Here is the speech of Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III at the Philippine-Bujan Business Conference at the Yeohwa Hotel, Xiamen, Fuijan Province in China.
[Just as my mother traveled here 23 years ago, later today it will be my turn to trace our ancestral roots in Hongjian, where my great-great-grandfather grew up.
Our family is not alone in finding ancestral ties to this province: 85 percent of Chinese-Filipinos can trace their roots back to Fujian. For many Filipino Chinese, this inspires a sense of historic awe whenever they set foot on this land.
For me, this is a rare opportunity of discovery: to see the land from which so many daring, driven, successful families came from. I hope to imbibe the virtues of the hardy, enterprising, and committed individuals whose achievements honor both the Philippines and China, particularly in terms of excellence in business.
After all, it was entrepreneurship that brought our respective peoples into contact. Since the 14th century, birds’ nests for the famous Chinese soup came from as far afield as Palawan, while from Luzon to Mindanao, porcelain and other prestige goods were highly prized by Filipinos.
To our shores in the era of the junks and galleons, these ships carried Chinese granite as ballast in their holds, which they unloaded in our ports in order to bring beeswax, sinamay cloth, coconut oil, raw cotton, fine mats, betel nuts, shells, carabao and deer horn, not to mention gold dust and iron ingots, to China.
For half a millennium now, our rich cultural ties have been, fundamentally, economic ties. These ties of trade are what we seek to expand today, especially since the Philippines is once again open for business.
In the recent past, our commercial relations have been more beneficial to you, than to us: Filipino foreign direct investments in China, for example, total 2.8 billion U.S. dollars, while Chinese investments in the Philippines total 500 million U.S. dollars. I believe by means of visits such as this one, we can begin to balance the equation.
The positive balance we desire is based on positive success stories. Consider how the success of Filipino Chinese in my homeland has been demonstrated here in China as well. Many Filipino companies with ventures in China have flourished, such as Liwayway Marketing Corporation. Under the leadership of Mr. Carlos Chan, it has been able to continuously expand their operations in this country, not to mention the China Famous Brands award they received for their products.
There are pioneering investors from China blazing the trail in the Philippines as well. From Hunan Roads and Bridge Corporation working on a road improvement project worth 20 million dollars in Manila, to China Henan Shuili Yiju doing maintenance work worth more than 11 million dollars on some roads in Mindanao—more and more Chinese businessmen are learning just how much the Philippines has to offer.
These Chinese companies have already found a very attractive investment destination in our country: with opportunities for mutually beneficial undertakings in infrastructure, agriculture, marine business, and food processing, to name a few. If more Filipino and Chinese companies form mutually beneficial partnerships in gatherings such as this—then opportunities for new investments will rise even more.
With one of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world, the Chinese economy is looking to sustain its brisk growth. Industries and exporting companies here find an increasing need to import resources, while the increasing improvement in the living standards of the Chinese people stimulates greater consumption.
For our part, the Philippines has plenty of young, competitive, and skilled people. We are strategically located within the ASEAN-China free trade area; and our economy is being recognized for its stability and sound management. In contrast to one upgrade and several downgrades in the past nine and a half years of my predecessor, we have received four ratings upgrades: from Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, Fitch, and the Japan Credit Ratings Agency, all within a span of just one year.
We did this by going back to basics. By having public servants actually serving the public—people such as the economic team here with me, who are working overtime to improve the business environment and, ultimately, improve the livelihoods of our countrymen. But more than that, this is also the result of our campaign to eliminate corrupt practices. We have identified anomalous deals, and instituted a policy of holding corrupt officials accountable for their actions. In this manner, we are truly leveling the playing field in the Philippines, so that both business and our citizenry are given equitable opportunities to thrive on their own merits, and are only limited by their ability to compete and seize opportunities.
At the heart of our efforts are the Five R’s: our partnerships must represent the Right Project, at the Right Cost, with the Right Quality, undertaken by the Right People and accomplished Right on Time. In this manner, we will have contracts that endure, and relationships that flourish and last. For what we are both after is to build firm foundations for the future.
I have been highly encouraged by the cordial, cooperative reception I have been given by the government of the People’s Republic of China during my State Visit. President Hu and I witnessed the signing of the Five-Year Development Program for Trade and Economic Cooperation, with the clear goal of 60 billion dollars in total bilateral trade by the year 2016, and an increase in tourism to two million visitors in the same time frame. For his part, Premier Wen emphasized the great planning tasks the Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Cooperation will be undertaking, to identify key projects to advance cooperation between our two countries, with a continuing commitment to the existing three tranches of preferential export buyer’s credit: with a commitment to topping it up, if needed, for specific projects. And Chairman Wu Bangguo observed that good commercial relations are good neighborly relations: a wise and beneficial relationship not only in the diplomatic sense, but also, strategically.
All three assured me that China will encourage Chinese investments in the Philippines. Our discussions demonstrate a shared commitment to market rules; and a shared interest in agriculture, water conservation, energy distribution and renewable energy generation, infrastructure, and tourism as sectors that have great opportunities for mutual cooperation and profit.
I encourage all of you to get to know those you are seated with. Perhaps you may even reconnect with a distant relative, or find a potential partner in business. I invite you to get in touch with the Philippine Consulate in Xiamen, as well as the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Guangzhou. It is my hope that the spirit of achievement of the past will be demonstrated again: this time, in a new generation of entrepreneurs and corporations from China, who will invest in the Philippines for the benefit of Filipinos and Chinese alike. The journey to success begins with a single step: the one we have taken today.
Once again, it is a pleasure to have met all of you. Thank you and good day.]