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Philippines: Good Governance Leads to Economic Gains
Source: news.xinhuanet.com
Source Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Country: Philippines
Created: Sep 24, 2012

Good governance has led to economic gains for the Philippines, that is a sentiment shared by both public and private sector executives who participated in the Second Integrity Summit.

Perception that this developing Southeast Asian country is among the most corrupt in the world dented business confidence and limited growth for the past few years.

But top executives and senior officials who participated in Tuesday's summit believe that the Philippines is succeeding in its fight against corruption.

President Benigno Aquino III, who ran and won via an anti- corruption platform, said his administration's pursuit of "re- establishing a culture of integrity in government" made the Philippines more globally competitive.

In a speech delivered at the summit, Aquino said his administration's strategy is to ensure a level playing field for investors, assuring them of a system that's "stable, rules-based, and whose outcomes are predictable."

Such policy has already borne fruit. Aquino cited the eight positive credit ratings upgrade obtained by the Philippines under his watch, one of them placing the country just a notch away from investment grade. There's also the significant jump of the Philippines to 65th place - from 85th place in 2010 - in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report.

Most Philippine businesses in fact agree with Aquino's assessment. In its latest survey of enterprises released during the summit, Social Weather Stations (SWS) said "there has been radical progress in the fight against corruption."

According to SWS, most of the executives they interviewed believe that "a lot" of corruption in the public sector fell to 42 percent in 2012 from 64 percent in 2009.

SWS said that those saying that "most or almost all" companies in their own sector give bribes to win public sector contracts fell to 41 percent in 2012 from 48 percent in 2009. This is the lowest rate recorded since the survey was first conducted in 2000.

The private sector also did its part in responding to the government's anti-corruption drive.

In December 2010, the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP), led the creation of the Integrity Initiative. The initiative is a multi- sectoral campaign that seeks to "institutionalize integrity standards among various sectors of society - business, government, judiciary, academe, youth, civil society, church, and media."

Two years later, the campaign continues to gain ground. Makati Business Club and Integrity Initiative chairman Ramon R. del Rosario, Jr. said signatories to the Integrity Pledge jumped to 1, 500 this year, from 700 last year. Del Rosario noted that 32 heads of government agencies have also signed the Integrity Pledge which is a "commitment to ethical business practices and good corporate governance."

"We sounded the call to everyone who will no longer tolerate corruption as 'business as usual' to join us in this ambitious but worthy endeavor. I am very happy to report to you that the response to our call has certainly exceeded our expectations," he said.

Del Rosario said it makes good business for companies to be known doing "clean business" even as there are costs associated with pursuing "ethical leadership." He cited the experience of other countries where unethical companies have to contend with higher exposure to business risks and pay the price for their misconduct through exclusion from business opportunities and other penalties.

"We want to see it happen in the Philippines, not just as an alternative way of doing things, but as the established norm," he said.

Setting the right tone for agencies and companies, said Del Rosario, is "doable." He noted, for instance, that the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and the Department of Education urge its suppliers to sign the Integrity Pledge. Peza locators are also asked to sign it.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) are also following suit. During the summit, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson announced that the agency is looking at requiring contractors to sign the Integrity Pledge before they can participate in biddings for its projects.

Also, DBM Secretary Florencio Abad said that his agency is also planning to ask bidders for government procurement contracts to first sign Integrity Pacts to be eligible.

"We are committed to deepen our partnership with the private sector in pursuit of integrity and open government," Abad said.

For her part, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) commissioner Kim S. Jacinto-Henares said corruption can be easily combated if the love of country is ingrained in every Filipinos.

"What's missing in this country is our love for our country. We lagged behind our neighbors because we do not love our country. Look at Japan, the interest of their country is front and center for its citizens. It is also the same in South Korea," Henares said.
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