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25/09/2010: President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Speech during the Gala of the Philippine Development Forum, The Fairmont Hotel, California, USA

PRESIDENT BENIGNO S. AQUINO III’s SPEECH
DURING THE GALA OF THE PHILIPPINE DEVELOPMENT FORUM
Ballroom, The Fairmont Hotel
California, USA
September 25, 2010

(long applause) Thank you.  Please sit down.

The ever persevering Mr. Dado Banatao who saw me last July at which point we had just started governing and I couldn’t give him a straight answer as to being able to attend tonight; Don Jaime and Doña Bea, very good and dear friends of long standing of our family.  Doña Bea was my mother’s protector right after the snap election.  She was the one who hid my mother from those who had evil intention; a very good friend Fernando, one of the first to commiserate with us when my father was assassinated;  Francis of the Philippine Development Forum; Mr. Richard Brown, whom I noticed is a true friend of the Philippines as evidenced by the barong you’re wearing tonight. (laughter) It fits you a lot better than Secretary Almendras’ barong;  (laughter) Ms. Vicky Garchitorena, the very dynamic Ms. Garchitorena;  various chairs, sponsors, honorees and speakers of tonight’s Philippine Development Forum Gala; captains of industry; our colleagues in

the Philippine Government, Pia, I see you tonight and my friend Chiz Escudero; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen; mga minamahal ko pong kababayan.

Napapag-isip po ako, baka dapat mag thank you na para makakain na kayo. (laughter)

However, I did have something in the neighborhood of a 12-page speech which I have condensed to two pages. (laughter/applause) The problem with being the last speaker is normally you’re blamed if people get hungry, (laughter) when we start out in this manner.

We’ll be going home tomorrow night and even though we’ve been here for about a week or so, some of us are very homesick especially those amongst the delegation who are married. (laughter) And this noon we went to the Season’s Market Place and I had a fantastic lunch at the Max’s Restaurant there, andami ho bang ads?  But I think the main thing that I wanted to point out was there were a lot of Filipinos there.  They waited until we finished the lunch.  We had such a warm welcome and send-off.  And I couldn’t help but think these are people who left the Philippines probably because of a lack of opportunities in our home country.  Have gone on to make a mark in this new land of theirs still thinking kindly of the country that they left.  Still concerned about what is happening in our motherland and especially to our beloved people.

And I couldn’t help but say, I am really impressed and I really admire all of you, and your presence tonight even adds to that admiration that I had this lunchtime.  Why do I say that?

How many of you at one point or another did not feel dejected and say, “What’s the point of helping our countrymen if the system is wrong, the politicians are corrupt, our people just get worse and worse and whatever assistance we do amounts to nothing.”  And I wouldn’t be able to blame you.  There are days in the past when I said, are we really destined to go from bad to worst and if it’s possible even worst conditions.

However, in spite of the disappointments, in spite of the numerous times that you let your hopes soar only to have it dashed, you are still around, you are still assisting our country and our countrymen.  And in their behalf may I thank you this evening. (applause)

In our first month in office, we were inundated with a lot of bad news.  Butch Abad, our Secretary of Budget and Management at one point kept reporting to me around four or so in the afternoon.  And normally, it was bad news.  I had to remind him, Butch your responsibility is to give me the news, be it bad, be it good.  Can I have a schedule for the good news to replace the bad that you keep bringing. (laughter) So what he did was to ask his co-members of the Cabinet to be the ones to deliver the other bad news. (laughter)

However, come August, and this I was really surprised.  Let me share with you some of the good news.  In our second month of August, first of all, what did we find out in the first month in office?  Amongst the items that were left behind was practically a mere 10 percent of the national budget to take care for the remaining half of the year.  Everything else was obligated. Sa tagalog po ginastos na bago kami dumating. (laughter) But surprisingly, come August and perhaps through the work of our secretaries and especially Butch Abad. We posted a surplus for the August account in the national budget inspite of the fact (applause) that very little was left to us.

Let me just at this point be a little less humble.  Can we just share with you some of the other things that have happened our way.  We got elected basically by trust.  Trust that we would make a difference.  Trust that we could change the system.  Trust that the Filipino deserved better.  And this trust has been responsible for among other things.

A stock market that at a present time keeps on growing from high to high, it will go up, (applause) corrects a little, goes up further, corrects a little again then keeps on going on upper trajectory and we are very very proud of this.  But more than anything else we are more proud that we were managed to get Cabinet Secretaries to accept a pittance of their former salaries and already delivered results to the people.  Amongst them Secretary Singson of the Department of Public Works and Highways which normally rates the highest in terms of agencies perceived most corrupt has already succeeded amongst other things in saving about  two and a half billion pesos for an item called slope protection.  How did he do this? There is a Filipino member of the academe working out to the Bicol University at one point said, “Why is the Bicol University concentrating on rice and corn when the overwhelming dominant product of the Bicol Region has to deal with coconuts and copra?”  He has developed a technology called cocoquire and also as a byproduct something called coco peat, cocoquire replaces concrete in our slope protection.  We saved 2.5 billion pesos every year and we only spend the remaining P500 million for the entire country.  Doing right saves the people 2.5.  Another way of looking at this, we have P2.5 billion new pesos to share with education, with health and with other opportunities. (applause)

We were asked, why go to America.  Why spend 25 million pesos at the point in time when I’m asking for austerity.  Amongst the reasons, there was the Millennium Challenge... Millennium Corporation’s grant of 430 million dollars, and I repeat a grant, it is not a loan, to help us in our fight against poverty and to help us to improve the performance of our BIR amongst other things.  So, I think from a cost benefit analysis, spending 25 million pesos and having 430 million dollars pumped into our economy is a very good deal, do you agree? (applause)

However, that’s just the appetizer. (laughter) Through the efforts of our economic team, Secretaries Purisima, Domingo and Almendras -- who has lost a lot of weight in this trip -- (laughter) we have had so many meetings  with various corporations from America and North America.

Tens of thousands of jobs  will be resulting from investments that  they will make, amongst  them will be a new  600-megawatt power plant for Luzon. The investments,  I think  I will have to reveal when I get to Manila, can we just  say, that they are in order... in fact and in order  tremendously greater than even the $430 million  that we are already bringing home. (applause)

So, prior  to ignoring the people who keep criticizing us, and I wonder, why is it that Filipino-Americans here, can still remember their  country, can still look at their country and say, this is my country, those are my people, I intend to help them. However, some of our countrymen who have been left  in the Philippines remind me of a story -- I  think, I first heard from my Dad -- and they were talking  about Filipino crabs. And I wondered, Filipino crab, that’s a new, new story to me. So, my Dad  was saying that he was told this story. There were two people at a bar, one of them was a Filipino, he had a pail of crabs and there was another  person beside him. The crabs were attempting to get out  of the pail and one was  almost at the lip of the pail. So the guy beside the Filipino fisherman said, your crabs are about to escape and the fisherman said, don’t worry, they are Filipino crabs. (laughter) And to be honest with you -- seems you’ve heard the joke -- (laughter) when my Dad told me this, probably  two decades  ago,  I didn’t understand it at first  and  then   he had  to explain  it to me and I felt really stupid after  he had  to explain it to me. Bottomline is, when somebody gets up, there has to be somebody  that drags it down.

And who are this people, I  believe this people are those  who would want to  preserve the status quo. What does the status quo mean? They seem to be participants in the idea  of equality,  meaning some  are more equal that others. (laughter) Sa Tagalog po ay mas maganda eh.  Naipuwesto sila para  manglamang  at mang-api. (laughter)

Even given these people who incessantly complain and nit-pick, sometimes they complain about my hair. (laughter/applause) I’d rather have the thin hair, than the thick face.  (laughter/applause) Hindi naman ho malaman, baka naman inggit. (laughter) It is really something ‘no, when  the people at your side, it is really something to see, when you notice, when you sense,  when you feel optimism in the air. And this optimism translates into action that  is already  sharing  and giving  benefits  for our people, not only in the homeland  but to the rest of the world.

Napatingin po ako sa relo at  baka meron  na ho akong  naririnig na kumukulong tiyan diyan. (laughter) I am sorry, If I am taking so much of your time. I really am energized when I ever I meet Filipinos. I am energized (applause) and I have to be energized ‘cause I told them, I want the  least expenses  for this trip. So, what they did, was  to send me to San Francisco, put me on the next plane to New York and have the meetings flow after that.  So, this must be what is experienced by people who are not allowed to sleep. (laughter) And  at the same time, you are fearful of making a mistake, least you bring the whole country’s reputations down.

But let me reiterate a few things, you now have in place a government in our homeland that will not let you down, that will not have utterances that they don’t intend to live up to. This is a government that owes its existence to trust, that trust is sacred and it will deliver. (applause/howling)

My Dad used to sing a song called ‘The Impossible Dream.’ (laughter) And a lot of us, at some point or another must have felt, is having  a decent, a correct  government in our country an impossibility. We have six years, I think we have demonstrated in less than three months that we have been in office how serious  we are at changing and transforming  our country. We are confident with the people behind us, nothing is impossible. We will achieve our dreams and it will   be soon, rather than later. (applause)

And to my countrymen, can I leave  you with just these thoughts. First, ngayon po, tunay na puwede na muling mangarap. Pangalawa po, para marating natin ang  tamang paroroonan, kailangan pong  ipagpatuloy natin ang pagtutulungan. And lastly, let us now continue  along the straight and righteous path towards the realization of our dreams for our nation.

And, ito na raw po ‘to ha, talagang last na po ito. (laughter) And I talked to  you about  the people I met at the Season’s Market Place earlier. Tonight,  we have  the launch  of the Philippine Development Foundation. This is an Ayala-USA Foundation -- did I say it correctly? -- prior  to that. These are people who kept on plodding, who kept on persevering, these are people who continue  to  hope beyond hope and  did and actually  strike out to improve and did actually realize  the improvement  of a lot of our countrymen. They have, in spite of factors, in spite of shall we say forces that would make their efforts futile persevered. And because of their perseverance a lot more Filipinos have a brighter future today.

I say Mabuhay to the  Philippine Development Foundation!

Mabuhay to all of you!

Good night. (applause)

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