PGMA's Speech during the Grand Spring Festival Reception hosted by the Embassy of the People's Republic of China
Manila, February 4
Thank you very much Secretary Romulo, Ambassador Song Tao member to the diplomatic corps, Vice President De Castro, other officials of the Philippine government, members and leaders of the Filipino-Chinese community, ladies and gentlemen:
It is an honor to join our Chinese friends on this auspicious occasion. Chinese New Year is widely celebrated in the Philippines and very popular even outside the Chinese community.
But while we are delighted to be together tonight, I am also sad about the reports of widespread devastation in many provinces across Central and Eastern China due to heavy snowfall.
And I speak for the Filipino people in expressing deepest sympathies to those whose family and friends perished in the disaster.
The extensive damage to property and the disruption of the normal course of life for many of our Chinese brothers and sisters before the spring season are tremendous challenges.
More snows in China may mean higher world commodity prices this year as demand remains strong while agricultural supplies are badly hit by weather.
In the face of these trials the Filipino people stand squarely with the Chinese people in the hope and confidence that resolve and commitment will lead to full recover of all distressed individuals and the complete rehabilitation of all affected communities.
With the resilient nature of the Chinese people and under the able leadership of President Hu Jintao we are sure that the challenges the people of China face now will be overcome.
This disaster and the global economic situation are a key issue for us because the more interconnected we become, the more we need to manage through the ups and downs of other nation's problems. And this is true certainly with any further volatility in the big economies of the world.
To keep our economy resilient to major economic disruptions, we have ordered a surge in infrastructure spending – 200 billion pesos from the national government, government corporations and local governments; three thousand kilometers of roads and 10,000 school buildings – these are a firewall against the world volatility and as a springboard for further growth. We are focused like a laser pointed on frontloading the infrastructure boom and expansion of public services.
We are able to do this because of the additional resources generated by our economic reforms.
Our economy through those reforms has reached a new level of maturity and stability with some of the strongest macroeconomic fundamentals in a generation. And I thank Ambassador Song Tao for acknowledging a 7.3 percent growth rate. seven years ago, no one thought we could get more revenues, cut down on tax cheats, strengthen the peso and move the stock market. No one thought we could bring the budget close to balance, lower our national debt and raise employment, but we have.
Today, the Philippines is on a path to permanent growth and stability. Investments are pouring in.
China's Jinchuan, Citic and Jilin nickel are some of the investors who have expressed interest in project in the Philippines. In terms of mining, China is one of the world's biggest consumers of metal so for the mining industry, this represents a significant opportunity in terms of mining exploration, development and mineral exports, particularly at a time when we are looking to develop our 1 trillion dollars worth of mineral reserves across the country. We hope to see the nickel and other Chinese investments come to fruition soon.
With Beijing hosting the 2008 summer games the Olympics and China's rise as the third-largest economy in the world, China's performance is also expected to bring heightened economic progress in our region.
We see the rise of China as a significant opportunity for the Philippines. Our overall relations with China are now more confident, mature, and comprehensive, they are punctuated with substantial and important projects not just the legal mines, many projects aimed at deepening exchanges in a number of areas, including trade and investment. On trade, China is now our largest export market and as Ambassador Song Tao has said we have had a substantial trade surplus with China since 2002. Our framework agreement on expanding and deepening bilateral economic and trade cooperation is further enhancing bilateral merchandise trade with China.
And even though both our economies are booming, Philippines with a 7.3 percent, the lowest poverty rate, self-rated in actual, unemployment rate down, and China with its continuing double-digit growth like so many places in the world whether rich and poor alike, we must both fight to close the gap in income inequality. We are cautiously optimistic that both our countries have worked to manage our economy so that we can weather any storm whether it be economic or a snow storm or a typhoon in the near term. We are bullish about the long term economic prognosis of our two countries and we are even more bullish about our relationship with each other.
An aggressive foreign policy is essential to the lifeblood of the Philippines, that is why we are so gratified, reflecting on our relationship during this Chinese new year's eve that the Philippines and China and our relations with each other have so much to expand and build on in 2008.
And so as we prepare to toast the lunar new year, we wish the Chinese people all over the world, and especially the Chinese people and the Filipino-Chinese in the Philippines, a happy and prosperous year of the rat. may we all have—the Chinese, the Filipinos and our friends from all over the world, may we all have a meaningful and progressive 2008 ahead.
Kong Hae Fa Tsoi. Xiexie. (OPS) [top]