Philippines President Aquino Commits to Empowerment, 'Inclusive' Growth

Sydney talk highlights accountability, transparency

SYDNEY, October 25, 2012 — "Government must return to its fundamental purpose of being. Public service must once again be its end all and be all," said Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino III in his address here at the Shangri-La Hotel to Asia Society Australia and the Australia Philippines Business Council.

The President described this credo as the "bedrock for the transformation we are witnessing in his country today." He referred to challenges faced by Athens, Madrid, Wall Street and the Middle East and so many of the world's previous bastions of economic strength and the cause is uncertainty and instability which in turn arise from inequality. As "the gap between the haves and have-nots widens, it is only natural for the people to clamor for change," Aquino argued. "Thus, economic growth should not be the only strategic goal of government; for this growth to be sustainable — for it to be insulated from social disruptions — it must also be inclusive."

Aquino then outlined his intentions for social spending. The Philippines government, he said, is investing "in our people — as a tool for empowering them, and helping them become healthier, wealther, and better-informed." The government is investing heavily in education, universal healthcare and a conditional cash transfer program which according to him has kept 4.57 million Filipino children in school. Another important step has been an anti-corruption drive that "has served to heal the psychic wounds wrought by inequality, and effectively changed the mindset of the people by ushering in a new era of accountability and that no longer are the rich and powerful beyond justice."

He then unleashed a torrent of statistics to tell the story of his country's overcoming worldwide economic uncertainty. GDP grew by at least 6.1 percent in the first half of 2012, exceeding most expectations, and the Philippines Stock Exchange Index has reached a record high 46 times in the 27 months of Aquino's administration. Similarly, receiving eight positive credit ratings from international credit rating agencies has placed the Philippines one step away from being considered investment-grade. Finally, in two years the country has jumped from 85th to 65th out of 144 countries ranked in the World Economic Forum's annual Competitiveness Index.

The President expressed his hope that the decade-old conflict on Mindanao would be resolved soon and this would improve prospects for progress.

He acknowledged the Australian investors who appreciate the potential of the Philippine mining industry and spoke on mining as a "finite resource which belongs to the people; therefore the people, through the state, must realize a clear economic benefit to mining." He cited Australia as providing a model for best practices in the mining industry before alluding to the executive order that outlines the Philippines policy toward mining and creates the general set of principles that will govern the industry.

"Our country now stands for everything that is best about the Filipino spirit: determined, fair, and principled."

Complete transcript
Watch the Q & A with President Aquino

Video: President Aquino's complete remarks (8 min., 37 sec.)


Video: Welcome Remarks from the Chairman, Asia Society Australia, The Hon Warwick Smith AM (2 min., 53 sec.)



Video: Thank you by Richard Laufmann, CEO, Indophil Resources NL (4 min., 7 sec.)



Media Coverage

Aussies bullish on PH economy, Business Inquirer, October 27, 2012
Aquino meets with Aussie premier, Michael Lim Ubac, Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 24, 2012
Philippines, Australia Agree To Boost Trade, Investments, Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation, October 24, 2012