said yesterday at a Palace press briefing.

“I don’t think it is alarming, because six percent is still high,” he added.

Roque insisted that the decision to close Boracay and to impose restrictions on mining firms are justified.

“We don’t approach policy purely on an economic and financial basis. The President, of course, will exercise the powers of the state known as police powers to protect also the environment,” he said.

“(Duterte) has given higher priority to protection of the environment – and he makes no apologies for it. If (the gross domestic product) will further fall because of the desire of the President to protect the environment, so be it. We’re investing in the future and not just in the present,” he added.

Roque noted that Boracay, which the President has called a “cesspool” because of the lack of proper sewerage system, would reopen in October.

“Needless to say, we think the closure of Boracay was justified… The President stressed the need to protect the environment and to ensure that the next generations will also enjoy Boracay as we know it – as an island paradise,” he said.

Disappointed but hopeful

Business groups were disappointed with the country’s economic performance in the second quarter, but hopeful that infrastructure projects and reforms to be implemented would help drive economic growth.

“It’s a bit disappointing, although six percent is still a good number,” Makati Business Club chairman Edgar Chua said in a text message yesterday.

The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) or value of all goods and services produced in the country, grew six percent in the second quarter, the slowest pace seen in three years.

The latest GDP result is also lower than the 6.6 percent posted in the first quarter of this year and the 6.7 percent seen in the second quarter last year.

Chua said the implementation of infrastructure projects would support economic growth.

“If the flagship projects under Build Build Build get underway, there’s a good chance we’ll achieve seven percent (growth this year),” he said.

The government has set a seven- to eight-percent GDP growth target for the year.

For his part, American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) of the Philippines senior advisor John Forbes said the group was also disappointed with the figure.

“We hope the weaker sectors of agriculture and mining will grow more strongly with needed reforms that are underway,” he said.

There is hope, according to Forbes, as tourist arrivals continue to increase even as the government has decided to close popular tourist island Boracay to make way for its rehabilitation.

He added that AmCham is optimistic the new Foreign Investment Negative List, which identifies investment areas or activities that may be opened to foreigners and those reserved for Filipino nationals, would have a positive result in terms of attracting more foreign direct investments (FDI) to the country.

Concerns on the proposed second package of the government’s tax reform program, however, are seen to have an impact on the FDI.

“(We) remain concerned that the uncertainty of future tax policy created by TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) 2 is causing a slowdown in the new FDI,” Forbes said.

The proposed TRAIN 2 seeks to reduce corporate income tax rate and rationalize incentives given by the government. – With Louella Desiderio