How Duterte changed the Philippines in six years of his presidency

How Duterte changed the Philippines in six years of his presidency By A Robin - March 25, 2022
President Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine's President Rodrigo Duterte

Infrastructure development, job creation and drive against crime ramped up in his watch

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s six-year watch ends on June 30, 2022. On May 9, more than 67 million Filipinos will pick his successor. Real-time results are expected within hours.

After spending six years in the most challenging role as head of state and Commander in Chief, the 16th president of the Republic will retire to a more laid-back life (the 1987 Philippine Constitution allows only a single term for president and vice-president).

What Duterte did in 6 years

During his 2016 campaign, Duterte made a number of promises, the foremost of which is the ‚Äúwar‚ÄĚ on drugs and corruption. How did Duterte perform during his 2,191 days as the head of state?

There are plenty of numbers of note. We’ll focus on the ones that directly affect the security, pockets and well-being of the average Filipino citizens.

We divided his presidential performance into 12 main ‚Äúthemes‚ÄĚ.¬†Based on campaign promises vs accomplishments, here‚Äôs a lowdown on what what happened next:

1. 'BUILD, BUILD, BUILD'

This is one of the main themes of Duterte’s presidency. It’s a push-back on infrastructure under-investment in the past. It's one of his centrepiece moves, spread across some 20,000 projects backed by a bold funding push that combines private and public money, amounting to an estimated $343 billion (Php18 trillion).

The result so far: 31,977 kilometres of road projects, including construction, maintenance, widening, upgrading, and rehabilitation completed, according to official figures. The government itself is funding a Php150.76-billion ($1.9 billion) worth of trail transport projects, in addition to privately-funded rail.

Despite the pandemic, infrastructure spending in 2021 hit 5.1% of the country‚Äôs GDP. Infrastructure spending is set at Php1. 262 trillion ($24 billion) in 2023 ‚ÄĒ 5.2% of GDP output ‚ÄĒ rising further to PhpP1. 321 trillion ($25.29 billion) in 2024, about 5% of GDP.

More than 6,300 bridges and 12,394 flood-control projects were completed. In Mindanao, 112 social and tourism port projects were completed as of September 2021. Moreover, 233 airport and 484 seaport projects were completed (construction, maintenance, widening, upgrading, and rehabilitation).

The privately-funded 77-billion-peso ($1.4-billion) Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7) will roll out on December 2022 (initial run), cutting travel time from North Avenue in Quezon City to San Jose del Monte in Bulacan from 3 hours to 35 just minutes ‚ÄĒ and bringing a greener ride too. Another privately-funded project, the Php44-billion ($840 million) Manila Skyway, a 39.2-km elevated ‚Äúflyover‚ÄĚ, which took nearly a quarter of a century to complete was inaugurated recently.¬†

Right-of-way contests, usually fought in lower courts, are notorious for being biggest obstacles stalling infrastructure projects of national significance in the Asian country. Duterte's team cleared the way for this project to finally see completion.

2. JOBS

Pre-pandemic, some 6.5 million jobs were generated from 2016 to 2020 (and close to 1.5 million jobs from March 2020 to August 2021) amid the pandemic, thanks to BBB. The programme has accelerated the government‚Äôs public infrastructure expenditure ‚ÄĒ from an average of 1.6% of GDP from 2001 to 2010 and 3% of GDP from 2011 to 2016 to an unprecedented 5% to 6% of GDP under Duterte.

Note: About 1.7 million Filipinos are born each year (191 births per hour, as of 2019 PSA data). There’s the hope that new laws that open the country to foreign investments would help boost job creation. But the pandemic has also scuttled job-creation efforts.

3. MIGRANT WORKERS

Duterte fought hard to ensure the security and welfare of overseas Filipino workers, especially during the pandemic. And he did. For one, he signed RA 11641, which created the Department of Migrant Workers, on December 30, 2021.

About 2.2 million Filipinos abroad will benefit from and will be catered to by this new department. His economic managers also ushered in the creation of an OFW Bank as an all-digital bank.

4. NATIONAL ID SYSTEM

On August 6, 2018, Duterte signed RA 11055 or the Philippine Identification System Act into law. It’s an unprecedented move. For one, it will boost the targeting of social or cash-transfer programmes and individuals in a crisis situation. So far, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) recorded over 50 million registrations for the National Identification system in 2021, amid the pandemic.

It is also expected simplify public and private transactions, promote financial inclusion, accelerate the delivery of social protection and raise the profile of Filipinos overseas. No other Philippine leader has pursued this project as assiduously as Duterte.

The national ID database system is a game-changer in the life of Filipinos and foreign residents in the country due to its expected knock-on effect on enhancing security and government efficiency.

5. MINDANAO DEVELOPMENTS

On July 26, 2018, Duterte signed RA 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), giving Bangsamoro region greater fiscal and political autonomy. Following the ratification of the BOL by the residents of then-existing ARMM in January 2019, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) was created in March 2019 for peace, stability and growth in the region.

The creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is among the Duterte administration’s notable moves. It's a peace breakthrough, and is expected to spur growth in the southern part of the Philippines. The Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), created under Administrative Order No. 3 on June 28, 2017, is to facilitate the rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction of war-torn Marawi City.

Around 80% of the rehabilitation works have been completed. Major projects include the rehabilitation of mosques in cooperation with private partner-developers, the construction of major public facilities, infrastructure, financial and livelihood projects.

Duterte, who hails from Mindanao, knows how to achieve peace and stability in the region. Greater autonomy for the Bangsamoro region is expected to reap more peace dividends for the country.

6. ENVIRONMENT

The rehabilitation of Manila Bay and Boracay are two of Duterte’s notable "green" legacies. To speed things up, the president signed Administrative Order No. 16, creating a Manila Bay Task Force. The dolomite beach project on shorelines of the bay has improved the Bay area. Duterte almost single-mindedly pushed this bayside cleanup plan. The rehabilitation of Manila Bay has given a fresh start to Manila’s tourism drive and its liveability.

In 2018, he pushed for the rehabilitation of Boracay Island, against many dissenting voices. He forced a fix of the island's creaking sewage system by shutting it down to tourists for six months.

The Boracay task force‚Äôs job was extended to 2022 to sustain the ecological balance and preserve the island for both local and foreign tourists. Duterte made the tough call to shut down the popular resort despite the protests of business owners. But it was rapidly degenerating into a ‚Äúcesspool‚ÄĚ.¬†

7. FOREIGN RELATIONS

The Duterte administration launched initiatives to improve the country’s relations with neighbours and the rest of the world through the United Nations and ASEAN. Duterte has worked to enhance relations with China through bilateral visits and cooperative mechanisms. The closer ties helped create a more congenial environment for managing issues in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

His diplomatic team has pursued the country’s Arbitral Award in forums such as the UN General Assembly in 2020 and 2021 that defined the Philippines’ rights in the WPS. Under the Philippine Country Coordinators of the ASEAN-China Dialogue, the Philippines has successfully negotiated the first draft of the Code of Conduct in the SCS that will be acceptable to all concerned countries, according to the Presidential Communications Coordination Office.

8. KEY LEGISLATION, ORDERS

On February 17, 2020, Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) No. 104 to improve access to healthcare through the Regulation of Prices in the Retail of Drugs and Medicine Act. It imposed price regulation through a price cap, or maximum retail price (MRP), a maximum wholesale price (MWP), or both, on 86 most commonly-used drug molecules or 133 drug formulas, selected based on set criteria.

Meanwhile, RA 11463 or the Malasakit Centers Act became law in 2019, which provides convenience to Filipinos needing government’s health response nationwide. The Malasakit Center is a one-stop-shop where indigent patients can efficiently access financial and medical assistance from agencies such as PhilHealth, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), among others. There are more than 130 fully operational "Malasakit" Centers nationwide (149 as of latest count), serving and assisting more than 3.3 million Filipinos since 2019.

9. ECONOMY

Two key economic legislations had been passed, and two more are under consideration by the legislature. First is Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) Act and the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (Create). The first tax (Train Act) was signed into law by Duterte on December 19, 2017, and took effect on January 1, 2018.

Republic Act (RA) 11213 or Tax Amnesty Act complements the Train Law, allowing taxpayers to settle long-outstanding tax dues. It provides a 6% estate tax amnesty rate on the unsettled estate of decedents who died on or before December 3, 2017, or Php5,000 or whichever is lower. It also provides an amnesty on tax delinquencies on all national internal revenue taxes.

The second tax package, the Create Act, was signed into law on March 26, 2021. The law kicked in on April 11, 2021, making it is the largest fiscal stimulus package for businesses in the country’s history, providing private enterprises more than Php1 trillion ($19.12 billion) worth of tax relief over the next 10 years with a significant cut on the tax rate for corporations.

Two other tax packages are under consideration by the legislature ‚ÄĒ the Real Property Valuation Reform Bill and the Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act (Pifita).

10. INVESTMENTS

A new law signed on Monday (March 21, 2022) is the latest move by the Duterte government to boost competition in sectors long dominated by a few local players. In the long term, this is expected to boost the country's competitiveness in the Asean community as well job creation.

Before this law was passed, foreign direct investments (FDI) had jumped significantly under Duterte‚Äôs watch. Official data show the approved investments in 2015 was Php686.9 billion and Php686 billion in 2016. It recorded a spike in 2017, 2018 and 2019 ‚ÄĒ with Php908.7 billion ($17.3 billion), PhpP1.1 trillion ($21 billion) and Php1.14 trillion ($21.8 billion), respectively.

In 2020, despite the pandemic’s onset, the country registered PhpP1.02 trillion in approved investments. After posting more than 6% gross domestic product (GDP) pre-pandemic, it went into negative territory at the height of the coronavirus-driven lockdowns.

The Philippine economy, however, showed steady growth starting from the second to fourth quarters of 2021. With its aggressive COVID inoculation drive, growth came back with rates of 12%, 6.9%, and 7.7%, respectively, after a decline in 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.

11. DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE

If internet speed is used to measure development, the Philippines has already made great strides. Faster internet ‚ÄĒ a¬†523% increase in average internet speed across the country¬†and¬†5,000% surge in digital payments¬†‚ÄĒ had been achieved in the last six years. These are unprecedented are¬†two of the most tangible, if not the biggest, achievements of Duterte watch so far. It would be a high bar for the next administration to match.

Given the enormous challenges Filipinos faced during communist/separatist rebellion, terrorist threats, rampant use and trade of illegal drugs, natural calamities, the coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting job losses and extreme poverty, mounting a quick, effective and appropriate response had been an uphill battle. Only a satellite-based hybrid broadband system could beat this.

But in terms of democratising internet access, the spread of fibre-to-the-home technology to many of the country's remotest parts has taken the mostly young population of the country to the meta age. One challenge: Grade of service. If the service providers are not regulated well, or if bad service is tolerated, or not penalised, it would defeat the whole purpose of infrastructure buildup. On the other hand, the high cost of satellite data access could limit its use.

Duterte’s team had shown things can be done in a way that would benefit ordinary citizens and cement their trust in government.

12. ANTI-DRUGS, ANTI-TERROR DRIVE

The war against drugs was the hallmark of Duterte’s campaign and presidency. Voters gave him a landslide win, and he vigorously pursued the drive. Official government figures show key numbers: 224,215 anti-illegal drug operations. In addition, there had been 24,253 Barangays (villages) cleared of drugs (as of December 2021).

Php73.83 billion worth of drugs were seized, and close to 1,000 drug dens, and clandestine laboratories were dismantled. To deal with the threat of terrorism, Duterte created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Meanwhile, the conviction of 197 Maguindanao massacre suspects also happened under Duterte’s rule. Among those convicted included eight members of the Ampatuan clan in the November 2009 Maguindanao Massacre. The case was concluded in a landmark decision in December 2019. The survivors and the families of the massacre victims were given government aid. The search continues to catch the remaining suspects of the gruesome mass murder.

By A Robin - March 25, 2022

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