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His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
During the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc.’s joint celebration of the 114th Philippine Independence Day, the 37th anniversary of Philippine-China diplomatic relations, and the 11th Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day
[Delivered at the Manila Hotel, on June 13, 2012]
Good evening. Please sit down.
Secretary Albert del Rosario; Secretary Leila de Lima; Secretary Voltaire Gazmin; Secretary Dinky Soliman; Secretary Ronald Llamas; Secretary Joel Villanueva; Commissioners Kim Henares and Ricardo David; Governor Tetangco of the Bangko Sentral (ng Pilipinas); Chair Teresita Herbosa of the SEC; Her Excellency Ma Keqing of the Embassy of China; excellencies of the diplomatic corps; Senator Cayetano; Congresswoman Angping; Mayor Alfredo Lim; Mr. Tan Ching; Dr. Lucio Tan; Dr. Uy; Mr. Domingo Lee; Dr. Robin Sy; Mr. Vicente Yu; Mr. Jimmy Tang; Mr. John Ng; Director John Tan; fellow workers in government; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen:
One hundred fourteen years ago, our forefathers launched the struggle for the independence we now enjoy. Among that founding generation was General Ignacio Paua, himself one of the many Chinese-Filipinos who loyally fought for our nation’s place in the sun. Every generation since then, called to stand for God and country, has included in its ranks Chinese-Filipinos—from soldiers like General Vicente Lim, to the anonymous volunteer firefighters and entrepreneurs, who make our independence and our civic life more meaningful with their dedication to their country and countrymen.
Today, we are given the opportunity to thank them for the sacrifices they made, and for the work they put in. I am honored to be able to remember with all of you on this occasion, especially because Chinese-Filipinos like you are helping to fulfill the promise of independence—a promise of prosperity. Groups like the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry are our partners in the effort to achieve the prosperity that generations of our countrymen have dreamed of.
The recent upsurge in our economy is but a dividend: the fruit of our systematic approach to achieve systemic reform. Despite more conservative predictions by many, our gross domestic product grew by 6.4 percent during the first quarter of this year; and, barring any major setbacks, we expect to perform at the same level through the rest of the year. [Applause] Undoubtedly that would be enhanced by a lot of your contributions. The Philippine Stock Exchange Index has also soared from record high to record high—27 times in the 23 months of our administration. How many of us could have envisioned our current success two years ago?
Not surprisingly, the international community is taking notice. You must have heard recently that credit ratings agency Moody’s has changed the outlook on the country’s credit rating from stable to positive—which now makes seven positive credit ratings actions since our administration took office. We also moved up 20 points in the latest Global Enabling Trade Report by the World Economic Forum, which measures the ease of doing business. From 92nd in 2010, we have jumped twenty spots to 72nd. You also have agencies like the Japan External Trade Organization, who, after taking a survey of the companies in the region, named us the best place to do business in the Asia/Oceania region, in both manufacturing and in service.
All of this, we achieved with your help—with your services, with your products, with the jobs you created for our people, and with your loyal support for your country. I am well aware of the advocacies of the FFCCCII. I remember around this time last year, you turned over hundreds of classrooms to help address the shortage we are facing. In October of last year, you also donated P20 million, which we used to help the victims of typhoons. So I am hopeful that tonight you have demonstrated that you continue your advocacies—from your excellent Buy Pinoy campaign to your medical and dental missions—because these are reasons for all of us to be more optimistic. Not just about the performance of our economy, but, more importantly, for the larger task of nation building.
We must continue this partnership. After all, while we do enjoy the success we’ve worked for, we are still confronted by a number of challenges. We need to stand together as we look towards the future.
I know many here are concerned about the situation in the West Philippine Sea. Both the Philippines and China are exerting efforts to resolve the situation peacefully through diplomatic means.
However, I must emphasize that I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic. The extent of our territory and maritime zones are clearly defined by Philippine laws and international law, specifically the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. As a member of the international community, we owe each other mutual respect of our respective sovereignty under international law.
Recently, we have gained momentum towards resolving this dispute, and I think China agrees that we must maintain this momentum. After all, our countries both recognize that peace and stability in the region will redound to benefits not only to us, but to the rest of the world. Consequently, tensions within it affect the entire global community.
But today, as we celebrate the 11th Filipino Chinese Friendship Day, we are reminded of the fact that the promise of mutual prosperity remains within our grasp. This is what the Filipinos like the members of the FFCCCII are working towards; and we know that this is also central to the efforts of our friends from across the sea.
As we try to move forward, let us not forget the many things our two countries share. For example, we look at the almost one million Filipinos who visited China and the over 200,000 Chinese who visited the Philippines in 2011. We look at the more than 12 billion dollars in trade between our two countries and the 20 billion pesos in approved foreign direct investments from China in 2011. We also look at the three billion dollars of Philippine investments in China. Many of you here are among the many overseas Chinese in the region who have invested in China from the very beginning of its reform and opening up to the world. By so doing, you have contributed to China’s economic transformation.
At the end of the day, we see a historic and mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries. We see a vibrant Chinese-Filipino community, eager to serve their country, and to improve trade with our neighbors. So what we must do right now is to continue strengthening cooperation in the several areas that are proven to be mutually beneficial; and to continue working tirelessly to find a peaceful, diplomatic solution in the area in which we disagree.
Our countrymen came together for a greater cause back in the late 1800s. Today, we hear that call for unity just as clearly—a call that asks us to fulfill that promise of prosperity our heroes died for; and a call that, if we respond to, will certainly bring about a successful future under the broad light of day for all of us.
May I wish all of you a happy Independence Day; happy anniversary to our friendship; and happy 11th Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day to all of you.
I was instructed that this would be the appropriate saying, and if I am mistaken it is entirely my fault [laughter] Xie xie ni men. Tosha din long tsong.[Applause] Thank you. Good day.