PNoy speech at the 17th World Electronics Forum and SEIPI’s 108th General Membership Meeting

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the 17th World Electronics Forum, and Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc.’s 108thGeneral Membership Meeting
[Delivered in Cebu City on April 20, 2012]
Secretary Greg Domingo; Mayor Paz Radaza from Lapu-Lapu City; Mister Bing Vera, Chairman of the Semiconductors and Electronics Industries in the Philippines; Mister Ernie Santiago; Mister Bob Johnson; delegates of the 17th World Electronics Forum and members of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Incorporated; honored guests; mga minamahal ko pong mga kababayan—dito po sa Cebu’y maayong udto… udto—this is good noon. Is my accent still bad? [Laughter] That’s the Kapampangan version of Cebuano. [Laughter]
And it’s really good to see the leaders of the Semiconductor Electronics Industry again. I remember how graciously you invited me to address you in November of 2010, during the 12th SEIPI CEO Forum. I remember the situation back then, which was only compounded by other events beyond our control. Your industry, for the past couple of years, was left reeling from the effects of the disaster that hit Japan, on top of a global economic slowdown that has spanned quite a number of years.
After a decade of accounting for an average of about 65 percent of the country’s total exports, the number dropped to around 50 percent last year. This contributed to the decline in total merchandise exports, which pulled down the 2011 GDP growth—and we will not estimate actually how much it brought it down. Despite this, your industry was able to hire even more Filipino workers—and for that we are eternally grateful. I am told that direct employment in the industry grew by six percent, in spite of the down turn, from 500,000 in 2010 to 530,000 in 2011. Obviously, this is an encouraging sign.
Suffice it to say, our national economy is inextricably tied to the performance of your industry, whose growth and resilience has been nothing short of exceptional. This is despite the global conditions in the past couple of years, and the less-than-ideal political climate over the past decade or so, which has, only now, begun to change.
You have been able to thrive, and not merely survive, in the Philippines despite the limitations presented by the business environment, which cannot be separated from the political milieu. And now, finally, the stars are aligning, now that the roadblocks on the path to progress are finally removed, I can only imagine the greater heights your industry can achieve, as you build on the momentum that the entire country is experiencing right now.
You can just pay special attention to the earlier video presentation where they showed the tremendous growth in 2010 and 2011. And if you could contrast it to the growth of the preceding nine and a half years, which had very little movement, this is really such a testament of the confidence you have bestowed on our administration and our people, and again, allow me to thank you.
Allow me also to connect the dots for you. The educational reforms we are implementing are designed to move Filipino workers higher up the value chain. The K-12 system, set to begin this June, is a long-term solution that can address our students’ goals to become globally competitive. We also have targeting systems in place to enable our workforce to supply more specialists to industries that demand them. In fact, we have earmarked 50 million pesos, through TESDA’s Training for Work Scholarship Program, to train 9,295 of your industry workers, and I am taking this opportunity, again, to thank SEIPI for partnering with government through a memorandum of agreement for this joint effort.
And, as we begin to see our infrastructure improve over the coming years, imagine how easier it would be to expand your businesses. This goes hand-in-hand with our efforts to reform the bureaucracy. I am fully aware that a nurturing environment can sometimes mean less interventions from government, and as you have proven, there are industries that can flourish through the force of its leaders’ vision, and the quality of their products. We are, however, building on initiatives that will allow the Philippines to compete more strongly in the global markets. As you may well know, we are already offering competitive incentives to electronic firms registered with investment promotion agencies.
All of these efforts are bricks that build upon the foundation of a truly just and equitably progressive society. Every pillar in our economic agenda: inclusive growth, job generation, empowered enterprises, solid investor confidence—all of these are built on the bedrock of a stable system, where outcomes are predictable. We build this through good governance—by setting the good example, and not being influenced by bribes or favors or illogical decisions. We build this through instilling a culture of integrity across all sectors. We build this by making sure that actions have consequences: that those who have erred will be held accountable, and those who follow the rules achieve their goals, and those who innovate, who understand their industry, who exhibit genuine vision, will succeed.
Innovation, understanding, and vision: these are qualities that the semiconductors and electronics industry has shown from the beginning, and they are the very spirit that has forged your industry’s resilience.
Over the years of doing business in our country, you have seen how this nation can struggle, and you have seen how it can unite and march towards eventual triumph. They say that Filipinos are like bamboos in the wind: we may bend against adversity, but we never break. Judging by how you have stayed the course and continued to thrive, this is one value that I already know you have already imbibed.
My government is determined to meet any challenge that might arise in your industry with equal resilience and equal fervor. You can continue to count on my administration’s active support for the semiconductor and electronics industries.
And before I end, perhaps I can tell you this story. At the early part of our term when we had to do what is called the ASEAN Tour wherein an ASEAN head of state visits the other member countries. It was always a source of embarrassment for me to hear about agricultural successes in these various countries primarily because a lot of their senior ministers and experts where educated in our country. So, they learned how to plant rice from us, they imbibed the lessons really well; we go to them to import the rice which we can’t grow. And that was obviously a major, major source of embarrassment.
The good news is, I guess some of you if not a lot of you read the papers about two or three days ago, Secretary Alcala telling us that we maybe, and would probably be, a net exporter by 2013, not of the basic varieties but of the higher-end varieties of rice. Imagine, just two years ago, we were all conditioned to believe that we will be, or we will need to import at least 1.3 million tons of rice a year. And roughly about a little over two and a half years into our term, we will now be exporting. Now, the major source of pride on the other hand is when we talked with countries, for instance, in the Middle East, and some that we think that are far more advanced than us—we have trade from them in basic energy supplies, petrochemical products for instance, others: dairy products and alike; and we in turn export to them all of these, shall we say, more high-tech products, maybe the electronic outputs, from projectors to assemblies and automotive parts and so on and so forth. That is a major source of pride.
I guess the only message that I really want to impart to all of you today that I have visited you is that:  You had growth in the past dispensation but on the graph shows, shall we say… perhaps growth that was predicated mainly just on population growth rather than real growth. And in the 2010-2011, we believe that might be the harbinger of where your industry will go to with the government that enables you to achieve the heights that you can do. You thrive when the going was tough; imagine when you now have active partners where your growth will be.
Thank you. Good day.