The race to Malacañang: Interview with Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas

Reading Time: 7 minutes

As the elections approach in the Philippines and people are to choose a new head of state on May 9, Investvine is kicking off the series “The race to Malacañang” by interviewing the leading presidential candidates. We want to know what they are thinking about a variety of economic and societal topics and what their ideas on the future of the Philippines are. We will also discuss key issues including inclusive growth policies, poverty reduction, the role of the church on politics, the anti-corruption drive and the Marcos legacy.

investvine-Race-to-Malacanang-FBPost

We start with Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II,  grandson of Manuel Roxas, the first president of the Third Philippine Republic (1946-65). In an interview with Investvine he tells us ”Come the elections, we trust that the people will choose what is right for the country and for their families.”

A Wharton school graduate and member of the Liberal Party (LP) and with considerable experience in the political spectrum, he served as Secretary of Trade and Industry for two former presidents – Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Then, in 2010, he ran against Jejomar Binay (also in the president elections) in the race for vice president, which he lost. Since, he proved to be a loyal member of the party and of President Benigno Aquino’s cabinet, serving as both Secretary of Transport and Communications and Secretary of Interior and Local Government. 

Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Mar Roxas
Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Mar Roxas

Could you briefly outline your economic programme for the Philippines?

Our goal is to provide all Filipinos with jobs, security, and hope so that they are equipped with all the tools they require to seize opportunities for success. To create millions of high-quality jobs, we will provide incentives to investors who engage in industries higher up the value chain, while ensuring that Filipinos have the necessary training and education to fill openings in such industries such as manufacturing, tourism, and IT-BPO.

For entrepreneurial and livelihood opportunities, we will create an environment that will unleash the entrepreneurial talent of every Filipino and further simplify and standardise processes for business licensing and regulation. We will also implement mechanisms to make credit more easily available to Filipinos who wish to start an SME, or to those with the goals of expanding their SMEs further. This includes the establishment of Negosyo Centers in every city and municipality and disseminating of market information to barangays for the efficient adaptation of goods and services according to inputs and demand.

We will also invest in technology and provide internet connectivity to induce efficiency and productivity across all sectors, as well as to ensure that all communities, particularly those in far-flung or relatively rural areas, have access to both information and employment opportunities. For a more conducive labor environment, we will study and develop flexible and lawful work arrangements to adapt to the needs of both employees and employers, securing humane working conditions and encouraging more investments in different sectors of the economy.

How would you address the income inequality gap?

One concrete way to provide equal opportunities for all Filipinos regardless of their social and economic background is by improving access to quality education.

To achieve this, we will continue and improve programs that will enhance the educational infrastructure and ensure the sufficiency of basic education inputs to meet the growing requirements of the K to 12 program. To develop people’s innate talents and skills, we will establish technical-vocational centers in all provinces and integrate technical-vocational education in our formal education system. We will also boost the performance of teaching personnel through more extensive capacity-building programs and adopt international standards in assessing the performance of schools, colleges, and universities to raise their and their graduates’ competitiveness. We will also establish a fund to provide financial support (tuition and allowance) to public high school graduates who finish at the top of their class nationwide, to allow them to pursue their tertiary education in quality schools.

What is your programme with regards to ASEAN integration and the ASEAN Economic Community?

Our engagement with ASEAN is strategic because it provides us with a bigger forum where our cases that concern crucial aspects of our national economic and geopolitical interests, such as the West Philippine Sea, can be presented.

As such, we will continue to boost our nation’s competitiveness as we welcome this opportunity, which fosters and promotes mutual economic progress among nations. This includes pouring more investments in our most precious resource—our people—through education and healthcare so that we can catch up with our neighbors even faster.

We will also revisit policies and regulations that can make doing business in our country easier and more profitable for both investors and employees. For example, we will rationalise numerous existing government regulations and processes. Instead of helping the people avail of services, many of the inefficient and burdensome processes in the current system actually allow corrupt individuals to extort money from the people for “easier and faster facilitation.”

We will also review existing energy policies to lower the cost of power, which is essential in developing the manufacturing sector, and connect the different sectors of the economy through infrastructure to improve access and increase opportunities in tourism and agriculture. These will be undertaken during a three-year transition period to clean, reliable, and affordable energy. Incentivising investors in renewable and clean energy will increase our overall power supply and also diversify our energy mix.

How would you define “good governance” as a possible Philippine leader?

After the past six years, we have started reaping the gains of good governance. All such indicators point to our deliberate, programmatic, and sustained efforts based on the principles of a fair and rules-based level playing field, best return to stakeholders, and a strong anti-corruption foundation. We intend to bear and apply these principles as we move forward beyond 2016.

Speaking of corruption, what is your action plan to address corruption and nepotism in the Philippines?

The signal is out and Daang Matuwid has succeeded in sending the message that corruption will no longer be tolerated. To institutionalise our efforts to uphold transparency as a founding principle of good governance, we will push for the passage of the Freedom of Information bill.

We will also go deeper into the roots, nooks, and crannies of mid-level corruption in the bureaucracy while sustaining the upward momentum for economic growth and development. By creating a body to rationalise numerous existing government regulations and processes, we make the delivery of government services more efficient and prevent corrupt individuals from extorting money for “easier and faster facilitation.”

We will also ensure the application of laws to establish order and prevent crime. Men and women of probity, competence, impartiality, and integrity shall be appointed to the ten Supreme Court Justice positions that will be vacated under the next administration.

How far can the influence of the Church on politics go in your opinion?

While the Constitution has explicitly drawn the line between the Church and the state, our people’s religious beliefs trace their roots almost as far as both history and culture go. These are intertwined aspects of Filipino life, which a leader ought to consider in decision-making if only to understand their sensibilities and ensure the effectiveness of public policies.

Having been an OFW yourself, what is your programme for overseas workers? Incentivise them to work more time abroad? Calling them back to help the Philippine economy develop?

We will protect the rights of OFWs by upholding justice under the rule of law. It is not right for those who were forced to leave their country and their families to work without the protection of the law. This includes improved access to available services, including legal, consular, and employment assistance, and even repatriation. We will also study the proposed extension of the Philippine passport’s validity for OFWs from five years to ten.

We will do all these as we create more jobs for Filipinos, here in the Philippines, so that when our OFWs decide to come home, not only their families but also quality and decent jobs will be waiting for them.

What is your view on same-sex and transgender rights?

We want everybody to be equal in the eyes of the law. As such, we will push for the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill to ensure that all Filipinos, regardless of their gender identities, will receive fair treatment and protection under the rule of law.

We are also in favour of same-sex civil unions where same-sex couples will receive the same legal rights and freedoms that heterosexual couples enjoy.

What is your stance on the tightening of the defense cooperation with Washington, and defense spending in general?

We support the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement because it reinforces our defense ties with the United States, which is vital in ensuring peace and stability in the region. This serves as an opportunity for both countries to explore even more avenues of cooperation to improve our defense capabilities, strengthen maritime awareness and maritime security, and enhance humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Ultimately, it is a manifestation of shared values, interests, and goals between the United States and the Philippines, whose partnership contributes to stability in the international arena.

We will also continue to push for the modernisation of our Armed Forces to ensure that they are given the best chance of success in all their missions. We have already started purchasing modern military equipment and we intend to continue building the capacity of our troops. However, it must be stressed that the modernisation of our military should not be misconstrued as an arms race. We will build up our defenses to make sure that we have the capability to respond to imminent natural and manmade threats to our national security.

What do you think would Filipinos like to see the most in a new leader: A calm, prudent and sincere technocrat managing the country for the better, or a blustering, aggressive strongman promising to clean the house, if need be by force?

Real problems can only be solved by real solutions—not sound bites, not promises, and definitely not lies. At this crucial point in our history, a leader needs to have integrity, competence, and ability to deliver results. All these qualities ought to serve the interest of the people above all else, bolstered by sound judgments and decisions based on what is measurable, empirical, and scientific.

Come the elections, we trust that the people will choose what is right for the country and for their families.

Right and on that note: What is your comment on the Marcos dynasty and its legacy?

Ferdinand Marcos - The late dictator proclaimed martial law in 1972 - Gov stats cite data including 75,730 persons who filed their claims before the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board for violations of their rights by the state during martial law. 3,240 victims of salvage or extrajudicial killings, an average of about 50 summary executions every year between 1976 and 1978 alone.
Ferdinand Marcos – The late dictator proclaimed martial law in 1972 – Gov stats cite data including 75,730 persons who filed their claims before the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board for violations of their rights by the state during martial law. 3,240 victims of salvage or extrajudicial killings, an average of about 50 summary executions every year between 1976 and 1978 alone.

The Marcoses’ legacy was Martial Law that spanned almost two decades of absolute power for themselves and their cronies, and unimaginable pain for thousands of Filipinos who fell victim to its abuses. Due to their debt-driven economic management, they have caused the economic decline that plagued our for the next few decades and it was only until recently that we began standing back on our feet from being the “Sick Man of Asia” to “Asia’s economic bright spot.”

They were responsible for one of the darkest times in our history and it is our obligation to ensure that democracy lives on and that we maintain hold on our freedom – from hunger, from fear, and to dream.

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

Reading Time: 7 minutes

As the elections approach in the Philippines and people are to choose a new head of state on May 9, Investvine is kicking off the series “The race to Malacañang” by interviewing the leading presidential candidates. We want to know what they are thinking about a variety of economic and societal topics and what their ideas on the future of the Philippines are. We will also discuss key issues including inclusive growth policies, poverty reduction, the role of the church on politics, the anti-corruption drive and the Marcos legacy.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

As the elections approach in the Philippines and people are to choose a new head of state on May 9, Investvine is kicking off the series “The race to Malacañang” by interviewing the leading presidential candidates. We want to know what they are thinking about a variety of economic and societal topics and what their ideas on the future of the Philippines are. We will also discuss key issues including inclusive growth policies, poverty reduction, the role of the church on politics, the anti-corruption drive and the Marcos legacy.

investvine-Race-to-Malacanang-FBPost

We start with Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II,  grandson of Manuel Roxas, the first president of the Third Philippine Republic (1946-65). In an interview with Investvine he tells us ”Come the elections, we trust that the people will choose what is right for the country and for their families.”

A Wharton school graduate and member of the Liberal Party (LP) and with considerable experience in the political spectrum, he served as Secretary of Trade and Industry for two former presidents – Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Then, in 2010, he ran against Jejomar Binay (also in the president elections) in the race for vice president, which he lost. Since, he proved to be a loyal member of the party and of President Benigno Aquino’s cabinet, serving as both Secretary of Transport and Communications and Secretary of Interior and Local Government. 

Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Mar Roxas
Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Mar Roxas

Could you briefly outline your economic programme for the Philippines?

Our goal is to provide all Filipinos with jobs, security, and hope so that they are equipped with all the tools they require to seize opportunities for success. To create millions of high-quality jobs, we will provide incentives to investors who engage in industries higher up the value chain, while ensuring that Filipinos have the necessary training and education to fill openings in such industries such as manufacturing, tourism, and IT-BPO.

For entrepreneurial and livelihood opportunities, we will create an environment that will unleash the entrepreneurial talent of every Filipino and further simplify and standardise processes for business licensing and regulation. We will also implement mechanisms to make credit more easily available to Filipinos who wish to start an SME, or to those with the goals of expanding their SMEs further. This includes the establishment of Negosyo Centers in every city and municipality and disseminating of market information to barangays for the efficient adaptation of goods and services according to inputs and demand.

We will also invest in technology and provide internet connectivity to induce efficiency and productivity across all sectors, as well as to ensure that all communities, particularly those in far-flung or relatively rural areas, have access to both information and employment opportunities. For a more conducive labor environment, we will study and develop flexible and lawful work arrangements to adapt to the needs of both employees and employers, securing humane working conditions and encouraging more investments in different sectors of the economy.

How would you address the income inequality gap?

One concrete way to provide equal opportunities for all Filipinos regardless of their social and economic background is by improving access to quality education.

To achieve this, we will continue and improve programs that will enhance the educational infrastructure and ensure the sufficiency of basic education inputs to meet the growing requirements of the K to 12 program. To develop people’s innate talents and skills, we will establish technical-vocational centers in all provinces and integrate technical-vocational education in our formal education system. We will also boost the performance of teaching personnel through more extensive capacity-building programs and adopt international standards in assessing the performance of schools, colleges, and universities to raise their and their graduates’ competitiveness. We will also establish a fund to provide financial support (tuition and allowance) to public high school graduates who finish at the top of their class nationwide, to allow them to pursue their tertiary education in quality schools.

What is your programme with regards to ASEAN integration and the ASEAN Economic Community?

Our engagement with ASEAN is strategic because it provides us with a bigger forum where our cases that concern crucial aspects of our national economic and geopolitical interests, such as the West Philippine Sea, can be presented.

As such, we will continue to boost our nation’s competitiveness as we welcome this opportunity, which fosters and promotes mutual economic progress among nations. This includes pouring more investments in our most precious resource—our people—through education and healthcare so that we can catch up with our neighbors even faster.

We will also revisit policies and regulations that can make doing business in our country easier and more profitable for both investors and employees. For example, we will rationalise numerous existing government regulations and processes. Instead of helping the people avail of services, many of the inefficient and burdensome processes in the current system actually allow corrupt individuals to extort money from the people for “easier and faster facilitation.”

We will also review existing energy policies to lower the cost of power, which is essential in developing the manufacturing sector, and connect the different sectors of the economy through infrastructure to improve access and increase opportunities in tourism and agriculture. These will be undertaken during a three-year transition period to clean, reliable, and affordable energy. Incentivising investors in renewable and clean energy will increase our overall power supply and also diversify our energy mix.

How would you define “good governance” as a possible Philippine leader?

After the past six years, we have started reaping the gains of good governance. All such indicators point to our deliberate, programmatic, and sustained efforts based on the principles of a fair and rules-based level playing field, best return to stakeholders, and a strong anti-corruption foundation. We intend to bear and apply these principles as we move forward beyond 2016.

Speaking of corruption, what is your action plan to address corruption and nepotism in the Philippines?

The signal is out and Daang Matuwid has succeeded in sending the message that corruption will no longer be tolerated. To institutionalise our efforts to uphold transparency as a founding principle of good governance, we will push for the passage of the Freedom of Information bill.

We will also go deeper into the roots, nooks, and crannies of mid-level corruption in the bureaucracy while sustaining the upward momentum for economic growth and development. By creating a body to rationalise numerous existing government regulations and processes, we make the delivery of government services more efficient and prevent corrupt individuals from extorting money for “easier and faster facilitation.”

We will also ensure the application of laws to establish order and prevent crime. Men and women of probity, competence, impartiality, and integrity shall be appointed to the ten Supreme Court Justice positions that will be vacated under the next administration.

How far can the influence of the Church on politics go in your opinion?

While the Constitution has explicitly drawn the line between the Church and the state, our people’s religious beliefs trace their roots almost as far as both history and culture go. These are intertwined aspects of Filipino life, which a leader ought to consider in decision-making if only to understand their sensibilities and ensure the effectiveness of public policies.

Having been an OFW yourself, what is your programme for overseas workers? Incentivise them to work more time abroad? Calling them back to help the Philippine economy develop?

We will protect the rights of OFWs by upholding justice under the rule of law. It is not right for those who were forced to leave their country and their families to work without the protection of the law. This includes improved access to available services, including legal, consular, and employment assistance, and even repatriation. We will also study the proposed extension of the Philippine passport’s validity for OFWs from five years to ten.

We will do all these as we create more jobs for Filipinos, here in the Philippines, so that when our OFWs decide to come home, not only their families but also quality and decent jobs will be waiting for them.

What is your view on same-sex and transgender rights?

We want everybody to be equal in the eyes of the law. As such, we will push for the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill to ensure that all Filipinos, regardless of their gender identities, will receive fair treatment and protection under the rule of law.

We are also in favour of same-sex civil unions where same-sex couples will receive the same legal rights and freedoms that heterosexual couples enjoy.

What is your stance on the tightening of the defense cooperation with Washington, and defense spending in general?

We support the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement because it reinforces our defense ties with the United States, which is vital in ensuring peace and stability in the region. This serves as an opportunity for both countries to explore even more avenues of cooperation to improve our defense capabilities, strengthen maritime awareness and maritime security, and enhance humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Ultimately, it is a manifestation of shared values, interests, and goals between the United States and the Philippines, whose partnership contributes to stability in the international arena.

We will also continue to push for the modernisation of our Armed Forces to ensure that they are given the best chance of success in all their missions. We have already started purchasing modern military equipment and we intend to continue building the capacity of our troops. However, it must be stressed that the modernisation of our military should not be misconstrued as an arms race. We will build up our defenses to make sure that we have the capability to respond to imminent natural and manmade threats to our national security.

What do you think would Filipinos like to see the most in a new leader: A calm, prudent and sincere technocrat managing the country for the better, or a blustering, aggressive strongman promising to clean the house, if need be by force?

Real problems can only be solved by real solutions—not sound bites, not promises, and definitely not lies. At this crucial point in our history, a leader needs to have integrity, competence, and ability to deliver results. All these qualities ought to serve the interest of the people above all else, bolstered by sound judgments and decisions based on what is measurable, empirical, and scientific.

Come the elections, we trust that the people will choose what is right for the country and for their families.

Right and on that note: What is your comment on the Marcos dynasty and its legacy?

Ferdinand Marcos - The late dictator proclaimed martial law in 1972 - Gov stats cite data including 75,730 persons who filed their claims before the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board for violations of their rights by the state during martial law. 3,240 victims of salvage or extrajudicial killings, an average of about 50 summary executions every year between 1976 and 1978 alone.
Ferdinand Marcos – The late dictator proclaimed martial law in 1972 – Gov stats cite data including 75,730 persons who filed their claims before the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board for violations of their rights by the state during martial law. 3,240 victims of salvage or extrajudicial killings, an average of about 50 summary executions every year between 1976 and 1978 alone.

The Marcoses’ legacy was Martial Law that spanned almost two decades of absolute power for themselves and their cronies, and unimaginable pain for thousands of Filipinos who fell victim to its abuses. Due to their debt-driven economic management, they have caused the economic decline that plagued our for the next few decades and it was only until recently that we began standing back on our feet from being the “Sick Man of Asia” to “Asia’s economic bright spot.”

They were responsible for one of the darkest times in our history and it is our obligation to ensure that democracy lives on and that we maintain hold on our freedom – from hunger, from fear, and to dream.

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid