SPEECH OF HIS EXCELLENCY BENIGNO S. AQUINO III
PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES
AT THE 2ND MINISTERIAL MEETING
ON THE ABU DHABI DIALOGUE
SOFITEL PHILIPPINE PLAZA PASAY CITY
APRIL 19, 2012
For the longest time, it seemed that the fate of the Filipino was to be an economic refugee. This phenomenon has even been given a name: the Philippine diaspora. And as the word implies, it was a dispersal of some of our best and brightest to the four corners of the world, in search of prosperity and a future.
From the moment we stepped into office, our administration has been on a mission to reverse this trend. Working abroad should not be a necessity, but a choice. And our policies have always been guided by our desire to give Filipinos that choice.
If they study well, if they work hard, and if they remain dedicated to their craft, our countrymen shouldn’t have to leave the country to live good, comfortable lives. They shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice time they could spend visiting their parents, or playing with their children and watching them grow up.
This is precisely why our reform efforts are focused on attracting more investments, creating more jobs, and giving our countrymen reason to believe that a good life awaits them here, at home. In this regard, we have been quite successful. Investors are regaining their confidence and putting up more and more businesses here; and if we build on our momentum, I think we can achieve our dream of keeping more of our countrymen here.
Having said that, even as we undertake reforms at home, the reality is that a lot of Filipinos are still working outside the country. And I think you will agree with me that wherever Filipinos have worked, they have been a force for good. They have had a positive effect on their host countries, contributing their caring and nurturing characteristics to their new environments. The greatest example I can think of is during the height of the tragedy in Fukushima, when several brave, compassionate Filipino caregivers and nurses refused to abandon their patients.
And perhaps this explains the advocacies for this conference, which I think we all share. There are ALMOST ten million Filipinos LIVING AND working outside this country. Sixty percent of THOSE working ARE in countries OF DESTINATION represented in this dialogue. And I am told that AT LEAST twelve percent of all migrant workers are working in THESE countries represented today as well. Suffice it to say: We all have a significant stake in this; and our discussions today will affect the lives of tens of millions of our people, at the very least, perhaps even more.
What all of us want is clear: we want recruitment for our people to be both fair and efficient; we want workers to be treated with dignity; and we want them to be able to go back home in a convenient manner, and to be successfully reintegrated in their respective societies. In other words, the idea behind our meeting today is to make sure of one thing: that the people come first.
This is an excellent opportunity for us. Not just to share our visions, or our ideas—but also to listen to what our counterparts have to say. After all, none of our economies grow in a vacuum; and thus, progress comes not from focusing only on our own people, or only on our own growth; it comes from strengthening partnerships, focusing on each others’ growth. Because if everyone grows, then all our capabilities are enhanced, and all our opportunities are greatly improved; and, in the end, it is all our peoples who will reap the rewards.
Thank you, good day, and may you have a productive dialogue.