Little change under Duterte as old policies continue —think tank

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Published January 13, 2017 9:37pm

By XIANNE ARCANGEL, GMA News

More than six months into President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, there are few signs that the change he promised has arrived, think tank Ibon Foundation has said.

In its yearend report presented Friday at the University of the Philippines, Ibon said neoliberal economic policies remained and the country’s foreign policy was still unformed and timid.

The group called the independent foreign policy pursued by Duterte as “hollow” since concrete measures to build a nationalist strategy remains absent.

“It is for instance still unclear how the terms of the relationship between the Philippines and China or Russia will be qualitatively different from that with the US,” Ibon said.

While Duterte has earned praise for jumpstarting peace talks with communist groups, Ibon Foundation said the pursuit of peace with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) was losing momentum as parties differed on some issues, among them the release of political prisoners.

With Duterte administration adopting the Aquino-era Ambisyon Natin 2040 guide for development planning, Ibon Foundation sees little chance that national development will occur.

“The economic agenda and draft PDP (Philippine Development Plans) confirm that the underlying economic thrust is still to develop the country as a subordinate site for foreign capital,” it said.

The group slammed the Department of Finance for touting targeted cash transfers for the poor, senior citizens and persons with disabilities as a way to offset the burden of imposing taxes on previously exempt items such as petroleum, saying it is only a “smokescreen” to push the burdensome” measures through.

While majority of Filipinos support Duterte’s war against drugs, Ibon Foundation said it was also the administration’s “greatest political vulnerability for now” as it cpi;d be exploited by political detractors to create an illusion of an “unstable investment climate.

“The disregard for human rights, especially for protection against an abusive State is the adjunct of authoritarianism, thus the wave of massive drug-related HRVs since the start of the administration is ominous,” the group said.

With more than five years left into his term, Ibon Foundation said Duterte could still bring about the change he promised by, among others, taking advantage of the peace talks with the NDFP “to craft a more rigorous pro-people economic and political program outside of current restrictive confines.”

Duterte’s plan to change the 1987 Constitution to shift to a federal form of government may also be used as a vehicle for the inclusion of policies that will promote a nationalist economic development, the group said. —NB, GMA News

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