By Karen Lema
DAVAO, Philippines (Reuters) – Incoming Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte skirted around his economic agenda in a talk to business top brass on Tuesday, telling them he was no economist and would prefer to discuss fighting crime.
Duterte, who will be inaugurated as president next week following his thumping May election victory, had arranged for the Manila business elite to visit his southern home city of Davao but delegated economic issues to a new cabinet he said was more familiar with the topic.
His tangential, hour-long talk was similar to his pre-election address to the swanky Makati Business Club in Manila, when he chose to discuss his libido and killing criminals rather than his economic strategy.
He even sported the same brown, casual polo shirt he wore the previous time.
“For now, I would say, nothing wrong with this,” he told hundreds of businessmen, responding to a 10-point “wish list” they gave him, with demands from cutting taxes and red tape to honoring contracts and boosting internet speed.
“Let me dwell on governance in the light of what I have been schooled. I’m a lawyer and I never pretended to be an economist.”
His casual comments and attire may not come as a surprise to Filipinos who find his brash comments and down-to-earth style endearing.
Investors have been uncertain, however, about his ability to manage one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, although jitters may have been eased by assurances by his technocrats on Monday that a big overhaul was on the way.
Duterte has said nothing to suggest that once he takes office, he would veer from his unorthodox style or heed advisors’ recommendations to act presidential.
He spoke briefly about mining and threatened to revoke licenses if firms hurt the environment, but said his priority was to fight graft and crime, or the economy would suffer.
“There can be no progress or development of a local government and the community unless there is law and order,” Duterte said.
“Corruption must stop. It makes me sick. If you destroy my country, I will kill you.”
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Writing by Martin Petty)