12 October 2016
Keynote Speech, 42nd Philippine Business Conference & Expo
Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry
I am truly honored to be with you this morning, as you come together once more to showcase Filipino innovation and ingenuity.
But that’s not the only thing on display today. We are also looking at the great potential for progress and prosperity in this nation, thanks to the efforts of the PCCI.
Mabuhay po kayong lahat!
I’m sure you’re all excited about what this conference has in store for you. Over the course of this day and the next, there will be many venues for you to discuss industry issues—especially in the context of the country’s political and investment climate.
You will gain valuable insights on trade, economic policy, and governance, thanks to plenaries and breakout sessions ahead. Best of all, you will have so many opportunities to network. There will be ample time for you to meet each other, and to find out how you can work together to boost the Philippine market and expand the economy.
Working together, after all, will be key in bringing further growth to the country. Already, the Philippines enjoys a solid reputation as a rising economic force in the region.
In 2015, Bloomberg called us “Southeast Asia’s strong man”—a big departure from our old reputation as The Sick Man of Asia. We are now one of the fastest, if not the fastest-growing economy in Asia today.
Just two months ago, the country’s GDP growth was at 7 percent, the highest in the region. Investors and analysts, here and abroad, may be divided about our prospects for growth over the medium and long-term but our macroeconomic fundamentals are solid. At the same time, the new administration is fearlessly moving forward with new reforms, like tax reform and building infrastructure that is so crucial to our growth.
Of course, we still have some huge challenges to address. As impressive as our growth numbers are, millions of Filipinos are still trapped in poverty. True, our economic performance has been impressive.
But everyday experience shows us that we still have a long way to go. Here in Metro Manila, we find abundant proof of crippling poverty.
On our way to work and back home, in the papers and on television, the face of poverty looks straight at us. It’s not looking away anytime soon.
Since I assumed office as Vice President of the Republic, my office and I have made it a point to recognize poverty’s face.
We are returning its gaze. Because that’s what we need to do if we want true progress for this country: we need to confront poverty head-on and find long-term solutions that will reduce and eventually eradicate it.
A lot of people are curious about what my plans are. They want to know if I have actual solutions for poverty and inclusive growth. Here’s the good news: we do have some very sound ideas to combat poverty in the Philippines.
In my first 100 days of office, my team and I went to several cities and municipalities to meet our poorest communities. We opened up spaces for dialogue with the poor so we could fight poverty with them as our partners.
We also sat down with more than 50 groups from the public and private sector, as well as development partners, members of the academe, and people’s organizations.
The fruit of our discourse is this: the Antipoverty Framework of the Office of the Vice President. This is our five-point strategy to fight poverty at its complex root. We have five thematic priorities: universal health care, food security and nutrition, secondary education, rural development, and women empowerment.
Today, I’d like to pay special attention to the third and fourth priority areas in my framework: quality secondary education through skills-based training, and rural development for economic growth.
Over the next six years, my office and I want to work with various sectors—including government, the private sector, and civil society—to connect our youth to the right income-making opportunities. Our people are such a large base of talent and ability, and all we need to do is link them to the right places.
To make the most of the skills of our young workforce, we plan to connect them to fast-growing industries that will spur economic growth. These include local tourism and manufacturing, as well as agri-business and fisheries development. These sectors are low-hanging fruits: we have the resources and the capacity to expand them.
By linking our youth to the right livelihood sectors—and by arming them with the proper skills—we can induce innovation in those industries, most of which are in the countryside.
This is where our other priority area comes in: rural development. Most of the Philippine countryside is underdeveloped, and the communities that live there have suffered poverty for generations.
Together with you, the Philippine business community, we want to engage our smallholder farmers in developing high-value supply chains. Too often, our small-scale farmers lose out to larger manufacturers and conglomerates.
That’s usually because they have limited access to training opportunities or the appropriate technology to grow their enterprises.
What is crucial in our agenda of rural development is nurturing a sense of entrepreneurship among our farmers.
Showing them how they can be more competitive, so that community-based enterprises and locally made products can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with bigger brands.
Many of you here are already doing that, and this expo is evidence of it. Your businesses have evolved from small outfits into profitable enterprises. We’d like to see the same thing happen to our smallholder farmers, fisherfolk, and indigenous groups, and give them the proper tools to do business with big companies and other high-value markets.
In this manner, our rural communities can play a role in driving the Philippine economy, so it is less consumption-based. After all, if we want to sustain the trajectory of our growth, the fuel of our economy should be in manufacturing and investments.
As you might know, the Office of the Vice President is not an implementing agency. Instead, our mandate is to craft policies and ensure their proper implementation. To make the most of our role, we are positioning ourselves as the government’s primary convenor of change.
My office will be the bridge between the poor and multisectoral stakeholders—including you!—so that we can finally bring inclusive growth to the Philippines.
Already, we have identified possible partners in our campaign to develop the countryside and bring growth opportunities for shareholders. The Jollibee Group Foundation and Nestle Philippines, for example, are potential collaborators.
PRISM, Philamlife and Phinma have commit to explore partnership for construction of a state college in Lubang, Occidental Mindoro.
Last weekend, a Mangyan community in Pola, Oriental Mindoro, experienced electricity for the first time after a donor gave solar kits. During the Anti-Poverty Summit last Monday, Mayor Jay Gonzales of Lambunao, Iloilo was moved to tears when a donor committed 73 play gardens for each of the barangays in his town.
This has been his biggest dream. There are many more dreams we can fulfill by doing just a little bit more, every day.
I invite you to join me and this government as we work towards a bright future for our country. In you, I see men and women who have already contributed so much to make the Philippines a better place.
You are proof that if we put our hearts and minds to it, we can rise from the humblest beginnings to achieve the success we deserve.
You are proof of how innovative Filipinos are and how strong our entrepreneurial spirit is.
Let’s make your story the story of the Filipino people.
Let’s make that happen together.
Thank you very much, at muli, mabuhay po kayong lahat!