07 May 2015

Chicago Mayor Emanuel welcomes President Aquino to the Windy City
(CHICAGO, Illinois) Shortly after arriving here on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) for a one-day working visit, President Benigno S. Aquino III received Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the J.W. Marriott Chicago.

During the courtesy call, Mayor Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff who was re-elected mayor of Chicago last month, presented a copy of a resolution adopted by the members of the City Council of Chicago to President Aquino officially welcoming him to The Windy City.

“The City of Chicago is proud of its long history of friendship and cooperation with the Philippines. Filipinos are the fourth largest ethnic group in Chicago with more than 130,000 people living in the Chicago Metropolitan Area who claim Filipino or Filipino multiracial ancestry,” the resolution stated.

During a press briefing here, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. described the meeting between President Aquino and Mayor Emanuel as “very cordial.”

Secretary Coloma said the Chicago Mayor expressed his admiration for President Aquino’s being “outspoken and clear-eyed on important issues” affecting the country.

He said Mayor Emanuel was also “very upbeat” about the significant contributions made by the Filipino community in Chicago.

Present at the meeting were Coloma, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia, Jr., Presidential Management Staff head Julia Andrea Abad, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosairo, and Consul General Generoso Calonge.

On Wednesday, President Aquino also held a meeting with members of the US Chamber of Commerce, the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Business Council in Chicago, and the National Center for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

The US Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization representing the interest of more than three million businesses in the US, while the US-ASEAN Business Council is the premier advocacy organization for US corporations operating within the ASEAN member states.

The National Center for APEC is the only US business association focused on facilitating private sector engagement in the APEC. PND (co)

President Aquino meets with executives of top business organizations in Chicago
(CHICAGO, Illinois) President Benigno S. Aquino III met with executives of leading business organizations in the United States during his one-day working visit here on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).

President Aquino, accompanied by some of his key Cabinet secretaries, had a roundtable discussion with representatives of various international companies organized by the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Business Council, US Chamber of Commerce, and the National Center for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation at the TransUnion Headquarters here.

During the discussion, the President had the opportunity to hear from the participants their experiences in doing business in the Philippines, as well as to get their feedback on how the government could improve the country’s business climate.

Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., who was present during the meeting, shared to the media several key points discussed by the officials.

Secretary Coloma said David Neenan, president of International TransUnion, was the first to say his piece, expressing his company’s appreciation of the Philippine government’s thrust of promoting inclusive growth.

He said Neenan also mentioned his organization’s efforts in working with the Land Bank of the Philippines in assisting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to gain access to financing.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima noted that the government is taking steps to reduce the cost of doing business for SMEs in the Philippines, said Coloma.

Senior executive of GE Transportation, Thomas La France, meanwhile expressed interest in participating in the country’s infrastructure development efforts.

“President Aquino replied that being an archipelagic country, the Philippines needs to improve connectivity by expanding the existing nautical highway, improving roll-on roll-off and port facilities. Possibilities for improving the country’s railway system were also mentioned,” said Coloma.

Federal Express managing director for legal, trade and international affairs, Ralph Carter, then spoke about his company’s involvement in improving the Philippines’ links with the global supply chain.

“President Aquino cited his recent experience in seeing high-quality marble products in Romblon that need to be transported to international markets,” said Coloma.

He said Carter expressed his willingness to assist in transporting marble and also discussed ways to improve trade facilitation.

For his part, Secretary Purisima said the proposed Customs modernization law is being discussed in Congress to address the issue on transport and trade facilitation.

President and CEO of Underwriters Laboratories and a former Vice President of the US-ASEAN Business Council, Keith Williams, discussed the importance of generation-skipping technology in accelerating the pace of Philippine growth and development, said Coloma.

In response, President Aquino noted that the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is implementing the concept of greater and faster connectivity.

Meanwhile, JP Morgan Chase & Company’s US Midwest Chairwoman, Melissa Bean, expressed great satisfaction with the competence and talent of Filipino workers. Noting the company’s existence in the Philippines since 2005, she said JP Morgan’s service centers in the country have more than 13,000 employees.

Another participant, Julie Hoeniges of Caterpillar, spoke of the company’s expanding involvement in the Philippines, particularly in the mining industry.

Secretary Purisima discussed the government’s program to ensure that mining activities are conducted in a socially responsible manner and that local governments and communities obtain a fair share of the revenues, said Coloma.

Michael Fernandes of Cargill likewise expressed interest in increasing investments in agri-business, noting that the company has been actively involved in the Philippines since 1948.

“He also lauded the recent issuance by President Aquino of Executive Order Nos. 179 and 180 on the use of coconut levy funds to promote the growth of the industry and the welfare of coconut farmers,” said Coloma.

Another participant, a senior officer of Microsoft, reaffirmed the company’s commitment to improve the competitiveness of Filipino talent.

Coloma said the officer mentioned a joint project between Microsoft and the Philippine National Police in the sphere of cyber-security.

President of the National Center for APEC, Monica Whaley, meanwhile lauded the Philippine government’s path-finding initiatives in promoting financial inclusion across all spheres of socio-economic activity.

At the end of the forum, Mark Mealy, Vice President for Policy of the US-ASEAN Business Council, presented President Aquino two NBA jerseys: a red Chicago Bulls shirt bearing the President’s surname, and a green Boston Celtics shirt, in honor of the President’s working visit to Chicago and his being a Celtics fan during his family’s stay in Boston in the early 1980s.

Other Cabinet members present during the meeting were Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Arsenio Balisacan, and head of the Presidential Management Staff Julia Abad. Also present were Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia, Jr., and Consul General Generoso Calonge. PND (jb)

President Aquino promotes Romblon’s marble products to business groups in U.S.
(CHICAGO, Illinois) President Benigno S. Aquino III has encouraged business companies in the United States to look into potential business opportunities in Romblon province’s marble industry.

In his roundtable meeting with chief executive officers and senior officials of various multinational companies at TransUnion headquarters here on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), President Aquino made a pitch for Romblon’s high-quality marble to be exported to other countries.

“President Aquino cited his recent experience in seeing high-quality marble products in Romblon that need to be transported to international markets,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said following the discussion.

Federal Express (FedEx) managing director for legal, trade and international affairs, Ralph Carter, expressed his company’s willingness to assist in transporting and promoting such products.

FedEx is an international shipping company that caters to heavy shipments.

When visiting Romblon last January, President Aquino saw different marble sculptures from local craftsmen.

He said he was impressed with the unique designs and ideas of local sculptors, whose works unfortunately lack promotion.

President Aquino’s pitch was part of efforts to revive Romblon’s marble industry, which has been greatly affected by the increasing use of synthetic tiles and ceramic products. PND (jb)

President Aquino meets with Filipino community in Chicago, reports positive changes in the Philippines
(CHICAGO, Illinois) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday afternoon (Thursday in Manila) reported to the Filipino community here some of the positive developments in the Philippines, saying that the country has undergone a radical transformation since 2010.

The President updated his compatriots on the major changes in the Philippines, attributing these to good governance and the reform measures carried out by his administration since he assumed office in 2010.

In his speech, President Aquino said the government has made major strides in its fight against corruption, noting that a total of 637 cases have been filed under the Department of Finance’s Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) program, the Bureau of Customs’ Run After the Smugglers (RATS) program, and the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s Run After Tax Evaders (RATE) program, among others.

“Nabalitaan na rin po siguro ninyo na ang mga kilalang politikong dating itinuturing na ‘untouchable’ sa pamahalaan, ngayon, nasa kani-kanila nang mga piitan, at kung hindi man po ay naka-hospital arrest,” the President said during the event, held at the JW Marriott Chicago.

On the government’s anti-corruption drive, President Aquino noted that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has saved P39 billion following reforms implemented by its leaders.

The Philippines, he said, has also improved its ranking in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, climbing to 85th place among the least corrupt from its 130th ranking in 2010.

Even the international community is noticing the government’s commitment to good governance, he said.

“Ang atin nga pong batayang prinsipyo: Good governance equals good economics, equals good quality inclusive growth. Kaya po sa usaping pang-ekonomiya, kalimutan na natin ang bansag na Sick Man of Asia; ang turing sa atin ng ibang bansa ngayon, Darling of Asia,” he said.

The President further reported that since 2010, the Philippines has moved up 33 spots in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, and 49 spots in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report.

A Bloomberg survey of economists also showed that the Philippines is emerging as the second fastest-growing economy in the world this year, he added.

“Talaga pong makasaysayan po itong mga nakakamit natin: Mula 2010 hanggang 2014, nagtala tayo ng average GDP growth na 6.3 percent. Ito po ang pinakamabilis na paglago ng ating ekonomiya sa loob ng nakaraang 40 taon,” he said.

“Ang target naman natin: 7 to 8 percent GDP growth ngayong 2015. Sabi po ng ating economic managers, kapag naabot natin ito, ang resultang 6-year average ang magiging pinakamabilis na paglago ng ating ekonomiya mula pa 1955, o sa loob ng nakalipas na 60 taon.”

President Aquino also reported that foreign direct investments reached an all-time high of $6.2 billion in 2014.

“Tingnan po ninyo: Kapag maunlad ang ekonomiya, tataas ang kompiyansa ng investors na tumaya sa bansa. Dadami ang mga bagong negosyo; dadami rin ang malilikhang trabaho. Ang resulta: Higit na oportunidad sa pag-asenso para sa mas maraming Pilipino. At kakabit nito, siyempre, lalago rin ang buwis na makokolekta ng inyong gobyerno,” he said.

“Ibig-sabihin, madadagdagan din ang maitatayo nating mga imprastruktura, at iigting ang serbisyong panlipunan. Ito naman pong mga serbisyong panlipunan na ito, magbubunga ng mas edukado, mas malusog, at mas ligtas na Pilipino; maitututok na ng mga kababayan natin ang enerhiya nila sa pag-abot ng kanilang potensyal, kaysa sa pag-intindi sa mga pangunahin nilang pangangailangan.”

To ensure that the economic opportunities and benefits reach the Filipino people, particularly the poor and the vulnerable, President Aquino said the government has increased the budget allocation for social services.

The government, he said, has expanded the scope of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program from 800,000 household beneficiaries to 4.43 million today. The government has also extended the PhilHealth coverage.

On the education sector, the government has already addressed the shortage of 66,800 classrooms, and had closed the backlog of 61.7 million textbooks and 2.5 million chairs as early as 2012.

“Siyempre po, pati mga pangangailangan sa ating napipintong K to 12 Basic Education Program, dinagdagan po natin ng dalawang taon ng ating basic education program, inumpisahan punuin na rin para sa taong 2014 at 2015, nakapaglaan po tayo ng budget na P45.62 billion para makapagtayo ng 29,800 classrooms, at P560 million naman para sa 800,000 na upuan para din sa eskwelahan,” he said.

Moreover, President Aquino said that from 2010, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) has produced more than 7.4 million graduates under its technical and vocational education and training program.

“Ang atin nga pong pagtutok sa ekonomiya, katambal ng pagpapaigting ng ating human development agenda, tunay nang nanganganak ng mga positibong bunga,” he said.

President Aquino enjoined Filipinos living and working in Chicago to continue helping his administration in achieving sustainable progress. PND (co)