His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
During the oath-taking ceremony of the newly elected officers of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FCCCII)
[As delivered at Rizal Hall, Malacañang Palace on June 6, 2011]
Sa Talumpati po ni [FFCCCII president] Ginoong Tan Ching, parang wala na na ho yata akong dapat sabihin. Kasama ko kayo sa school building program, thank you ho talaga diyan. May medical, may dental mission pa. Pati responsible parenthood, kasama ko kayo. Baka magbago pa relasiyon natin. Magpaalam na ho kaya ako muna?—“thank you nang thank you na lang!”
But, in all sincerity, you know when I was being briefed about Mr. Tan Ching, I was told, by a labor organizer at that … sabi niya they had a dealing with Mr. Tan Ching about two or three decades ago. And Mr. Tan Ching, according to him, was the epitome of a very reasonable individual—somebody that we can partner with in making our country grow.
And may I congratulate you again, Mr. Tan Ching, on your election as the President of the FFCCCII. [ ... ]
It is a pleasure to be here among some of the most successful Chinese-Filipino businessmen in the country. Your presence here today is a testament to the progress brought about by maintaining a good relationship between government and private sector.
Throughout history, the Chinese-Filipino community has given so much to this country’s progress. You have consistently spurred our economic growth through your enterprises, and many members of your community continue to display professional excellence in so many different sectors.
Such commitment to this country is further manifested by the 454 buildings—two-classroom buildings—you are symbolically turning over today. I am hopeful that these 454 buildings are just the beginning of a long and fruitful cooperation. Our administration’s goal is to construct 11,926 classrooms; and perhaps with further help from the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce—dito po’y magpapakapal pa akong konti pa—we can build even more than that. Our vision is to give our youth an environment in which they can focus on their lessons without being distracted by droplets of water leaking from the ceiling; classrooms where they can listen attentively to their teachers without having to jostle with their classmates for space. We are optimistic that these acts of philanthropy of yours will continue. You are building more than classrooms here; you have taken upon your shoulders the challenging task of rebuilding this nation; you are laying down the foundations of our future, the bedrock upon which our children will give rise to a Philippines stronger than ever before.
We all know you are not required to do these things. Many of you can afford to just sit back and watch your businesses go from success to success. But you have remained aware of your moral obligations to your respective communities, and have constantly given back. You have displayed a love for your country reminiscent of our greatest Chinese-Filipino heroes, such as Ignacio Paua, Vicente Lim, or even St. Lorenzo Ruiz; and I am grateful that you have continued this long-standing and historic tradition of heroism. And if you will allow me to thank you in Chinese as well (hopefully this is correct): To-sha din long tsong. Kung mali po iyon, si Edwin Lacierda po ang sumulat po ng parteng iyon.
We still have so much work left to do, especially in this era, where even if we are no longer fighting for freedom to govern our own country, our people remain shackled by the prevalence of poverty.
It reminds me of two things from my Father: First he said, “Be studious in studying. You may be famous today but tomorrow you may be a nobody. You may be rich today, but tomorrow you may be poor. Educate yourself well, for once it is in your brain it is yours forever”—and that is something we want to afford all Filipino children. The second thing that he told me was, “The very first freedom that is essential to any country or to any society, or to any race is freedom from hunger. Everything else is irrelevant if freedom from hunger is not achieved.”
Today, we, as a government and as a people, are judged on whether we can feed our own countrymen, on whether we can give them a proper education, or on whether we can create a level playing field where anyone can succeed if they work hard enough for it—these are the standards upon which we will be judged by history.
So the pressure is on all of us. As a public servant, I pledged to do everything within my power to achieve our shared aspirations. And as newly elected officials of one of the most important civil organizations in the country, I hope you stay true to the commitments you have taken today as well. Together, let us make the most of this opportunity and continue working to change the lives of our countrymen for the better.
And before I end: I really wish you more success. I keep hearing reports that business is doing very well in so many areas of the country. Your government was set up to serve each and every Filipino. If we can be of service, and if we can improve what we are delivering, please tell us to do so. In the end, partnership between the public and the private sector is the main key to getting us to our rightful place in the sun.
Thank you and good day.