Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian urged President Noynoy Aquino to take the lead at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting in Manila next week in fighting for policies, which will bolster the competitiveness of the Philippine economy in the face of closer regional cooperation and expanded free trade.
Gatchalian’s comments came after media reported the P9.8 billion bill footed by the Philippine government, the host country of APEC 2015.
“The Filipino people have invested P10 billion on APEC 2015, a significant amount of public money, which could have been used to fund expanded access to higher education and other essential social services. President Aquino should ensure that the people will get their money’s worth by aggressively pushing for policies which will utilize regional trade to enhance inclusive economic growth here at home,” said Gatchalian.
As agreed upon by representatives of the APEC member economies in December 2014, APEC 2015 has focused on four main objectives: enhancing regional economic integration, fostering the participation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the regional and global economy, investing in human capital development, and building sustainable and resilient communities.
Gatchalian counseled Aquino to take special aim at fostering participation of SMEs and increasing investment in human capital development, two strategies in need of further development to secure more productive and meaningful Philippine participation in regional trade.
“Let us take this opportunity to enter into sincere discussions with our neighbors about how we can synergize our economic policies in the name of greater prosperity and mutual cooperation in the region,” said Gatchalian.
Building on his experiences as a corporate leader and long-time local executive, Gatchalian stressed that instituting further reforms to improve the ease of doing business in the Philippines is one of the keys to unlocking the underutilized potential of small- and medium-sized enterprises as major drivers of inclusive economic growth.
In the most recent Doing Business report published by the World Bank Group, the Philippines was ranked 103th out of 189 countries.
“Rapid inclusive growth can be achieved by creating a favorable business environment for entrepreneurs and moderate-sized companies. By making smart investments in automation, information technology, and paperless processes, the government can cut red tape and streamline bureaucratic processes on a national scale. These reforms will result in a boom of successful businesses which will contribute to domestic and regional economic productivity,” said Gatchalian.
Last month, Gatchalian represented Valenzuela City at its induction into the Philippine Chamber of Commerce’s Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit Hall of Fame after winning the award for the third time. Valenzuela City first won the award in 2012, during Gatchalian’s final term as city mayor.
As a vocal advocate of education reform, Gatchalian reiterated his proposal for free college education as a crucial investment in human capital development.
“The regional trend has shifted toward skills-based, knowledge-intensive economic pursuits. In order to make the most of expanded regional markets and entrepreneurial opportunities, the Philippines must radically increase its investments in human capital development. A highly-skilled domestic workforce is the key to meaningful Philippine participation in regional economic gains,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian’s bill, the Free Higher Education Act (HB 5905), is still pending in the House of Representatives.
In addition, he also expressed hope that China President Xi Jinping’s visit to Manila for the summit would be an opportunity to discuss security issues in the West Philippine Sea.
“Since President Xi Jinping is willing to engage in multilateral talks on economic matters here in Manila, perhaps he will also be willing to discuss geopolitical issues concerning the West Philippine Sea in a similarly multilateral manner,” said Gatchalian, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. (Aureli Sinsuat)