Pernia appointed NEDA chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2016 01:26 PM | Updated as of May 23 2016 04:41 PM

Implementation of RH Law added to Duterte's economic agenda

MANILA (UPDATE) - Presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte has named Ernesto Pernia, professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines School of Economics, as the socio-economic planning secretary and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director-general.

Pernia on Monday said NEDA will focus on a multi-pronged approach to reduce poverty through Duterte's eight-point economic agenda that includes tax reforms, boosting agriculture and tourism sectors, and expanding the conditional cash transfer program.

Also under the agenda are programs focused on maintaining current macro-economic policies, keeping infrastructure spending at 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and easing ownership restrictions for foreign investors.

“The eight-point agenda are all focused or intended to achieve, not just inclusive growth, but poverty-reducing and economic growth. Inclusive growth is a clich√© and is confused with many things,” Pernia told ANC's "Market Edge with Cathy Yang."

WATCH: Duterte transition team bares 8-point economic agenda

Pernia said Duterte's economic program focuses on tackling the urgent need to cut red tape in government and addressing traffic problems in the capital to encourage investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, which will create more jobs.

He said the "rapid and sustained implementation" of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act will also be part of Duterte's economic agenda.

Congress passed the law in December 2012, despite opposition from church leaders, allowing public health centers to hand out contraceptives such as condoms and pills and teach sex education in schools.

But last January, Senator Vicente Sotto III admitted that the budget for the purchase of contraceptives for poor couples was scrapped from the 2016 national budget.

Health Secretary Janette Garin also said the P1 billion allocation for contraceptives was deleted from the budget during the bicameral conference, and she blamed the Senate for the deletion.

Sotto, a staunch opponent of the RH Law, said the budget for contraceptives was indeed deleted, but he said the budget for the rest of the programs under the RH Law remains in the budget of the DOH.

READ: 'Shock' as no budget allotted for RH in 2016

The past six years saw the Philippine economy's average annual economic growth topping 6 percent, but critics say the improvement has not translated into jobs or better livelihoods for millions of poor.

About a quarter of the country's population of around 101 million remains poor, official data show.

“The poorest groups have many more children than the average Filipino so if you allow them to limit and space their children to what they can afford, then that’s going to have an effect on poverty and equality,” Pernia said.

The 72-year-old Pernia was a former university lecturer and lead economist at the Economics and Research Department of the Asian Development Bank from 1999 to 2003.

As NEDA chief, he will form part of an economic team with Carlos Dominguez, who has been named finance secretary. -- With Reuters