President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Speech during the Opening Ceremonies of the Agrilink/Foodlink/Aqualink 2008
World Trade Center, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City, October 9, 2008
Thank you, Secretary Artie Yap for your introduction. And thank you for reminding everybody about how we were among the first in the party, that's how we got party favors.
Senator Ed Angara, thank you and please convey to all the senators who ratified the JPEPA last night, our heartfelt thanks. Yes. One of the biggest winners of the JPEPA is our agriculture, food and aquaculture industry, kaya sa lahat nang nagtataguyod nitong Agrilink, Foodlink at Aqualink Exhibits na nagkaroon ng bagong palengke, congratulations sa ratification!
Congresswoman Nelly Chavez who represents the Farmers' Party of the Philippines na ang kanyang Tagalog translation ay nagkaroon ng acronym BUTIL Party List; ang ating mga host dito sa Pasay City, si Congressman Jun Roxas at saka si Mayor Peewee Trinidad; si Mrs. Dulce Gozun at saka si Lyndon Tan; His Excellency Ambassador Chesnel and our French delegation, which is one of the biggest delegations in this exhibit, benvenuto!
This event is timely because a whole new market has opened up for the Philippine agribusiness through the JPEPA ratification. This event is also a venue to remind ourselves that four years ago, we resolved to develop one million hectares of agribusiness land and water to make them productive and to transport their products to the markets efficiently.
"Sustaining Agricultural Growth through Niche Markets" is indeed the way to go in a globally competitive world.
While we may know how to grow rice well, our productivity per hectare is very high. Topography doesn't always cooperate. Nature did not gift us with a mighty Mekong-like Thailand and Vietnam, with their vast and naturally fertile plains. Nature instead put our islands ahead of our neighbors in the path of the typhoons from the Pacific. Thus, instead of producing 100 percent of our needs, the last ten percent of the rice we consume is imported because it had been more expensive to produce them on marginal land. And we earn the foreign exchange to buy the rice by exporting our own niche commodities like primary products, call center services, niche tourism, and as the theme of this exhibit, "niche agribusiness".
However, at the price levels reached last year even if the Philippines is a rocky, densely populated archipelago with relatively few resources of fresh water, in one of our meetings with Congress and the industry we all agreed that it is now desirable to become self-sufficient in rice while still increasing our production of other plants, fruits, fish and livestock for the markets.
Therefore, the global credit crunch should be an opportunity, not a crisis, for Philippine agribusiness.
The U.S. financial crisis appears deeper than most anticipated. Any slowdown or even recession in the U.S. is not good for the global economy. That said, the Philippines appears in relatively good shape, thanks to our fiscal reforms -- again, thanks to Congress and the Senate. Ed and Nelly were very active in our fiscal reforms -- that manifested a seven percent plus GDP growth last year. Our debt-to-GDP ratio has gone down, and our credit ratings reflect it.
We came to office determined to change the strategic paradigm for the Philippine economy. Matibay at lumalagong ekonomiya ang pinakahaliging sinikap nating maipundar upang tumulong sa pagtamo ng kapayapaan, katiwasayan, at katatagan sa ating bansa. Walang humpay tayong nagtatrabaho upang tugunan ang mga hamong dala ng paghina ng pandaigdigang ekonomiya na sinamahan ng pagtaas ng presyo ng langis at pagkain.
Notwithstanding all that, we have created almost 7 million jobs in 7 years, many of them in agribusiness. Investments continue to come in despite continued volatility in the global markets.
And I am pleased to see here that in this exhibit, we have a wide range of non-mainstream products like mangosteen and papaya pastes, yogurt, civet coffee, goat's milk soaps, the golden "Dory" fish, black tiger prawns, low-fat salad dressings, palm sugar, indigenous plant and unconventional cutflowers. Mayroon pang bagong produktong organic fertilizer -- di ba organic fertilizer yun, Artie? -- na ilulunsad ngayon sa kanilang booth pagkatapos nitong programa na tinatawag "Nutrisphere". All of these will all appeal to different segments of local and foreign markets.
I am also pleased to hear about the use of nutritious indigenous vegetables like malunggay -- which we are using extensively for our school feeding program -- alugbati, saluyot, katuray and pako or fern. These are not only promising niche crops that translate into more incomes for the planters, they are also excellent sources of the vitamins and minerals we all need.
In fisheries, the profitability of mariculture has been demonstrated. Growing fish in the seas has proven to be one of the best methods to increase fish production and meet demand without significantly reducing the volume of fish outside the cages. We now have 34 mariculture farms throughout the country.
We have diversified our economy not only in terms of niche agri products and aqua products and food products but also in terms of markets. So that the U.S. is no longer our top export market; that now is China. And now Japan will open up with the JPEPA ratified. And with our French ambassador here and the French delegation, we also look at the European market.
As a result of our economic turnaround, nagawa rin nating mamuhunan sa pinakamahahalagang sektor gaya ng agrikultura, pagkain at pangingisda upang maginhawahan ang mabagsik na hagupit sa ating mahihirap ng matataas na presyo ng pagkain at langis na tumama nitong taon. Bukod dito, namumuhunan tayo sa pinakamalawak sa kasaysayan na pagmoderno ng imprastraktura gaya ng kalsada kasama ang farm-to-market roads, tulay at pantalan.
Namumuhunan din tayo sa mas pinalaking edukasyon, kasama na ang enrollment sa agriculture na binibigyan natin ng maraming scholarship, kasama na ang kalinga sa kalusugan at ibang panlipunang serbisyo. Samantala, binabalanse natin itong mga kinakailangang pamumuhunan with a commitment to meet our fiscal obligations.
And as we have done this, our part, the production is actually to be done by the private sector, by the business community, by the agribusiness community. And therefore, we encourage continued activity by the agriculture, food and aquaculture business groups. This also means the government continues to promote privatization, including the Food Terminal, Incorporated, as a counterpoint for our own pump-priming.
To the fiscally strong, this is a time of opportunity. To the likes of the oil-producing countries, for instance, this is a time to fill up the financial vacuum. Similarly, in the private sector, this is the time for agribusiness to exploit the financial liquidity of our strong banking sector to expand your role in your respective niche markets.
Sabi ko, strong banking sector, dahil napapatunayan natin ito dito sa global credit crunch. The potential exposure of our banking sector to the asset deflation triggered by the sub-prime mortgage losses in the U.S. accounts for less than one percent of their total system assets here in the Philippines. This exposure is fully reserved, our banks are well-capitalized, and the innate conservativism of our bankers is matched by the prudence of our regulators.
At magpasalamat tayo sa mga bangko, kagaya ng mga cooperative bank na itinataguyod ni Congresswoman ng BUTIL, dahil yung kanilang bangko ang pautang ay apat… four percent at hindi dinidiscount. Kaya makinabang sana ang agrikultura doon. At sabi ko nga kay Nelly, inaasahan nating magiging mas madali ang proseso ng paghiram sa bangko kapag natutupad na ang malapit nang pipirmahan kong Credit Information System Act na isang pet bill ni Senator Angara. Maraming salamat, Ed. Pipirmahan natin yun pagkabalik ni Ed Angara mula sa World Bank conference.
Of equal importance to sheer financial capacity is the ability to decide and move quickly -- the road between the decision to buy and the actual placement of the order is fraught with uncertainty. Sa ating bansa, ang mabilis kumilos yung mga SME pero mabilis din kumilos yung mga higanteng negosyante sa agribusiness.
Internationally, the bastions of wealth with both financial capacity and quick execution are the Middle East powers, given their oil-driven wealth and their unitary government apparatus. The fact that the Philippines has a Mindanao close to the hearts of powers such as Saudi, the UAE and Libya opens up opportunities for niche marketing of products especially from Agribusiness Mindanao.
Kaya kanina masaya ako noong dumadaan diyaan sa red carpet, maraming bumati sa akin na mga delegates galing sa Mindanao. Ito ay pagkakataon dahil mahal kayo ng mga Middle East countries na andami-daming pera ngayon para bumili ng ating produkto.
We have been working hard on all fronts to manage inflationary pressures. Salamat naman at naglelevel off na ang inflation. Mas mababa ang inflation noong Setyembre kaysa Oktubre.
We've also been working hard to provide a safety net to those hit hardest by these global events. Most notably, nagsisipag tayo upang matiyak na matatag ang supply ng pagkain at upang may pagkain sa bawat mesa.
Kaya napakalaki ang importansya nitong Agrilink, Foodlink at Aqualink. Malaki ang naitutulong upang paramihin ang ani at palawakin ang mga merkado ng mga produkto natin mula sa bukid at sa dagat. Regular na idinaraos ang exhibit na ito sapagkat buo ang samahan ng mga kasapi ng sektor ng agrikultura, pagkain at pangingisda. At gusto kong batiin kareng cabalen ko queta king Clark dahil meron ng permanent Agrilink doon sa Clark na ginagawa. Lagi kayong nagtutulungan upang tiyakin ang pagkakaroon ng pagkain sa bawat mesa.
From the day we took office, we have been focused on our economy and modernizing every aspect of the economic underpinnings of the Philippines. This includes agribusiness, from development of new hybrids, to unprecedented investments in irrigation, to dramatic increases in loans to help our farmers, among other activities. Again, Senator Angara is here because of his love for agriculture. And we are carrying out his Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization Act.
What happened this year with rice and global prices notwithstanding our preparation is a once-in-a-millennium global crisis.
Sa harap ng unos sa pandaigdigang ekonomiya, lalo nating kailangan ang magpakatatag, magtulong-tulong, at magsumikap na iligtas ang ating mga kababayan sa gutom at pagkakabaon sa kahirapan.
Sa kabila nitong unos, malaki ang ating paniniwala sa ating bansa. Malakas ang pag-asa na mararating natin ang magandang bukas kaya magbuong loob tayo lahat na maging pwersa para sa kinabubuti, at itong Agrilink, Foodlink at Aqualink ay napakaimportanteng pwersa sa kinabubuti ng ating magsasaka, mangingisda at karaniwang mamamayan na kailangan magkaroon ng pagkain sa bawat mesa.
So to all of you, on this occasion of this exhibit, mabuhay kayong lahat at maraming salamat.