MANILA, JULY 5, 2011 (MALAYA) Business leaders told the Aquino Cabinet’s economic cluster during a recent meeting that it is time to get down to business after a year in office.

The business leaders listed the high cost of power, heavy-handed judicial intervention and red tape in local government units as continuing problems, according to Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo.

Domingo said the members of the cluster assured the business leaders government will respond "very quickly" to their concerns.

"We will look at these things very closely," said Domingo, but he added that "there are certain things that are beyond the executive branch."

Domingo said issues on power are being addressed by the Department of Energy.

But the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) does not want to hear any more promises of lower power costs.

"Reducing power cost is impossible. For us at PCCI, just promise us that power costs will no longer increase," Francis Chua, PCCI president, said after the meeting.

Particular concern was raised on how tapping renewable energy (RE) would affect electricity rates.

"We met with the different chambers and that was a significant concern. They mentioned that it might lead to an increase in pricing," said Domingo.

Domingo is vocal about his position not to grant any subsidy to RE because "RE is viable in itself."

He said he would refer the concern to the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Chua said based on calculations, the gap in power cost between RE and fossil fuel would translate to a 20-centavo per kilowatt-hour increase in power bills.

The PCCI also said inadequate infrastructure continues to make doing business costly.

Domingo said LGU problems, specifically on securing permits, is being jointly addressed by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

He cited the Business Permit and Licensing System that has drastically reduced the number of steps and signatures in obtaining permits and licenses.

Chua said the PCCI is not ecstatic about the one-year performance of the Aquino government but it is satisfied.

The group said one year is too short a time for significant achievements as the administration has to put its house in order.

"If you want to build a strong foundation, it would take years. We should not be asking for miracles," said Edgardo Lacson, president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines.

The Management Association of the Philippines, meanwhile, said the Department of Tourism has failed to take advantage of the private sector-led mechanism for public-private partnership (PPP).

RA 9593, otherwise known as the Tourism Act of 2009, created the Tourism Congress, a private sector consultative body in the development, implementation and coordination of tourism policies.

"It is surprising that this mechanism for potentially strong PPP has not been taken advantage of by the DOT," MAP said.

MAP said the Philippines continues to lag behind its neighbors in Asia-Pacific whose tourism industry has grown by leaps and bounds.

MAP recommended the creation of a privately-run Tourism Promotion Board to increase the Philippines’ share of international tourist arrivals.

The Philippines’ market share lagged its neighbors at seventh or second to the last among eight Asean countries with arrivals of 3.5 million in 2010.

Malaysia led the pack with 24.5 million visitors followed by Hong Kong, 20.1 million, and Thailand, 15.8 million.

Indonesia had 7 million while Vietnam was doing far better than the Philippines with 5 million.

The Philippines was also seventh in terms of receipts at $2.7 billion.

In terms of revenue, all destinations have grown over time from 2006 to 2010 but the Philippines remained static, the MAP said.

It added the Philippines attractions’ are the best beaches in the world, the most varied marine biodiversity and attractive people, medical facilities that are at par with international counterparts, great hospitality service and delightful food.

According to MAP, to fulfill the promise of tourism of a 12 percent total contribution to the GDP and a total of 5.6 million jobs generated by 2020, there must be a "keener appreciation of the needs and wants of our identified tourism markets from which will emanate a concrete, targeted, cohesive and innovative marketing strategy."

For instance, it is projected that 100 million Chinese will be traveling throughout Asia by 2015.

"The Philippines should be able to attract 10 million of these travelers to our shores. China is virtually land-locked and our tropical weather and beaches are natural attractions. This Chinese market is known also to respond positively to gaming, good food, shopping. What are we doing to prepare for this market?" MAP said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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