Continuing a strong partnership between businesses and government – BusinessWorld Online – BusinessWorld Online

By Adrian Paul B. Conoza, Special Features Assistant Editor
At a very critical time when the economy moves further into the new normal and the country braces for a new administration after the elections in May, George T. Barcelon once again takes the lead in making the voices of businesses heard as he currently serves as the president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI). He was elected by PCCI’s 20-member board of directors for this year during the chamber’s annual meeting held last December.
Mr. Barcelon, who is also the president of computer systems and peripherals pioneer Integrated Computer Systems, Inc., served PCCI in the same role back in 2015 to 2016.
In an interview with the BusinessWorld, the PCCI president noted the chamber’s significant role in strengthening the partnership between the government and the private sector.
“During the administration of President Duterte, we fostered closer the relationship with the administration, especially with the Department of Finance (DoF),” Mr. Barcelon shared, highlighting the annual Sulong Pilipinas consultative conference which has served as a platform for the present administration to consult stakeholders on socioeconomic priorities.
In his speech during the oath-taking and induction rites of PCCI board of directors last February, Mr. Barcelon also noted that Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III institutionalized PCCI’s partnership with DoF to organize the annual Sulong Pilipinas.
“The collaboration allows the private sector to be heard, leading to the game-changing measures that brought the country unprecedented growth and have laid the foundation for sustainability,” he said. The measures that came up from “Sulong Pilipinas” include, to name a few, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion, the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Acts, and the Ease of Doing Business Act.
As he looks forward to this year’s Sulong Pilipinas conference in April, Mr. Barcelon aims for continuous and consistent collaboration between the private sector and the government, especially as the country is still feeling the effect of global crises even amid a lower alert level in most areas.
“We are hopeful that the downtrend of the infection will continue so that we can normalize our lifestyle [and] businesses as soon as possible, he said during the interview. “But we are also cognizant of the fact that [what’s happening], especially [in Ukraine and Russia]… might throw a monkey wrench’ on the development of the economy. What happens there affects everybody worldwide,” he emphasized.
“We feel that with what have happened, it’s even more important for the private sector and government to work closely,” the PCCI president added.
The chamber, he continued, also hopes that the new administration will continue giving the venue for businesses’ voice to be heard in various areas of concern, such as assisting micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs); addressing power shortages, water shortages, and low dam levels; boosting the agricultural sector, which Mr. Barcelon notes has not grown too much recently; improving connectivity in the country; and gearing education towards upskilling and reskilling future workforces.
“These issues have been addressed by the current administration, and we would like to share our thoughts with the new government,” he added. “Whatever is working, don’t meddle with it… But there are gaps that we see, and we will sound off what needs to be addressed.”
In addition, Mr. Barcelon looks forward to the new administration building on the economic accomplishments of the current administration.
“The Duterte Administration… has built a legacy as responsive to the business sector’s concern in our nation’s credit standing and in dealing with inflation. We are hopeful that the next administration will be able to build on such accomplishments as we recover, rebuild, and rebound to attain economic growth comparable to this administration,” he said during his speech.
In a separate statement last January, the PCCI president also said that the chamber “stands ready to help collaborate” with the next administration “on an economic agenda that will be conducive to immediate business recovery.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr., honorary chairman and treasurer of PCCI and president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) and Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), added that the chamber is hoping that the government will address the country’s exit from the pandemic.
“After addressing the pandemic, we would really like to ask the government to take a closer look at what can bring our economy up. And we are looking at some of the low-hanging fruits,” he told BusinessWorld in another interview.
For Dr. Ortiz-Luis, the Build, Build, Build program is one of these fruits, and so he hopes that other projects under the program will get started this year.
“We hope that most of them will be started during this time, as promised, by the end of the term of President Duterte,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. “There are funding commitments from JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) and the World Bank, but we’re wondering why the releases are slow.”
The Philexport and ECOP chief also noted the need to deal with matters regarding the country’s healthcare system “so that we have no fear of surge of the pandemic again.”
“If [medical professionals] have complaints regarding what they earned, that should be resolved by the government immediately, including equipment and medicine. If we have that assurance, then we can relax without fear,” he said.
There should also be an assurance that the transportation system is working and that traffic will not worsen since improvements were hardly seen recently, he added.

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