OPENING STATEMENT OF FEDERATION OF FILIPINO CHINESE CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, INC. (FFCCCII) PRESIDENT DR. HENRY LIM BON LIONG. At Pandesal Forum
October 5, 2022 10:00 a.m. Kamuning Bakery Café in Quezon City
Last Friday, September 30, I and our Federation’s officers had a very productive meeting with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.
Our discussion focused on initiatives to fast-track Philippine economy recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We welcome and support the call of the President to take a “whole-of-nation approach” to accelerate our country’s economic recovery.
Indeed, the government cannot do it alone. All of us – the business sector, NGOs, the media, every Filipino makes a contribution to the economy, and in efforts to achieve a pre-pandemic economic growth. We in business can invigorate the economy by investing more and creating more jobs to boost productivity.
We are optimistic about our macroeconomic strength. Our GDP grew 5.7 % in 2021, and 7.8% in the first half of this year. We at FFCCCII are hopeful that we can attain Philippine economic growth of between 6.5% to 7.5% this year 2022. Recently, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecasts the Philippine economy to grow by 6.5% in 2022.
We have confidence in our government’s economic team led by outstanding technocratic leaders such as Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Bangko Sentral Governor Felipe Medalla, NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan and others, so we believe that we’re right on track to continuous economic recovery.
During our meeting with President Marcos, we also presented an overview of our Federations’ advocacies, as well as some concerns of the business community.
First, on Trade and Industry
The manufacturing and agriculture sectors have been promising in recent years. We call on the government to embark on projects and modernization of systems to better support the growth of these industries. Particularly in agriculture, to encourage investments in agriculture and support our farmers.
With the rising cost of prices that’s felt around the world, we need to have a strong agriculture sector to ensure the food self-sufficiency of our country.
Our Federation is likewise actively pursuing initiatives that will further strengthen confidence in doing business in the Philippines by both local and foreign investors.
Second, on Transportation
We need a comprehensive transportation infrastructure development to spur tourism, encourage investments in all regions, ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila and major cities, and ensure faster delivery of goods. So, we hope for the continuity of transport infrastructure projects such as rapid rail-transit network, construction of new roads, airports and seaports, and refurbishing of existing terminals and facilities.
In keeping the momentum, we welcome the “Build, Better, More” (BBM) infrastructure program of President Marcos’ administration.
We also call on the government to address the barriers to business such as unreasonable shipping fees and charges imposed by international and domestic shipping lines.
Third, on Energy
The high electricity cost is a continuing challenge to businesses and to all of us. Our country’s electricity rates are the highest in Southeast Asia, and this turns off prospective investors. So, we support the development of a viable energy sector that would provide stable, lower-cost energy to our people.
Fourth, on Fiscal Policies
To have a more sustainable revenue growth, there is a need to continue improving the tax system to help businesses in our country compete better with our Asian neighbors. This will bring forth an ease in doing business and attract more investors.
Furthermore, we are alarmed by the prevailing smuggling of goods into the country resulting in billions lost in annual revenue. Our Federation supports government efforts to strengthen campaigns against this problem.
Fifth, on Employment
It is the Federation’s main advocacy to promote industrial peace and develop our human resource to enhance productivity and competitiveness. Our organization is one with the government in the promotion and protection of the rights of employees, as mandated by the Constitution and Labor Laws.
We share in the belief that regular employment is crucial to a business’ viability. However, contractualization as a form of employment is also an inevitable reality in certain industries, like construction and tourism that rely heavily on seasonal employment. So long as it operates within the bounds of our legal system, the rights of the workers can still be protected and safeguarded.
Sixth, on Peace and Order
Our Federation is a strong supporter of peace and order efforts in the country. We are pursuing various peace and order initiatives in partnership with the PNP and law enforcement agencies to fight criminality. FFCCCII has also been a member of the Community Pillar of the National Police Commission for many years now.
Knowing that peace and order is one of the most important programs of government, we hope to see great improvements in fighting criminality so that investors and businessmen will stay and continue to do business in the country.
Recently, we have coordinated with DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos and PNP Chief PGEN Rodolfo Azurin, Jr. to discuss the alleged rise in kidnapping cases involving POGOs. They have assured us that the government is steadfast in addressing the matter.
Seventh, on the Promotion of Philippines-China relations, friendship, trade and investments
The Philippines and China established diplomatic relations on June 9, 1975 with the signing of a Joint Communiqué by President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. and Chinese Premier Zhou En Lai. China is our ancient trade partner and it has been the Philippines’ valuable partner for investments, imports, exports, and development. We hope that our country’s good trade relations, collaborations and partnerships with China will continue and be further improved under President Bongbong Marcos’ administration.
Moreover, our Federation has expressed support to legislative bills in the Senate and House of Representatives for the Declaration of Chinese (Lunar) New Year’s Day as a Special Non-Working Holiday. Pending its passage into law, we hope that the President will issue a Presidential Proclamation to declare the Chinese New Year a holiday.
Eighth, on Education
Since 1961, the Operation: Barrio Schools has been the flagship project of our Federation. This involves the donation of two-classroom school buildings to public schools across the country. More than 6,000 units of school buildings, or a total of more than 12,000 classrooms, have been constructed from donations of FFCCCII officers and benevolent donors from the Filipino Chinese community.
This is our continuing program to provide convenient learning facilities to our public school students.
Ninth, on Pandemic Relief Efforts & “FFCCCII Operation: Bakuna”
From 2020 to 2021, our Federation, Foundation, and 10 Filipino Chinese civic associations spearheaded the Filipino Chinese Community Calamity Fund that raised 300 Million Pesos for our pandemic relief efforts. We have distributed medical supplies and relief packs to help our medical frontliners, hospitals, and barangays in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Our Federation also supported the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program through our “FFCCCII Operation Bakuna” project, which acquired 500,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines under a tripartite agreement with the government and vaccine supplier.
We rolled out the vaccination of economic frontliners – the entrepreneurs and employees – nationwide. We are pleased to be the Philippines’ first private sector vaccine rollout program, and the project did not cost a single centavo to the government.
Early on, we also helped the government in facilitating the arrival of Sinovac vaccine donations from China.
Tenth, on Calamity Relief Efforts
Since 1954, our Federation and member chambers are among the first to extend relief assistance in times of natural calamities and disasters. Most recently, for typhoon ‘Karding,’ our Federation led the Filipino Chinese community’s relief efforts for the typhoon victims. Immediately, we distributed 5,500 relief packs containing 5-kilo rice, sardines, noodles and bottled water, to Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Aurora. Some 3,000 pieces of G.I. roof sheets will be distributed also in Tarlac.
We very much appreciate President Marcos’ openness in addressing the concerns raised, and his full support to the further development of our Filipino enterprises. We had a fruitful sharing of ideas with the President. And we reaffirmed our support to government efforts to fast-track our economic recovery.
We encourage everybody to unite, let’s help the President, let’s help the government, let’s all work hard for a better Philippines.