/ Malacau00f1ang Photo Bureau
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno S. Aquino III took another jab at the previous administration, as he bannered anew the "Philippine Story" to the finance ministers attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Lapu-Lapi City, Cebu on Thursday, September 10.
"We had severely underestimated how much the patronage and corruption of the past had undermined our institutions. Every day, it seemed, we uncovered issues that had festered during my predecessor’s term. At that point, many of us could not help but long for the weekend, if only for a temporary respite from the problems bequeathed to us," Aquino said.
He added that in the face of the challenges, "we steeled ourselves, strengthened by the principle the Filipino people voted for in 2010, which is: 'Where there is no corruption, there will be no poverty.'" (READ: Aquino: PH will be 'first-world' within generation if reforms continue)
And Aquino went on to highlight his administration's pursuit of those who had committed wrongdoing, regardless of their wealth or influence, and revamping the budgeting system and exercising fiscal prudence.
He also said that by cutting red tape, it became easier for investors to bet on the Filipino people. "Above all, we have massively increased our focus on social services, knowing full well that the only real growth is inclusive growth."
The President again highlighted his administration's conditional cash transfer program, which provides cash grants to poor families, with the primary conditions being that children are sent to school and are vaccinated, and pregnant mothers undergo regular health check-ups.
"In the past 5 years, we have expanded the scope of this program from less than 800,000 households to 4.4 million households, covering about 20 million of our population," he said.
Reaping the results
Aquino said the administration's resolve began to reap results much faster than expected.
He cited that from 2010 to 2014, the country posted a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 6.2%, which Aquino said marks the fastest period of economic growth for the country in 4 decades.
"The most prominent among these occurred in 2013, when the world’s most prominent credit ratings agencies unanimously declared the Philippines’ investment grade. On top of this, the Philippines’ credit default swaps have remained one of the lowest in the region," he said.
Aquino also shared the country's climb in multiple global measures of competitiveness: from 85th to 52nd in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index; from 144th to 95th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, among many other indices.
"Naturally, the global community has taken notice that in empirical terms – and in terms of self-confidence – the Philippines is stable, able, and resilient."
By sharing the "Philippine Story," Aquino told the APEC finance ministers that regardless of the seeming magnitude of the challenge, progress can be achieved sooner rather than later – "especially if we work with solidarity, coherence, and integrity."
"Of course, achieving this on a regional level will entail a greater amount of work, cooperation, and time; but my optimism is shaped by my experience of how a group with a unified sense of purpose can accelerate our shared journey toward prosperity," he said.
"I am told that it ticks all the right boxes: better financial integration among APEC members fosters an environment ripe for investment; greater transparency as regard government funds maximizes efficiencies – and more importantly –the benefits enjoyed by our people; and a renewed commitment to improve and finance infrastructure that will lay the necessary foundations for continued growth," Aquino said.
He added that the Cebu Action Plan will also help equip the governments to respond to some of the gravest threats to the economies in the form of natural disasters, particularly those caused by the new normal of climate change.
Two months before the APEC leaders' meeting, Aquino said the success of that meeting is rooted in gatherings such as this, "where the more technical aspects are forged into policies that public servants can carry out for the benefit of our countrymen."
"I am hopeful that your time here in Cebu will go beyond finalizing previously discussed agreements, and will involve speaking of new ideas that can further grow our economies," the President said. – Rappler.com