Message of Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo Vice President of the Philippines Opening Keynote at the 47th Philippine Business Conference and Exposition
My warmest greetings to the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and to your guests as we gather for the 47th Philippine Business Conference and Expo! Hello to all our participants, and thank you to our organizers for opening this space where we can discuss and align efforts towards the economic recovery of the country.
As we have emphasized from the start, health is the front-end domino; address it, and the rest of our challenges become less daunting. Our first order of business is to free ourselves first from the grip of the pandemic. We recently released our Kalayaan sa COVID Plan to do precisely this. We will work on three fronts: Securing our freedom from the threat of illness, securing our freedom from hunger, and securing our freedom from inadequacies in education.
Given our limited time today, let me focus on our second pillar: Securing our freedom from hunger. Industries are bleeding, and more and more people are being driven to poverty. To address this, we will keep our economy running: We will do away with blanket lockdowns and employ granular and street-level lockdowns instead. Sisiguraduhin po natin: ‘Pag may lockdown, may ayuda, harnessing financial technology for immediate delivery of aid.
We will also have to address job security: Unemployment is at an alarming rate now—one of the highest in many, many years. But our main philosophy is number one, to protect, and number two, to create jobs.
First to protect: we have to make sure that no more jobs are lost due to the pandemic. That is why we are proposing a conditional stimulus package for MSMEs, hinged on the condition that they do not lay off workers.
The next step is the bigger one, which is to create jobs. We need to rebuild trust in government by making sure that policies are dependable and predictable. Foreign and domestic investments, we all know, will only dramatically rise if we have the necessary infrastructure and logistics for them to thrive. To do this, we need to offer a stable and strong political and economic climate. We need to prioritize lowering of power rates and other utility costs, and prioritize mass transport.
Our government, aside from improving ease of doing business, will not change the rules in the middle of the game. We will make sure that everyone is given a level playing field: We will focus on training, reskilling, and upskilling our work force to prepare them. We will accelerate our tech and digital infrastructure, and we will ensure that we encourage community entrepreneurship and provide the necessary environment for it to thrive.
We will encourage outdoor economic activity to reduce the risk of infection in closed and crowded areas. We will leverage what is already there—like outdoor parks, which we can use as markets. We will review current bike lanes, and we will build more around the country. We will raise the budget for this from P1.6 billion to around P14 billion. We will keep consumers, workers, and businesses safe: We will ensure compliance with Occupational Safety and Hazards standards by requiring DOLE to make regular visits.
We will strengthen agriculture. Babaguhin natin ang mindset ng gobyerno: Instead of importation, we will prioritize strengthening local production. Despite lockdowns, despite production dipping across all sectors, agriculture actually grew last year. It has been resilient in the face of the pandemic; imagine how much more it can grow if we give it enough funding.
But we do not have to just imagine: Under my administration, we will see it for ourselves. We will double funding for agriculture from 1.7% of the national budget today to 3.4% by 2028. We will ensure this money is well-spent and balanced across all agricultural sectors and stakeholders in the country.
These are just some of the key steps in our path to recovery; you can access the rest of our plan and its detailed proposals at lenirobredo.com. I’m sure we will also have time to discuss this in detail in your forum tomorrow.
Much work remains to ensure economic recovery for all—but it gives me great comfort that Filipinos like you are ready to find solutions and work with the rest of the nation in pursuing a shared horizon of progress, sustainability, and inclusiveness. PCCI has been one of the OVP’s most trusted partners since 2017; in partnership with your chapters, we were able to provide livelihood trainings for nanay entrepreneurs under our flagship anti-poverty program Angat Buhay. We both know what we are capable of—and we know what more we can do if we harness the same spirit of communal responsibility and solidarity across the entire nation.
This is our challenge today—to reach more, to do more, to help more, and to inspire more to do the same. Because I know that together, we can free Filipinos from hunger and get our economy back on track. Together, we can build the society we aspire for: One where every Filipino who toils is assured of comfort; where someone will catch you and help you each time you fall; where we can ensure not just recovery but progress for all.
Thank you. Mabuhay kayong lahat!