Speech of President Aquino at the 118th General Meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines


His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the 13th CEO Forum and 118th General Membership Meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines

[Delivered at Manila Peninsula, Makati, on October 28, 2014]

Good noon.

I made it a point to be here today to recognize the efforts and the achievements of your industry. Amidst much uncertainty in the global economy these past years, the semiconductors and electronics industry in our country has continued to buck the odds, writing an impressive story of resilience in the process. This, in large part, is due to the work of the people in attendance today, along with all the Filipinos who work in your industry.

Some of our countrymen might not be aware of just how massive a role your sector plays in our national economy, so perhaps you will allow me to go through some of the numbers, which tell a compelling story. This industry has long been a source of livelihood for hundreds of thousands of Filipinos. The good news is: Over the past years, this number has been increasing. In January to August of 2013, around 260,000 Filipinos found direct employment in semiconductors and electronics, but as Dr. Lachica mentioned earlier, in January to August of 2014, this number rose by 27 percent, to 331,000. At this point in time, the industry likewise provides indirect employment to 2.3 million workers. On top of this: The semiconductors and electronics industry is also responsible for a significant portion of our exports. Last year, total exports from the industry was recorded at almost $24 billion, which accounts for 42.2 percent of our country’s total exports, with early data giving us reason to be optimistic for an even stronger performance this year.

Without doubt, through the years, your industry has established itself as an important channel through which our countrymen can make use of their skills and build long careers, allowing them to reassume control of their destinies; in essence, you have been a true partner of our country in the pursuit of inclusive growth.

This is why we are doing everything in our power to help your industry maintain, if not build on, your momentum. Through our close cooperation, we are ensuring that you have the manpower your industry needs, and that government is able to serve its people well, thereby ensuring that the cycle of empowerment continues. Many of you have worked with TESDA Secretary Joel Villanueva to optimize the Training for Work Scholarship Program for your sector, and the results have been nothing short of stellar. From April to September of this year, we were able to graduate 1,994 students from the program, 1,913 of whom have already found jobs. That is equivalent to an employment rate of nearly 96 percent, and I am confident that as we strive to fulfill the goal of training 5,172 scholars, Secretary Villanueva and TESDA will do their best to maintain the program’s effectiveness, if not improve on it, and reach a 100 percent employment rate.

And if we do it before Christmas, that will serve as your Christmas gift to me, Joel. [Laughter and applause]

Not to mention, when I attended your event last year, I was informed that our country’s turnover rate in electronics employment is at five percent yearly, which is remarkable, considering that one of the larger competitor countries in the industry had, and has, a turnover rate of five percent monthly, or, when extrapolated, 60 percent yearly. This 55-percent difference is massive. It means that our people are not only highly trainable; they also tend to stay in your corporations longer, gaining the wisdom and efficiencies brought about by longer tenures. This, in turn, redounds to improved performance for your companies vis-à-vis your competitors and definitely a significant comparative advantage.

Indeed, the Filipino is the backbone of your industry’s success, and it naturally behooves all of us to capitalize on their potential by moving up the value chain. This is the precise reason we decided to put up the Advanced Device and Materials Testing Laboratory, or ADMATEL, under our Department of Science and Technology, allowing your companies not just to build products, but also to test them here instead of abroad. As we heard earlier, more and more companies from your organization are availing of its services, from 16 companies last year, to 41 this year, and I am hopeful that this number will have increased even more the next time I see you—assuming you invite me next year. [Laughter]

We have also been exploring our country’s capacity to design our own products, which is behind our drive to establish the Electronics Product Development Center in Bicutan, meant to assist product designers to improve the quality of their designs. The opening of this facility will be a significant step in opening the door for electronics products that are completely homegrown.

We are also aware that your industry, along with many others, is concerned about the potential shortfall of energy in 2015. I would like to assure all of you today that government is doing everything within its capacities to meet our energy requirements and, by doing so, sustain and even improve on our economic momentum.

We are seeking authority from Congress, under section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, or EPIRA, to contract additional power reserves, so that we can ensure that there will be power, regardless of the situation. We are also looking to other methods that can help. For instance, we are working to expand private sector participation in our Interruptible Load Program, through which we will compensate major power-users if they disconnect from the grid and use their own generators. I am told that 33 members of your organization have signed up for this program, which I am thankful for, and I encourage all of you here to explore the possibility of joining us in this endeavor.

You know, in a recent meeting with some members of the private sector, we were discussing the power situation, and we reiterated: Government is no longer in the business of producing power nor of distributing power; but if there is no power, it is only the Executive that will be blamed for all of the omissions.

Our administration is also hard at work to find ways to reduce power prices. This is precisely why our Department of Energy formed Task Force Electricity, whose goal is to harness the ideas of stakeholders, look at all the cost components of electricity bills, and ultimately reduce the price of power.

All these efforts make it clear: Your government will stand by you as your industry grows. After all, we know just how deeply your success is tied to the success of our people and our economy. This means that each and every person working in your factories and in your boardrooms has an important role to play in building the Philippines we all aspire for. Thus, I encourage everyone in this room today to continue your efforts, to move forward with the same vigor and innovative spirit, and push your industry into an era of unprecedented triumph.

Rest assured, government will continue to match your efforts, listen to your concerns, and do everything possible to give you even more reasons to operate here in the Philippines, or perhaps to even double down on your investments, because we know that, if we work close together, and if we maximize the synergies between us, then, without doubt, we can write a new, prosperous chapter not just in your industry’s growth story, but in our country’s history books.

I bid you all: Thank you and good day.