President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Speech at the 21st Anniversary of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and Investors’ Recognition Night
World Trade Center, Pasay City
14 Apr 2016
Thank you.

No, please. Don’t bother to get up. Please sit down. I want you prepared for tonight sa fantastic broadway reproduction.

Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps; Secretary Adrian Cristobal, Jr.; Director General Lilia de Lima; Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales; Commissioner Alberto Lina; former Supreme Court Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez; my fellow workers in government; honoured guests; ladies and gentlemen: Good evening.

Every time I have spoken about PEZA as President, it has been with an immense amount of prideand just as much confidence. For as long as I can remember, my economic managers have always predicted that PEZA-approved investments under our administration would exceed the amount generated by the previous three administrations for over 15 years. Tonight, I thank you for proving them right, ‘coz as of December 2015, 50.5 percent of total PEZA-approved investments—equivalent to roughly 1.594 trillion pesos—have been recorded under our administration. In line of this, it seems a safe bet to say that they have been true to their word and by the time we step down from office, there’ll be an even more significant margin of success. And for that, on behalf of our people: We thank you all.

To be honest, I am not surprise ‘cozno matter the quality of the country’s leadership in the past, PEZA hascultivated a strong track record of good governance. For this, we have none other than Director General Lilia de Lima to thank. Most of you here will probably know she is the only Director-General PEZA has ever known. Initially appointed by my predecessor, former President Fidel Ramos, she has been reappointed again and again, for good reason. As the fourth President to have the honor of working with her, I can tell you: I have yet to meet someone more suited to the job.And I am still after the DOST, our Science and Technology Department, to accelerate the cloning process. (laughter)

As a president with only 77 days left in office, I can also tell you: we don’t have much time to clone Director-General de Lima, but that will be my successor’s problem. It will be up to the next administration to convince her to stay on, or to continue our cloning program.

But, all jokes aside, the numbers themselves tell us just how much PEZA has contributed to the Philippines. Under Director-General de Lima’s watch, there have been 3.16 trillion pesos in total approved investments, consequently generating almost 1.2 million jobs. A scan of recent headlines and news stories shows that these numbers are likely to increase, with the establishment of a 63-hectare economic zone in Davao, the possible expansion of Osaka-based companies in the Philippines, and PEZA’s continued efforts to convince even more companies to set up shop in the Philippines.

Internal reform has likewise led to more efficient operations in PEZA eco-zones: from an electronic application registration system, to the pilot electronics zone transfer system, which will speed up delivery of parts and supplies to export manufacturing enterprises.

Indeed: Determination and dedication to service have become institutional policies and trademarks. I am told that you are one of, if not the onlyeco-zone authority in the world, to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the exception of Good Friday. This isn’t just a tagline. Your investors themselves continue to speak highly of the quality of service they have received from the men and women of PEZA. Some have said that it takes only a single phonecall, and they know that PEZA will be there to help them resolve any issue. Others say it is the most efficient government agency they have encountered. Everyone agrees: you are graft and corruption-free.

All of this is for the benefit of our people and our investors, including all of you present here tonight. Everything that PEZA has done is a reflection of just how much we want you to build successful and lasting enterprises in the country. It does not matter if you have been on our shores for twenty years, or if you are just about to break ground on your facility. Your being here shows your confidence in Filipinos and your commitment to our country. Just as we have done in the past, we will partner with you for the success of all—from your companies, who will undoubtedly reap greater profits, to Filipino employees, empowered by a decent livelihood and the opportunity to make the most of their skills.

At the same time, I know this is a period when investors and the business community in general will be somewhat cautious. Right now, the Philippines remains firmly among the fastest-growing economies in Asia. We continue to climb competitiveness rankings. But we are also facing an election. William Pesek of Barron’s Asiawrote about this recently, and calling our May 9 elections “a make or break moment for the Philippines.” He expressed concern about the possibility of our country either losingmomentumor, worse, reversing its momentumtoadvance vested interests.

Of course, I understand all these concerns better than anyone else. I vowed to leave our country in a far better state than that which I found it, and I believe I will be doing just that come June 30. The next six years, however,will be in the hands of another presidentor, perhaps more accurately, in the hands of over 54 million registered voters.

What we have now is a momentum built on the sacrifices and hard work of the past years. We do not live in a perfect country, andto be frank, I do not have much time left to continue striving to perfect it. At the same time,during our administration, our people have laid a firmer foundation for inclusive and sustained growth than we have seen in previous generations. I have not been shy about saying that there is only one man who can continue that growth—only one candidate who has the experience, integrity, and knowhow to speed up progress.

Even as I continue to encourage our countrymen to recognize what is at stake, I do so with the confidence and trust that they will see the great strides we have made, whether in an agency like PEZA, or in the wider economy. They will choose wisely. They will continue the great success story of the Philippines with partners like all of you here to work alongside them.

And with that, may I greet each and everyone of you in PEZA a Happy Anniversary. I thank you and I’m sure, you will enjoy tonight’s performances.

Good evening.