President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Speech during his visit to the facility of Kaertech Electronics Philippines, Inc. (KEPI) Facility
Innorev Bldg, Phase 6A Laguna Technopark, Binan City, Laguna,
31 March 2016
Some of you here may have heard that your company is of particular interest to me. Last year, during my visit to Europe, I—along with a number of my Cabinet members—were pleasantly surprised after encountering a smart electronic toothbrush, and subsequently finding out that they are actually assembled here in Laguna. To be perfectly honest with you, we were in an [innovation] center, a very high-tech facility, and one of the main founders was giving us a tour, explaining what they intended to do. Towards the end of the tour, I was wondering, “Why is this guy bringing out a toothbrush?” I don’t know if it was a hint that some of us forgot to toothbrush that morning, only to find out pleasantly that, indeed, these is such a thing as a bluetooth toothbrush these days, that helps you monitor the efficiency of your brushing. But more importantly, it is made in the Philippines.

Ever since I returned from that trip, I have been meaning to go to this facility to meet the talented individuals in your company; and I am glad that, today, my staff finally has found some time in my schedule for a visit.

I have always believed in the skill and ingenuity of the Filipino, and I am filled with optimism, seeing how companies like Kaertech Electronics seem to share this confidence in our people. I am told that your company is exploring a number of options as regards your Philippine operations, including setting up a new factory, and creating a development team in areas of electronic, mechanical, and software development. Today, I take the opportunity to tell you that you cannot go wrong with the Filipino people. They are hardworking, creative, and loyal, and, with the support of a government that is more equipped than ever to empower your industry, the foundations for continued success are firmly in place.

Over the course of our administration, Philippine manufacturing has made a definitive comeback. From 2010 to 2015, the industry posted an average annual growth of 7.6 percent; compare this to the 3 percent average growth from 2001 to 2009. When we were looking at the low-lying fruits, manufacturing wasn’t considered one of them. Our electricity rates are still not as competitive as what we would like them to be. And to be honest with you, when something as simple as an electric fan had to be practically totally imported to this country because we couldn’t compete with the manufacturing giants to our west. Now, to see the resurgence of a manufacturing industry in the country, and to get higher and higher in the value chains through the gratifying… Seems like all the effort, blood, and tears, have really been paying off. Your company is proof positive that this growth isn’t driven by simple manufacturing—that we are already making our way up the value chain. In recent years we have seen companies setting up shop in the Philippines to produce high-tech equipment. Apart from smart toothbrushes, we have been chosen as the manufacturing site for a lot of aircraft components, medical equipments like hemodialysis treatment devices, and—hopefully our contribution to the global fight against global climate change—electric tricycles, amongst others.

Perhaps others might point out that some of these high-tech companies do not necessarily hire very large amounts of people. While this may be true, it fails to acknowledge how these companies also equip the people they hire with the knowhow to make larger and larger difference in their respective milieus. Take, for example, a woman by the name of Cristina Reyes from Pangasinan. After being a victim of abuse as an overseas worker in the Middle East, she came home and took a course in massage therapy under our Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. She graduated, she found a job in a spa, where she eventually became its operations manager. And from there, the training and experience she received there allowed her to realize that this was something she can do herself, which led her to put up not just her own spa, but four branches of this spa. She has not moved into franchising her concept with three new branches for the spa. Truly, something from an OFW who was victimized, who was very despondent, to being such a success story. Her story—among many others—shows the overwhelming positive effect when government and private sector alike are able to empower the people. In particular, when companies in cutting-edge industries like yours hire Filipinos, they likewise facilitate a critical transfer of knowledge—and that does not simply help our manufacturing sector; it permanently raises the value and the skillsets of our people.

Indeed, more and more, the world is discovering how the Philippine brand is synonymous with quality, and we are seeing the early fruits of this development. I assure you that our administration will do everything in its power to continue this trend. Part of the strategy is making certain that companies in your sector will have access to employees with the right skillsets, and we have made significant progress in this regard. We have improved, for instance, TESDA’s Training for Work Scholarship Program, which trains Filipinos and Filipinas like Cristina Reyes for in-demand positions in so many different sectors. Between 2006 to 2008, the employment or placement rate of the program’s beneficiaries was at a mere 28.5 percent. By 2014, through extensive consultations and partnerships with the private sector, this number has risen to around 71.9 percent, defined as finding a job six months after graduation from the program. Might I point out that there are industries in which this program has done exceptionally well, such as the semiconductors and electronics industry, where the employment rate for our TESDA graduates has reached more than 95 percent. There is also a general upward trend in the number of yearly graduates from science and engineering courses.

These are welcome indicators, especially as government seeks to continue the revival of Philippine manufacturing. Apart from increasing the access of the business sector to skilled workers, this can be done by providing services that encourage companies to conduct more and more of their processes here, rather than abroad.

This is the idea behind projects like ADMATEL, or the Advanced Device and Materials Testing Laboratory. The goal has been to give the electronics industry a place on our own shores to conduct failure analysis and materials characterization, as opposed to sending their products for testing abroad. It drastically cuts their turnaround time, from 5 to 6 days when done abroad, to only 24 hours here. And I am pleased to note that, over the past three years, the number of companies availing of these services has quickly risen, from just 34 in 2013, to 164 as of December 2015. In 2015, we also launched the Electronics Product Development Center, which conducts electromagnetic compatibility testing for electronics—which I’m sure Sec. Cristobal will explain. Through the EPDC, our products can be much safer and can more easily match, if not exceed, the current international standards.

All these initiatives have an overarching goal: to harness the talents of our greatest resource, the Filipino people, both for their families’ well-being and for our nation’s continued economic growth. I know that I only have 91 days left to personally lead government towards this goal, but I have faith because we have companies like you here, who invest in our country and our people, and who give Filipinos the opportunity and the freedom to unleash their skill and creativity. More importantly, I have faith because I am confident that the Filipino people themselves—having seen what we have achieved these past five years and nine months—will not stray from the Straight Path. While our nation’s partnership with Kaertech might be relatively new, I am certain that our people and our country will give you even more reasons to stay here and expand your operations in the years to come, and we definitely look forward to working even more with you.

Congratulations. Thank you. Good day.