Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo
Vice President of the Philippines
at the FINEX “Meet the Presidentiables: Economic Reforms in the New Frontier Event”
Good afternoon everyone. I’d like to thank FINEX and of course FFCCCII for taking the lead in organizing this opportunity for me to spend some time with you as I share my plans for our economy and the country.
In nine days, January 30, 2022, it will be two years since the country confirmed its first case of COVID-19. And as I speak, more than 50,000 people have died, millions have lost their jobs, and almost every aspect of our lives has had to change.
This has brought unparalleled levels of uncertainty, and we have all asked the hard questions: How do we imagine a brighter future for our nation, for those who look to us for direction, strength, and hope? How do we move our country from a state of response and survival, to one of growth and prosperity?
And now, against the backdrop of the presidential elections this coming May, the role of government in answering such questions has taken on greater focus and urgency. How can government create an environment that enables positive social transformation? What steps must it take to reverse the current national trajectory? And what kind of leadership can we trust to take those steps?
After I filed my certificate of candidacy last October 7, I released two sets of plans that outline my vision in broad strokes: The Kalayaan sa COVID Plan, and the Hanapbuhay Para sa Lahat Jobs Plan. These two are part of the series of policy platforms that we will be putting out every month. We are set to come out with our third this week. The first set of policies is aimed squarely at addressing the virus—the anxiety it brings in terms of our health, putting food on the table, and aspiring for better lives for our children through education. The second is a roadmap to create more opportunities through jobs and livelihood, which entails unleashing the potential of industry and reinvigorating key sectors of the economy.
The glue that holds both plans together: A government that is faithful to the law and that is true to its mandate. That means, as I have said in other venues, a government that listens—one that has nothing to hide and therefore engages and actively seeks feedback, which it then crafts into a consensus that considers all views. It also means a government that acts with urgency, because its actions are pointed towards a constant moral north. It is a government that acts, ultimately, in a manner that cultivates trust among the people it has sworn to serve.
And with a trustworthy government, our people begin to understand that aid can be expected, that it arrives when it should in the way that it should, and that no one faces any crisis alone. For the business community, it sends a very clear message that laws will be applied fairly, that our institutions are resistant to corruption, and that if vested interests try to game the system, government has the will and strength to correct the situation and prosecute those who try to take advantage. Results can be predicted more reliably, and that risk and volatility can be managed effectively. The energies of the entire nation can thus be focused on the project of nation-building—and that means ensuring that the engines of the economy are engaged full throttle, from the centers of industry to communities in the margins. Eto yung sinasabi namin lagi na: Gobyernong Tapat, Angat Buhay Lahat.
In real, policy terms, this means filling the ranks of government with people of character, competence, and integrity. Agencies will be led by experts in their fields, and decisions on the ground will emanate from the best available science and data. This spirit of transparency is apparent in measures like the Full Disclosure Bill, which was the very first bill I filed when I was in Congress. This makes financial transactions and documents of public interest readily accessible to the public, and is something I will prioritize should I get elected. Existing loans will be reviewed, their usage tracked, particularly loans that were made for COVID response. Spaces for dialogue, sectoral feedback, and consensus-building will be created, enabling continued, sustainable collaboration. A fully-functioning National Competitiveness Council will be one such space: Its task will be to bridge the gap between government and the private sector, and to craft and mind a comprehensive strategy which involves all stakeholders to make the country more globally competitive.
Through the entire process, the imperative will be to unlock the energies of the economy—ensuring that the Ease of Doing Business Act is implemented, for example, or that roadblocks in the form of outdated policies and laws are removed. In this same spirit, we will accelerate the digital transition and reduce the amount of human intervention that can often be an avenue for corruption.
Under a more transparent, ethical, more trustworthy government, the right national priorities necessarily open the gates to progress. My commitment to the business community: We will create an environment where enterprises have a chance to compete fairly. We will not fixate on restrictions, or merely wait to pounce and penalize those who step an inch out of line. Your voice will be heard as we work for the common good. As those of you who have worked with me before can attest, simply sitting at the head of the table and playing arbiter between the left hand and the right as they assert conflicting interests is not my idea of leadership. My government will listen, find points of commonality, and harmonize everyone's steps towards a single national horizon.
Over the next months, the public will hear from the candidates plans and policies on a wide range of issues. And I am sure that, among those of us applying for the highest position in the land, those with a capable enough policy team will come up with proposals that are strategic, creative, or even commonsensical. Some will be said in a forceful enough manner so as to capture the imagination of the public.
But the most important question cuts through all the policy clutter and goes back to trust: Whom can you trust to be true to their word, to follow through with action, to actually put into practice the plans that are pronounced on the campaign pulpit. To this, I respond only with what we all know to be true: The leader you can trust beyond the elections is the one that should have already earned your trust today—through their track record, and through the unshakeable proof of what we have so far done with our time in public service, and in fact our entire lives.
I have worked with many of you over the past several years—not only during the time of the pandemic, when we reoriented the OVP's operations to fill the gaps in government response, but through our Angat Buhay projects, where we leveraged our linkages to help the farthest reaches of the country. My track record is out there for all to see. You know how I work. You know what I believe in. You know my intentions. I have absolutely no doubt that our values and our dreams for the country align. I ask only that you consider all of these—my history as well as those of my fellow candidates’—as you reflect and decide in the coming months.
Thank you very much, and good day. I look forward to our conversation for the rest of the event.