19 November 2016
Keynote Message at the Philippine Investment Retail Conference, Chartered Financial Analyst Society (Phils), SMX Aura, Taguig City
Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.
It is during events like these when I truly feel the electrifying prospects of our nation. Incomes are rising, opportunities are growing and our relatively young population is raring to save and invest for their future.
Our gross domestic product of 7.1% released two days ago is the fastest among Asian emerging economies that have released GDP figures so far. If we are able to sustain this for the next 10 years, what would our country be like? How would our people live? What would our countryside look like? We might even eradicate hunger and poverty.
There are, however, storm clouds in the horizon. The risks we face now as a country have to do with divisiveness and senseless disregard for rule of law. Where before, we were mainly concerned about funding for capital-intensive infrastructure projects and the performance of manufacturing and agriculture sectors, among other things, today we realize that our main enemies are people and politics and culture.
Yesterday, many of us are caught unaware when former President Ferdinand Marcos was buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani with much haste and stealth after his family deliberately hid the information from the Filipino people.
This was carried out before the Supreme Court decision has become final and executory. We are disturbed that this happened in coordination with some government agencies who have participated in disregarding a judicial process.
We were alarmed by the brazenness of its execution but what is more scary is that a huge part of us was no longer stunned that this was actually happening. Hidden wealth, hidden human rights abuses, and now a hidden burial with complete disrespect for the rule of law.
We ask ourselves that if everything was anchored in truth, legality and reason, why was there a need to hide a funeral and treat it like a shameful criminal deed?
But there are sectors in our society who insisted on carrying out this act, and therein lay the risk. Such divisiveness and political turmoil distract our economy from the work that would bring growth. And ultimately, it is those that are at the fringes of the economy—the last, the least, and the lost—who are the most vulnerable.
The issue of the Marcos burial will always be relevant under a constitution anchored on social justice. We cannot talk seriously about the Philippines’ growth prospects without considering as well the depth and scope of our country’s history.
To truly move forward, we must hold a deep reverence for the past, and the truth of its sorrows and victories. We must honor the memory of those who fought for the country, and demand justice from those who betrayed it.
Honoring them means protecting the humanity and preserving the dignity of the people we serve. The Filipino poor are not faceless facts. Only by respecting the dignity of each person can we hope to empower them and transform them into our co-equals in reform.
We do this by providing social safety nets that are designed in partnership and collaboration with the people who need them, that are efficiently carried out on a nationwide scale, and that maximize resources because in any economy, there is no unlimited supply of funds.
So in my first 100 days as Vice President, my team and I visited many of the smallest, farthest, and poorest communities in the country. Most of the people we sat down with had never even spoken to a government official—such was the remoteness of their dwellings.
At the same time, we discussed our antipoverty plans with various groups, ranging from those in the public and private sectors, all the way to the academe, the development and aid industry, civil society groups, and people’s organizations.
The result of our collaboration was a five-point antipoverty framework which we launched in October 10. The framework is a comprehensive blueprint for fighting poverty, focusing on key sectoral issues, including health, education, and livelihood development, putting the Filipino family at the front and center of all our initiatives.
Because the narrative of our antipoverty vision cleaves to the narrative of the Filipino family, I think it’s best to begin exactly where life does: our mothers. We want to improve maternal and child health care in the country, consistent with our larger agenda to promote universal health care. We want to give proper natal care to our poorest mothers around the country.
Our second focus is on nutrition and food self-sufficiency. When mothers are in good health, their babies are likely to be as strong and healthy. This is the reason why we support the Department of Health’s 1,000 Days Program. You see, the first one thousand days of a child’s development are crucial in the formation of their mental and physical faculties. If babies do not receive the right amount of care and nutrition, they’re likely to be stunted, which results in irreversible mental and physical impairments.
That’s right: stunting is irreversible. So imagine the quality of life that poor children are fated to. Ahead of them are years of limited potential.
What about quality education? That’s another thing we want to enhance in our public school system. Now that the K-12 system is in place, we’re seeing a greater emphasis on preparing young Filipinos for career development.
To support this, we’re advocating for better technical or vocational training for senior high school students. If we help them this way, they have a much better chance at finding meaningful work in adulthood.
But what about Filipino adults already constrained by poverty? We believe we can reach out to them, too. We plan to jumpstart rural development and economic self-sufficiency—especially in very remote communities—by making supply chains more rewarding for our poor farmers and fishermen. We plan to give them the necessary training they need so they can grow their livelihood into proper enterprises.
Along the way, these small-scale farmers and fisher folk can get proper training, which will allow them to engage in business with more clients. These new clients could include nonprofit groups, small to medium enterprises, or even the local and national government.
Finally, we are also looking at empowering Filipinas all over the country. On the surface, it appears that Filipinas have it better than most: we place 7th globally in the Gender Equality Index, and many Filipinas enjoy as many socio-economic opportunities as their male peers.
Yet everywhere, we still bear witness to the many ways that women are undermined: catcalling, sexual abuse and harassment, even glass ceilings in the workplace. Often, we are reduced to our bodies.
This is unacceptable. Tasteless remarks and inappropriate advances against women should have no place in our society.
At HUDCC which I head, we don’t want to just build houses and relocate the poor. We aim to build communities where informal settlers have access to work and livelihood opportunities.
Communities where they have running water and a reliable power supply. Communities that are safe for families, where a school isn’t too far-off, where everyone has a chance to fulfill their dreams. It may or may not take 6 years to do this, but we will!
It is the endurance of reform and the right social protection schemes that I hope to bring to this country, so that the fruits of good governance are never beyond the reach of our people. In a political environment such as ours, the welfare of the ordinary Filipino is often shelved in the most terrible name of greed, in the name of greater wealth, fame, and power.
We must not let this happen again. We must not allow our people—especially the poor—to be rendered disposable, to be degraded as mere numbers in a game of blood and bullets.
No, the Filipino people must always be the fulcrum of our endeavors. Only then can we aspire for real solutions that actually work. Only then can we truly say that we hope to serve well, and that we hope to make a difference, however small.
Thank you very much, at mabuhay kayong lahat!
Good luck po sa inyong lahat!