Speech of President Aquino, 36th Philippine Business Conference, Manila Hotel


SPEECH
of
His Excellency BENIGNO S. AQUINO III
President of the Philippines
At the 36th Philippine Business Conference
[October 15, 2010, Manila Hotel]
[Please check against delivery]
Good afternoon.
It is a pleasure to be with you today. This gathering serves as an avenue for businessmen and investors to exchange views on the vital issues that our country faces in business, jobs and investments, for the purpose of undertaking thorough and comprehensive study of the problems we face. All of you here, beginning with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) are your government’s active ally in economic development and nation building.
Let me also commend PCCI for launching the Business Matrix Program, which aims to develop the countryside by promoting their livelihood and opening up more opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to sell their goods and services to large corporations. With a computerized networking system that bridges the gap between producers and sellers with their potential buyers and financial resources, you have shown once again, your commitment in empowering our people through the partnership of the private sector with the community.
The achievement of our social goals is dependent upon our capacity to put in place an environment where private enterprises thrive. And the government you have now, in just over a hundred days, is doing exactly that. We are all aware of the enormous problems we inherited, but we continue to work to improve the overall business climate.
Our fiscal measures have borne fruit. We have controlled our budget deficit.  From Php34.6 billion in June 2010 it went down to to P32.7 billion in July, and even had a surplus of Php1.3 billion in August. Our stock market remains strong as the Philippine Stock Exchange Index (PSEi) rallied to new heights, making it one of the best performing stock markets in Asia. Another recent milestone is the sale of the first peso-denominated bond in the global market which raised $1 billion, or P44.1 billion, shielding us from foreign exchange risk.
Due to our vigorous campaign against money laundering and tax evasion, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently removed the Philippines from its list of governments considered to be tax havens, and moved us up to the list of jurisdictions that have significantly implemented internationally agreed tax standards.
During my working visit to the US, I met with enthusiastic US companies from various industries such as Coca-Cola, Pfizer, AES, Hewlett-Packard, JP Morgan Chase, Sutherland Global Services, Inc., General Electric, Headstrong Corporation, SPI Global and Affinity Express. They have all expressed strong interest in investing in our country. We secured over US$2.4 billion worth of investments, covering a wide range of investment areas, from power generation to garments and leather goods. This translates to at least 43,600 new jobs and as much as 200,000 indirect jobs owing to the multiplier effects in the next three years.  Global power firm, AES, which previously put off additional investments in the country, is now poised to expand the capacity of the Masinloc Power Plant II by up to 660 megawatts. Aside from filling the capacity gap for the energy requirements of Luzon by 2015, this venture will also generate 1,500 jobs during its 3-4 year construction period.
More jobs shall come our way as we implement projects under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) system.  We have created a PPP Center to facilitate coordination and monitoring of PPP programs and projects. I encourage you to participate in the building of airports, roads and rail projects, transport terminals, water supply, and agriculture support facilities, among others. The PPP Center will assist you in advisory services, technical assistance, training, and capacity development in the preparation of your ventures. We are simplifying the process of establishing a business, and in stamping out red tape, as well as in improving infrastructure, and relaxing regulations on air travel to and from the country. All of these reforms are being undertaken in order to create a business-friendly atmosphere that will benefit you and the entire nation in the long run.
The key to these gains is the rising business and consumer confidence, as well as the international community and I would like to thank you all for the support that you have given us. Our partnership with the private sector in meaningful endeavors has always been a major factor in leading this country to progress.
While improvements have been made in the economic front, my administration will not be Juan Tamad waiting for the coconut to fall. As the rest of the world competes for increased foreign direct investments, I urge you to become more proactive in investment promotion efforts. We must ride on the positive outlook for our economy in general, as well as the proliferation of international investment agreements in bilateral, regional and inter-regional levels.
Doing so requires us to face the challenges troubling the trade and investments sector in our country. I was informed of your issues and concerns in your previous resolutions, some of which calls to enhance our competitiveness in the world market. There is also a need for us to address market access issues and the negative perception of the Philippines by the international community in terms of providing a conducive business environment.
DTI’s efforts in rationalizing and shortening the processes for business registration, as well as permits and licenses involve working with local government units (LGUs). In line with this, the Board of Investments (BOI) has requested the LGUs to create Local Investments and Incentives Code (LIIC) Manuals in their own respective localities to harmonize national and regional business processes. Aside from catering to the business sector’s needs more efficiently, this will ensure that LGUs remain devoted in providing protection for investors and consumers at the local level. Also, the BOI has requested the LGUs to establish Investment Promotions Help Desks in their localities to personalize their assistance to businessmen.
It has only been over a hundred days. But this early, our business and economic prospects are bright and promising. With this on hand, I call on all of you to work with us in enhancing the business climate in the country. Relieve the government from having to spend on items that investors can manage more efficiently:  this will free up our scarce government resources, allowing us to direct them instead to investments in education, health care and other social services. A better educated, more productive workforce will be the dividends of your investments. This will spur the growth of income opportunities, the pool of skilled workers and the markets for products and services that many of you here today provide. I look forward to working closely with all of you, the drivers of the Philippine economy. The cooperation between the private and public sector will ensure that the Philippines remains to be a country that is “open for business.”
Thank you.

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