The Philippines Looks Forward To 2009

Embassy Corner
Excerpts from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Speech
During the Vin D’Honneur, Rizal Hall, Malacanang
20 January 2009
Happy New Year to all of you!
2008 was a year for the history books. The global financial turmoil spread and jeopardized the well-being of billions of people across the world. It was a crisis year for two-thirds of the world.
In the Philippines, we avoided the full brunt of the economic downturn. We kept the crisis at bay – thanks to the fiscal, economic and structural reforms we implemented in the past – even while it was unpopular to do so. As an economist, I also know that things can turn quickly. That is why we are planning for better days.
We took the rice issue head on and wrestled it to the ground. We revitalized our agricultural modernization program and target self-sufficiency in rice within five years. We also strove for greater energy independence through intensified oil exploration and the greater use of geothermal, biofuel and renewable energy. We are nearing 100 percent self-sufficiency in using indigenous sources for electric power generation.
Moving forward: we are not complacent. An Economic Resiliency Plan in the amount of 300 billion pesos (6 billion US$) is in the offing to pump-prime the economy. The Plan aims to upgrade infrastructure, expand social protection and ensure sustainable growth in the midst of the global economic crisis.
We are upbeat that our sound economic management and our measures will see us through the tough global times. The international community shares our confidence. Fitch underscored that our economy remains “reasonably healthy.” Credit Suisse announced that Philippine macroeconomic risk is lowest. Standard and Poor’s compared our country to an island of relative calm amid the stormy seas of global economic uncertainty. The Bank of New York Mellon said,” The Philippines is inherently strong, a potential beneficiary of these financial woes.” JP Morgan agreed, “The Philippines is in a relatively strong position to weather the global downturn with the economy driven by private consumption and services, which are less vulnerable to external shocks.”
Because of our financial reforms and sound fiscal management since 2001 when I assumed the Presidency, our economy has posted uninterrupted growth over 36 quarters. Growth that has brought down the rate of poverty; growth that has brought up average annual new employment, growth that has supported 7 million micro entrepreneurs, and growth and revenue enhancement measures that have given us 100 billion pesos more in financial resources each year.
Thus we have been able to build the most roads, from highways to farm-to-market roads; the most ports, from modern airports to the Roll-On Roll-Off (RORO) system spanning Mindanao to Luzon; the most barangays electrified; the most classrooms; three salary increases for teachers; the most scholarships by far for high school, college, and post-graduate degrees in science and engineering; billions for pesos for training – not just millions as in the past; the most land for our indigenous peoples; and decent homes for our workers at 6 percent interest – the lowest rate ever.
Health insurance now covers 74 percent of the population, public hospitals are being upgraded, and the poor can buy essential medicines at half the price of year 2000. Our social services now include a 10 billion peso budget for targeted cash payments to the poorest of the poor conditioned on their children going to school.
We have new industries like BPO, a sunrise sector that will continue to boom as global cost-cutting is transformed into outsourcing and off shoring. Our increased budget for science and technology research and development is beginning to generate exportable products with high income potential when things get better for the world.
To advance peace and progress in Mindanao, as in the past, we hope to be able to count on the support of our partners in the International Monitoring Team – Brunei, Japan and Libya – Malaysia who has been an ardent facilitator, our other friends in the OIC, in Europe, and in the U.S.
We are one of the vibrant democracies in the world. Our commitment to human rights remains paramount even in the midst of active insurgencies and other threats to national security. Last year, the U.N. Human Rights Council conducted its periodic review of the situation here. The President of the Council lauded the Philippines as “outstanding” in our transparent, consultative and comprehensive report.
The economy will be the central focus of our government and advancing the peace process in Mindanao my personal commitment in 2009.
I prefer to look to a brighter future for the Philippines, and indeed for the entire world. Let us hope that this year finds all of us living in peace, prosperity and harmony.