MANILA, Philippines — On October 11, President Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) 5 to alleviate Philippine poverty by 2040. His vision is for the Philippines to be “a prosperous, predominantly middle-income country where no one is poor” in 25 years’ time. For the next three years, this translates into an average of 7 percent GDP growth.
The National Economic and Development Agency (NEDA) will supervise the implementation of the program so that “our people shall live long and healthy lives, be smart and innovative, and shall live in a high-trust society.” EO 5 seeks to triple per capita income and adopts development program Ambisyon Natin 2040 as the country’s anchor for development, Rosemarie Edillon, the President of NEDA, told reporters.
The Order mandated that “appropriate milestones” are identified and implemented in their efforts to alleviate poverty in the Philippines, to ensure that future governments build on previous policies in a sustainable and consistent manner. To accomplish this, four Philippine Development Plans (PDP) will be drafted and implemented. The Duterte government is currently drafting the 2017-2022 PDP, aiming for its publication by the end of the year.
“We have identified a roadmap getting there, what should be a base camp for the first PDP, the second, the third, the fourth. When the next PDP planners meet, then they take a look at that, and they can craft more ambitious targets,” Edillon explained.
Since his inauguration on June 30, the president of the Philippines has been a controversial figure. His antidrug campaign has delivered 1,400 dead, in keeping with his promise that police will eliminate drug addicts and dealers. He has been widely criticized internationally, yet he remains popular at home. “He cares for the small guy,” Lorraine Badoy, a dermatologist in Manila said.
His statements have been characterized as “electrifying” for his constituents, yet “anger-inducing” for other states. He has called the pope and President Obama “sons of w****s” and proclaimed that “Hitler massacred six million Jews. Now, there are three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
Six months ago, he declared that he would personally ride out on a jet ski to the Spratly Islands and plant the Philippine flag there as to take them back from China. The Philippines won a major legal victory over China in their dispute regarding the South China Sea just three months ago. Yet Manila has suffered as the Chinese have discouraged tourists, investors and importers from spending yens in the Philippines.
To everyone’s surprise, a week ahead of his visit to Beijing, he abandoned this attitude toward his Chinese counterparts, praising their “good, sound policies, internal and external,” changing his mind about the state’s foreign relations. “There is no point in going to war. There is no point in fighting over a body of water. We want to talk about friendship, we want to talk about cooperation, and most of all, we want to talk about business. War would lead us nowhere.”
Last week, he met with Chinese heads of state. On the surface, his visit marked a success for both sides after years of hostile relations caused by their quarrel in the South China Sea. The 13 agreements signed introduced the establishment of the Joint Coastal Guard Committee on Maritime Cooperation to herald an era of friendship in what used to be a sea of trouble.
The new alliance, however, goes further than that. A reported $13.5 billion has been secured for the Philippines in deals with China. Reports in national media claim that the 13 agreements signed include $6 billion in soft loans, $3 billion in credit from Chinese banks for infrastructure works and industries, as well as $15 million in support of Duterte’s war on drugs. The funds will be a significant contribution in Duterte’s fight against poverty in the Philippines.
This marks an important shift in the Philippines’ foreign policy. Its alliance with the U.S. has been an important part of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia,” an attempt to counter Beijing’s influence on the continent. “This was a huge strategic coup for the Chinese,” said Richard Javad Heydarian, a foreign affairs expert and author based in Manila.
– Eliza Gkritsi