NO STRAIGHT PATH: HK CONSULTANCY SURVEY SHOWED PHL RATING WORSENS


MANILA, APRIL 1, 2011
 (TRIBUNE) By Charlie V. Manalo - President Aquino was challenged yesterday to clearly define the direction of the supposed “daang matuwid” or straight path he had been crowing about after the latest survey of the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd. (Perc) showed the Philippines did not improve from its spot of being perceived the third most corrupt nation in Asia in a poll it held between last November and February, clearly within Aquino’s watch.

The Perc score on the Philippines even worsened from 8.25 last year to 8.9 on a scale with 10 as being the most corrupt.

Perc surveyed 1,370 expatriate executives in 11 Asian economies about how they perceived the regulatory environment in the countries or cities where they were working and the extent to which it affected their business.

Perc’s Asian Intelligence report showed that the Philippines managed to maintain its third to the worst position only because the two countries below it, Cambodia and Indonesia, also suffered dips in the rating.

Cambodia’s rating slipped to 9.27 from 8.3 to become the worst in corruption perceptions while Indonesia also fell to 9.25 from 9.07.

Nations with the highest integrity in the region were Singapore with a score of 0.37 followed by Hong Kong, 1.1, and Australia, 1.39, the Perc survey showed.

Above the Philippines in the survey were India, 8.67; Vietnam, 8.30; China, 7.93 and Thailand, 7.55.

“The Philippines is, perhaps, the Asian country that has been hurt most by corruption,” Perc said in the report.

“If one looked at the end of World War II as the starting point for modern Asia, the Philippines today should be the richest economy on a per capita basis in Asia and a leader in many fields,” it added.

A member of the House minority bloc chided Aquino for disappointing the Filipino people he had made to believe he is dead serious in the fight against corruption.

In a text message, Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay said the latest Perc survey proved the Aquino administration not failed in fulfilling its campaign promise of eradicating corruption in the country.

“The Philippine corruption score dipping to 8.9 in 2011 from 8.25 in 2010 shows that this administration has been lax in trying to implement anti-corrupt measures and have even been tolerant to issues and have played a blind eye pertaining to this,” said Magsaysay.

Aquino, running under the battle cry of “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (No corruption, no poverty) was able to gather support from the different sectors of society, catapulting him to the presidency in 2010. Upon assuming office June 30 last year, Aquino embarked on his “Daang Matuwid” concept of governance, vowing to eradicate corruption in all levels of the government.

Magsaysay said she had hoped the Aquino administration would make good its promise of combating corruption and not commit the mistakes of the previous administrations that all failed in their quest for corrupt-free government, but that she was mistaken.

The lady solon added she had filed numerous resolutions during the past administration questioning shady deals which she had hoped the Aquino administration would pursue by way of investigations.

“I have filed many resolutions in Congress questioning deals in the past administration which have not been acted upon and have even been carried and enhanced in this administration, such as the sale of IBC 13 below market value, allowing investors to operate casinos in violation of the law, allowing water companies to increase rates with unfinished business plans, processing importation of goods with undervalued amounts at customs, etc.” said Magsaysay. “Where is the daang matuwid now?”, she asked.

Malacañang downplayed the results of the survey saying the battle against corruption cannot be won overnight.

Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte told reporters at a news conference yesterday that while Aquino was elected through his campaign slogan of ‘kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap’, the problem on graft and corruption is certainly not something that an administration can resolve immediately.

“The President has said in the past that to be able to push forward with the reforms intended for the anti-corruption agenda, there will be certain things that will have to be done. We understand that we have laid the basis for these steps so far,” so claimed Valte.

Valte said the Palace cannot make an official comment regarding the method used by Perc in coming up with the survey but she asserted that its perception on the Philippines runs contrary to what they have been hearing from the business executives who had paid courtesy calls on Aquino.

She spoke of Aquino’s meeting with representatives from the United States-Association of Southeast Asian Nation Business Council (US-ABC) Wednesday morning in Malacañang as something that belies Perc’s findings on corruption in the country.

“The representatives did welcome the thrust of the government when it came to anti-corruption and they agreed with moves to rationalize loss when it came to investments and incentives and they did support the fact that optimism is up among businessmen and investors in the country. So again, this is quite at odds with the result of the survey,” Valte said.

Valte claimed that the Perc survey might have been influenced by the congressional hearings regarding the alleged rampant military corruption through the ‘pabaon’ system as well as the investigation on the plea bargaining agreement forged by the Office of the Ombudsman with accused plunder, retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia.

“If you speak about perception, some say that what has happened in the past but was only brought to the attention of the general public now, may also have a significant impact on the survey that was taken during that particular period especially if you consider that you deal with perceptions when it comes to that particular survey,” Valte said.

A press statement from the Palace had US-ABC’s president, Alex Feldman, expressing confidence that his group’s meeting with Aquino yesterday marks the beginning of their partnership with the Philippines aimed at expanding trade and investment as well as improving the country’s business competitiveness.

“We believe that the success of this mission will be a source of continued positive first impressions and the start, hopefully, of more aggressive efforts to re-brand the Philippines as “open for business and under new management” and expand trade and investment and improve the competitiveness of the Philippines and hence the investment environment,” Feldman was quoted as saying.

“The reform process tackling corruption and attracting strategic investors as you’ve outlined will be critical to achieving your vision of unlocking the full potential of the Filipino people and Philippine society and creating new jobs, increasing healthcare and supporting new infrastructure development,” he added.

In response, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said the Aquino administration remains committed at implementing government reforms further bragging about the supposed reduction of the country’s national debt by almost half.

“From 105 percent of GDP in 1988 to 57 percent now while growth has been pegged at 7.3 percent, the highest since 1976,” Purisima claimed, adding that the country’s heavily favored industries such as business process outsourcing, semiconductor, mining and ship building have been posting steady growth numbers owing to renewed investor confidence in the Aquino administration.

Purisima pointed out that the government is keen on addressing obstacles that have held back the country, namely the infrastructure gap, graft, corruption and poverty as he called on the US-ABC’s cooperation with government toward addressing these stumbling blocks in order to help the country grow and prosper.

“We look forward to working with you in a public-private partnership so that we can create a better Philippines,” Purisima said.

Founded in 1984, the US-ABC represents American-based businesses in Southeast Asia and has offices in five countries in the region. These businesses include those in: information communication technology, customs, corporate citizenship, defense, energy, financial services, health and life sciences, and food and agriculture. Aytch S. de la Cruz


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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