Duterte admin's goal is to 'build, build, build'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 18) — There's no stopping the Duterte administration's thrust to build on the country's economic gains.

In a forum today that launched what economic managers called "Dutertenomics," Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said a key factor to this economic agenda is the proposed comprehensive tax reform bill.

He described this as a "key link in the grand effort to break out from the cycle of low growth and build a dynamic and inclusive economy".

With Dutertenomic achored on the concept of "build, build and build," Dominguez said additional revenue from the tax reform measure will finance key infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges.

Infrastructure remains a challenge

Dominguez said the state of the country's infrastructure remains below regional standards.

According to the National Economic and Development Authority, the government currently spends 5.4 percent of its GDP on infrastructure.

"For an archipelagic country, poor infrastructure is debilitating. It raises the costs of transporting goods between islands. That is the reason our food price regime is high. Our congested roads and ports discouraged investors who need to operate on just-on-time deliveries. Our high power costs and unstable supply discouraged investments in manufacturing," he said.

Dominguez also noted strides in improving the country's credit-worthiness – an indication of investor-confidence on the economy.

"We are now actively seeking investments not only to rebuild our depleted manufacturing sector but also to capitalize our agriculture to make it more efficient," he said.

"Our program of infrastructure build-up will entail trillions in economic investments. We need to undertake these investments for the sake of the next generation of Filipinos — or else they will remain in the same poverty trap that we found ourselves in," he added.

He said as millions of Filipinos are added to the work force, the country "must invest in them and make them globally competitive. We must prepare the economy to provide meaningful jobs for them or else risk building an alienated and discontented generation."

According to the latest Labor Force Survey from the Philippine Statistics Office, as of January 2017, the employment rate is at 93.4 percent, underemployment is at 16.3 percent, and unemployment is at 6.6 percent.

Dominguez said revenues from taxes are essential to fund infrastructure projects, that's why it is crucial for Congress to pass the comprehensive tax reform package.

"The tax reform package will support investments in our human capital, upgrading the educational system and providing quality health care. It is a pro-active and pro-poor measure that supports the expansionary fiscal posture of the present administration," he said.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue, the country's largest revenue generating body, has set a collection target of P1 trillion for 2017.

From the 2017 budget, P860.7 billion is earmarked for infrastructure.

Read: Proposed P3.35 trillion budget submitted to Congress

Related: House ratifies P3.35T proposed 2017 budget

Dominguez said the tax reform bill is a key economic strategy of the administration.

Dominguez closed his speech by saying, "All the favorable factors are present. It is time now for a breakout."

'We must be accountable'

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Transport Secretary Art Tugade said they were serious in in their effort to push the country's financial state forward.

Despite having mentioned their goals and plans several times before, Tugade said they are repeating it "to make themselves accountable."

CNN Philippines' Ina Andolong contributed to this report.