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VILLAFUERTE TO CONGRESS: CONTINUE FVR’S REFORMS

Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte called on Congress to honor the recent passing of  former president Fidel Valdez Ramos by pursuing more economic reforms under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos .Jr that would further privatize or deregulate big business, with the goal of improving the delivery of basic services and attracting greater private sector  investments.

Villafuerte pointed out that alongside the restoration of  political stability following the spate of military coups that had rocked the Corazon Aquino presidency, the six-year term of the late president Ramos was “distinguished by the renaissance of the economy resulting from the bold initiatives that the former defense secretary and armed forces chief had carried out to privatize or deregulate major businesses such as air and land transport, telecoms (telecommunications) and water service sectors.”

“Thanks to the strong political will of the late FVR to break up long-established monopolies in Philippine business and attract private investors, we Filipinos now enjoy better and relatively cheaper services such as airfares, phone rates and water delivery.”

Ramos, who died last Sunday, served as the country’s 12th president from 1992 to 1998.

“Many Filipinos, especially the millennials and zoomers (Generation Z’ers), are probably unaware that the late President Ramos had presided over an economic boom set apart by greater market competition and better services for our people, which, in turn, turned the Philippines on his watch as a magnet for capital from both foreign and local investors and highlighted the global competitiveness of our country and its people,” Villafuerte said.

“Thanks to the strong political will of the late FVR to break up long-established monopolies in Philippine business and attract private investors, we Filipinos now enjoy better and relatively cheaper services such as airfares, phone rates and water delivery,” he said.

He said FVR’s initiatives were implemented “in pursuit of the late President’s role as the No. 1 salesman of the country’s global competitiveness, on the belief that the Filipino can truly excel in the international arena.”

Villafuerte, the vice president for political affairs of the National Unity Party (NUP), said “the 19th Congress could best honor the rich legacy of the late FVR by pursuing deeper economic reforms to further privatize or deregulate businesses and attract more FDIs (foreign direct investments) as well as investments from local private enterprises.”

He said “this is the least that incumbent lawmakers can do to pay tribute to the late FVR’s  successes in shepherding  a nascent economic boom, considering that the pursuit of further reforms after his six-year term to rev up the domestic economy and sharpen the country’s global competitiveness have been found wanting. Policymakers  seem to have forgotten that FVR had started this privatization and deregulation wave and, worse, have failed to stay the course of this economic-reform crusade.” 

Villafuerte recalled that FVR actually started the country’s economic boom or renaissance by enacting two laws that (1) created the Department of Energy (DOE) to deal with the then-worsening energy crunch, and (2) gave him special powers to immediately end the daily power blackouts that had crippled the economy during the Corazon Aquino presidency.

With overseas corporations starting to take a second look at the Philippines as an investment haven after the end of the power crisis, Villafuerte said FVR then either signed laws or pushed bold policy initiatives that dismantled monopolies such as those enjoyed then by the Philippine Long Distance Co. (PLDT) over the telecoms sector, by Philippine Airlines (PAL) in air transportation and by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in water delivery services in Metro Manila—leading to an influx of private investors that eventually enhanced the delivery of services and led to cheaper costs for the public.

Villafuerte noted that FVR had also promoted the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) law—it was enacted by his predecessor, the late President Corazon Aquino—that drove private corporations to invest in 45 big projects, of which 25 were completed by the time Mr. Ramos’ term ended in 1998.    

He noted that FVR had also promoted the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) law—it was enacted by his predecessor, the late President Corazon Aquino—that drove private corporations to invest in 45 big projects, of which 25 were completed by the time Mr. Ramos’ term ended in 1998.    

Among the BOT projects awarded on the Ramos presidency were those that expanded the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and constructed the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), built two additional light rail transit lines in Metro Manila and power facilities like geothermal and natural gas projects outside the national capital region (NCR), he said.

By 1997, some 200 European investors, for instance, have expressed their interest in participating  in infrastructure projects worth a combined $15 billion, said Villafuerte in citing a report.

Villafuerte said the dismantling of the PAL monopoly cleared the way to cheaper airfare, with the subsequent entry in the business of more firms like Cebu Pacific, Philippine Air Asia, and Asian Spirit and Corporate Air.

Also, more choices and lower-priced phones and telecom services happened after FVR broke up PLDT’s monopoly, he said, that set the stage for the entry of more companies like Smart Philippines, Globe Telecom, TalkNText and Sun Cellular Co.

As for water, he said, the takeover of its delivery in the metropolis from MWSS by Maynilad Water Services Inc. (MWSI) and Manila Water Co. (MWC) put an end to the ubiquitous site across the NCR of consumers buying their daily needs from kariton (makeshift cart) vendors who sold water for as much as P30 to P60 cubic meters (cu. m.)—or equivalent to about P3,000 to P5,000 a month for every household without access to MWSS supply.

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