Friday, May 23, 2014

Toast of President Aquino at the dinner soiree of the World Economic Forum on East Asia

From the Website of GPH - Government of the Philippines

Toast of President Aquino at the dinner soiree of the World Economic Forum on East Asia

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the welcome dinner soiree of the World Economic Forum on East Asia
[Delivered at the PICC, Pasay City, on May 22, 2014]

Good evening.

Back in January 2013, it took some convincing from my economic advisors before I agreed to attend the World Economic Forum Leaders’ Retreat in Davos, Switzerland—if only for the simple reason that there are so many issues and concerns to contend with back home. However, at a time when the world is increasingly taking notice of the Philippines, I could not possibly turn down an opportunity to tell leaders of nations, industry, and civil society the turnaround our country has been experiencing—all because of a commitment to good governance.

My first attendance to WEF was a unique one: not only was I given the chance to share the story of our country; I was also heartened to see that others were increasingly taking notice of our efforts to promote good governance and inclusive growth all across the world. On a lighter note, my delegation and I proved our fortitude against the howling iciness of the Davos winter, which was truly unforgettable. [Laughter]

Tonight, in a slightly warmer setting compared to Davos, [laughter] I am proud to welcome you once more to the 23rd World Economic Forum on East Asia—a gathering that takes place in the context of an increasingly prominent ASEAN, and the comeback of the Philippines. Here, we continue the conversation: how to foster inclusive and sustainable growth together, in overcoming whatever uncertainties and challenges the future may bring. With the wealth of knowledge and experience that all you participants bring to the table, I am certain that the sessions have already been meaningful—just as I am certain that, after WEF, you will all return to your professions and countries full of ideas on how to make a positive impact on the lives of others. After all, this is the commitment of the World Economic Forum: to improve the state of the world, and consequently, of all peoples, as both the public and private sectors tread the straight path to meaningful development—one that will empower us to maximize the prospects of growth for the present generation and for those who will follow us.

For our part, we Filipinos take pride in being progressive, young, vibrant, innovative, and creative. The Philippines has been able to harness these attributes to bring about the turnaround of our country: to resolve long-standing problems and engage in maximizing every potential and opportunity evident today. We are pleased to have this opportunity to share with you even more of our own experience, that will open up new conversations which will contribute to the wealth of knowledge, and convictions fundamental in realizing our shared goals of inclusivity and good governance as the new normal. After all: for the longest time, the Philippines has followed nations more advanced than us in certain respects, learning from their experiences and best policies. Now, we are proud to be able to take a role through this forum, and share with you the insights and lessons of the past four years—years in which we, as a country, made great strides.  Indeed: the Philippines is now considered a bastion of good governance.

But let us leave that for another time—for the other sessions and meetings in this Forum. Tonight’s dinner gives us a chance to set aside our focus on the potential of the future to enjoy the present. Some of you here are likely already good friends, while others are still getting to know each other. Either way, it is my hope that everyone here tonight has definitely a good time and be proof positive that it is fun or more fun in the Philippines. This hope, in particular, is for Dr. Schwab. During our first meeting in Davos, he shared with me that he traveled to the Philippines during the dictatorship many decades ago, and after meeting with our dictator, he resolved never to return again to the Philippines. And I assure you, I certainly understand why, Dr. Schwab; neither my countrymen nor I want to repeat the experience of being under a dictator.

However, I am told, Dr. Schwab, that you spent a few days in one of the most famous resorts in the Philippines: Amanpulo in Palawan. I am glad that you found another reason to return to the country—and that, as it appears, you have not missed out on all the fun that our country has to offer. Of course, this includes the warm and friendly nature of the Filipinos you have met recently. May I then invite you to either extend your stay, or return to the Philippines many, many more times in the future, so that you can explore the rest of the cultural and historical attractions, beaches, and even diving sites that have all contributed to making the Philippines the most fun country in the world. This invitation goes out to everyone here as well, and tonight’s gathering will be a good start in that endeavor.

On that note: when I was younger than I am now, [laughter] especially when I am about to retire in about two years and one month, the word “soiree” had a very specific meaning. It was a chance for often-awkward young men to meet and interact with young ladies who were often much more socially confident and emotionally mature. [Laughter] I am glad to see that tonight is completely different. While it has the elements of a mixer for us to get to know each other beyond the confines of our busy schedules, this cultural soiree also allows us to engage in fellowship through the things that unite people across all nationalities and societies: food, song, and dance. And of course, the most important factor that unites all of us participants in the World Economic Forum: a boundless sense of optimism and a shared determination to realize the limitless possibilities in the future of East Asia.

It is my hope that you make the most of this opportunity, and, as the saying goes, that you enjoy the show. May I ask you to rise at this point and join me in a toast:

To the success of the World Economic Forum on East Asia, and the realization of the aspirations that this gathering represents;

To the peace and stability that are the bedrock of the limitless possibilities that lie ahead of us;

And to the future we are building together, one that redounds to the mutual benefit of our respective institutions, societies, and nations.

I toast to you.

We say in the Philippines, “Mabuhay!” [Audience: Mabuhay!]

GPH Website

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