President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Speech at the Groundbreaking of the Clark Green City (CGC)
Sitio Baloy, Brgy. Aranguren, Capas, Tarlac
11 April 2016
Whenever I attend ceremonies like this, I cannot help but remember an instance from 2009, when I was still considering whether or not to pursue the Presidency. Back then, I knew that I would be confronted with a lot of problems, and that—beyond the ones we already knew of—there were certainly even more problems that were kept hidden by those in power, which would swell the already tremendous challenge. I wanted to ask: Why will the burden of solving these problems be passed on to me, when I was part of the group that wanted to prevent these problems from starting to begin with? This particular worry, perhaps, was eased by a conversation with Mr. Alex Lacson and his group, because he told me that the expectation of those supporting me was for me to start the change and end the abuses, and that they knew that six years would not be enough to correct all of the problems.

True enough, that became our initial goal when we finally assumed office. You must remember that, during the early days of our administration, we really welcomed the end of the work week because there would be at least a pause to unearthing even more problems brought about by the misgovernance of my predecessor. Indeed, the amount of problems threatened to overwhelm us. Even so, through hard work and perseverance, we overcame them one by one, and we ended up exceeding expectations—achieving so many things that we once thought impossible.

On the economic end of the spectrum alone, there are so many examples of progress. For instance, our average GDP over 2010 to 2015 was recorded at 6.2 percent, which is our country’s fastest six-year average growth since the late 1970s. Of course, at that point in time, there are those that argue we were in the period of Martial Law, crony capitalism was rampant, and the numbers, obviously, were not real investments.

We have set record highs in terms of net foreign direct investments to date. We have made significant strides on several global rankings of competitiveness, perhaps most prominently in the World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Index, where we went from 85th in 2010 to 47th in 2015. By 2013, we were also unanimously declared investment grade by the world’s most prominent credit ratings agencies. In short, we regained confidence—both confidence in ourselves, and the confidence of investors here and around the globe. Today, we welcome yet another major expression of that confidence, as we are breaking ground on one of the biggest ever joint undertaking between the government and the private sector, namely, the Clark Green City. The details emphasize the scale and ambition of this project: This economic zone will cover 9,450 hectares and its development will cost around P607 billion, most of which will be covered by partners from the private sector. Just to give us an idea of the scale, Bonifacio Global City is roughly about 200 hectares. By the time of its completion, it is envisioned to be a city in every sense of the word. It will be home to companies, retail outlets, schools, government offices, residential communities, parks, and even urban farms, eventually accommodating an estimated 1.12 million residents and 800,000 workers.

This city also embodies our vision for a more resilient Philippines. It shows that we are learning from the lessons of the past, and putting more thought into securing ourselves from the risks brought about by climate change. The number of 800,000 workers is roughly the amount of people that enter the labor force every year. With just the Clark Green City, we will have opportunities for the new labor entrance.

Clark Green City is an example of a development that has approached this problem strategically. It will not be flood prone, since its lowest elevation is 56 meters above sea level, while its central park will serve as a flood catchment basin. It also enjoys natural protection from typhoons, with the Sierra Madre to the West and the Zambales mountain range to the east.

Truly, as interest in our nation grows—and as markets develop across the country—projects like this are vital. Along with investing in our workforce and spending on critical infrastructure projects, we need to develop viable economic hubs, not just in Metro Manila or Cebu, but in provinces with high growth potential. And I am particularly glad that, when I step down in office and have more quiet time to spend in Tarlac, I can watch over the development of this city and hopefully with a mayor who is smiling at the successes.

Over the past five years and nine months, our country’s fortunes have seen a dramatic turnaround. We have witnessed far more progress than we could have imagined, and we can take pride in the fact that we have completely shed the title of Sick Man of Asia, and are now referred to as Asia’s Bright Spot, or Asia’s New Tiger. Nevertheless, the work towards building a vibrant and inclusive Philippine economy continues, and this project, among others, heralds the next step in our journey, and I am hopeful that we can maintain, if not build on our momentum.

Less than a month from now, Filipinos will be faced with a choice: Do we continue along the Straight Path and reap the benefits of what we have sowed these past few years? Or do we risk reversing the progress for which we have worked so hard? I have only 80 days left in office, but I face my final days in this job with optimism, because I have faith in our people—that they can look back at all we have achieved together, and make the right choice.

Throughout my term, the Filipino people have never failed to impress me with their passion, their talent, and their immeasurable love for country, and I am certain that, if the private sector and government alike can continue harnessing their respective skills, we can look forward towards the entire world and say that the Filipino story is only beginning, and that you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Before I end, we would like to thank all our partners both in the private sector in the person of Filinvest today, all the Japanese agencies JICA and JOIN for their very active participation to make this dream a reality. And perhaps just to leave you with this thought: There is nothing that can forestall our ambitions except ourselves. Let us devote more and more to seeing our dreams fulfilled today.

Thank you. Good afternoon.