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Speech of His Excellency JEJOMAR C. BINAY, Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines, for the Meeting with the Filipino Community, Singapore, 04 December 2010
Posted: Saturday, December 04, 2010
Mga minamahal kong kababayan, maraming salamat sa inyong mainit na pagsalubong sa inyong lingkod.
Nagagalak ako na makipag-ugnayan sa inyo, mga kababayan ko at kapwa Pilipino dito sa Singapore. Ipinaalam sa akin ng ating Ambassador na si Minda Calaguian Cruz na buhay at masigla ang ating Filipino community dito at natutuwa akong malaman na maraming mabubuting pagbabago ang naisagawa natin para sa ating mga sarili at sa ating bansa, gayun din sa lipunan ng Singapore.
As the national president of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines and the chairman of the Asia Pacific Regional Scout Committee, I am also here in Singapore to attend the Centenary Jamboree and the opening of the 3rd ASEAN Jamboree. The scouting movement is a cause that is especially important to me, and I hope that we will continue developing young people to become active members of our society and that they contribute to nation building.
This is my second official trip overseas as Vice President and tonight, I am pleased to have this opportunity to dialogue with you. Last October, I was appointed by President Aquino as his presidential adviser for OFW concerns, a position I was honored to accept. Over the past few months, I have been engaging in consultations with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in order to continuously improve our services for OFWs. I have ordered these agencies to closely coordinate to better improve our service delivery. However, it is always best to hear your stories on the ground, to find out about both your triumphs and difficulties as OFWs.
I recognize your achievements as OFWs and I laud you for your sacrifices in providing for a better future for your family members back home. Your love of family and country has kept our economy in good stead even during these difficult times. In the first nine months of this year alone, OFW remittances have reached 13.8 billion us dollars, 7.8 percent higher from the same period last year, according to figures released by our Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Our economy continues to grow, despite the global financial crisis still being felt in parts of the world. The 6.5 percent gross domestic product growth rate registered by our economy registered in the third quarter of this year, has been one of the highest recorded for a new administration.
I am pleased to note that the Filipino community here in Singapore represents a broad spectrum of our society, cutting across various backgrounds, including, among others, our engineers and architects, our medical practitioners, our managers and bank executives, our it programmers and analysts, our sales executives, and our household service workers. Filipinos in Singapore are recognized for their excellence in their respective fields and you are a testament to the great heights that the Filipino can achieve. I note the contributions made especially in their respective professions, and the services sector, where Filipino talent is sought after. Bukod pa rito, patuloy na ipinapakita ng ating mga kasambahay ang kanilang galing at sipag sa kanilang trabaho.
Our government has recently enacted into law Republic Act 10022, or the Amended Migrant Workers Act. This law no longer distinguishes between our migrants and our workers, and accords the same benefits and protection to both, a move that I know would be welcomed here in Singapore, specially the Filipinos who have taken on permanent residency. I have recommended, however, that congress review a number of RA 10022 provisions, particularly on the mandatory insurance coverage for agency-hired OFWs.
Much still needs to be done, however. On the issue of illegal recruitment and human trafficking, I note that both the Philippines and Singapore have been classified under the Tier 2 watchlist, the second lowest classification issued by the U.S. State Department in its 2010 trafficking in persons report. We have made significant strides this year to curb this important issue, and I have directed our various government agencies to create an inter-agency task force to combat human trafficking. On this aspect, I urge you, my fellow Filipinos, to follow our laws and encourage your relatives or friends to pass through legal means to work abroad, through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, lest they become victims of traffickers and illegal recruiters.
Despite these challenges, the Filipino is making waves abroad. I am delighted to hear that the fourth year of the Philippine Art Trek has successfully concluded, showcasing the works of 46 contemporary Filipino artists, and further solidifying the Art Trek as the largest annual Philippine art event outside the country. Filipinos here in Singapore have also been making waves in the music, theater, and culinary arts scene.
In the exercise of our democratic processes, I am pleased to note the participation of the Filipino community in Singapore during the overseas absentee voting for the 2010 national elections earlier this year. Singapore and Hong Kong are the only two locations outside the Philippines where electronic voting was held, and our embassy officials, with the help of our volunteers from the Filcom, successfully conducted the voting and transmitted the results. I hope that with the growing number of Filipinos in Singapore, our democratic processes continue to be more dynamic and participatory.
As the chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, and in line with the objectives of the current administration, it is my fervent wish for every Filipino to have a house to call his own. When I assumed office last July, I spearheaded the reforms in our housing sector, bringing together our agencies involved in housing, our developers and agents, as well as our business sector and other private groups, in order to fulfill this wish for every Filipino to have a home.
We have estimated that there is still a gap of 3.6 million housing units that needs to be built in order to meet the demands of our people. Our key housing agencies have pledged to double their annual production of housing units to 370,000 in order to meet this demand.
When Republic Act no. 9679, or the Home Development Mutual Fund Law of 2009, was signed last July 2009, one of its key features is the universal coverage of PAG-IBIG membership. Ang ibig sabihin nito, lahat ng mga manggagawang Pilipino – nasa Pilipinas man o abroad; nasa pormal na tanggapan tulad ng mga opisina o sa informal na gawain tulad ng pagiging tindera, mangingisda, o magsasaka – ay dapat magparehistro sa PAG-IBIG para maging miyembro nito. Sa ilalim ng nasabing batas, pati kayong mga OFW, kahit wala kayo sa Pilipinas, ay nararapat maging PAG-IBIG members. Sabi nga: “PAG-IBIG para sa lahat! May PAG-IBIG ka, maging sino ka man!”
As of September 2010, 8.6 million Filipino workers within the Philippine shores and beyond comprise fund membership, showing 16% increase or more than one million additional members from the 2009 level of 7.4 million. About 8.4% or 727 thousand came from the sector of OFWs and other working groups o OWGs.
Membership from the OFWs showed the most significant growth, registering a 77% increase from 410 thousand in September last year to almost 727 thousand in September 2010. The dedicated marketing campaign reaching out to the most number of OFWs and the trust and confidence these workers showed to the fund resulted in the said increase. The new PAG-IBIG fund law mandatorily covers OFWs, whether employed by foreign-based employers, or deployed in the country or abroad.
Dahil sa kagustuhan ng PAG-IBIG na maibahagi ang mga programa nito sa mas nakararaming OFWs, patuloy naming hinihikayat kayong mga kababayan natin na magparehistro, na maging miyembro na ng PAG-IBIG, na papasukin na ang PAG-IBIG sa inyong buhay bilang manggagawang pinoy. Layunin namin sa HUDCC at PAG-IBIG na matulungan kayo sa inyong pag-iimpok para sa kinabukasan at sa inyong pagkakaroon ng pinapangarap na sariling bahay.
Much also needs to be done towards providing Filipinos access to the government’s financial schemes in housing. In this regard, I have directed PAG-IBIG to evaluate its financing schemes and processes in order to make housing funds more accessible to those who need them most. I have instructed PAG-IBIG to lessen the processing time for loans while maintaining the integrity of our mortgage instruments.
We are also currently exploring and making arrangements to expand registration and remittance facilities with the assistance of the Philippine Embassy, Philippine Overseas Labor Office or POLO, and our partner-banks such as Land Bank of the Pilippines or LBP and Metrobank.
I know that many of you are breadwinners so I urge you to save responsibly in order to achieve financial stability. There are a number of investment opportunities in the Philippines, and as you further build your know-how and capital, I also encourage you to consider being entrepreneurs and in turn, become our economic partners, providing much needed employment back home.
While our country has endured challenging setbacks recently, I am confident that the Filipino, with his indomitable spirit and resilience, is now stronger and better equipped to face future challenges.
Kaakibat namin kayo, mga kababayan sa Singapore, sa pagpapatupad ng ating mga layunin tungo sa mas mabuti at maunlad na kinabukasan. Nais kong magpasalamat sa Filipino community sa singapore para sa malugod na pagtanggap at pagsuporta sa mga programa ng ating gobyerno.
Maraming salamat po at mabuhay kayong lahat!