Wednesday, January 30, 2008

PGMA: Put your Money where your Heart is!

Philippine president Gloria Arroyo addresses a community gathering at Mina Al Salam.

Full text of PGMA speech last January 27, 2008 in Dubai.

Mga mahal kong kababayan:

Nakakagalak na makapayanam sa inyo ngayong hapon. Salamat sa pagdalo ninyo dito kahit bising-busy kayo sa trabaho. Alam nating Biyernes ang inyong day off, hindi Linggo. Kaya nag-absent pa kayo.

We are in Dubai to meet with many of you, our overseas workers, who live in Dubai and make sure you are getting what you need from our government. Nowhere is foreign policy more important than protecting and advancing the interests of our overseas workers.

Nothing is more important to me and to you and to your families than to protect the rights and working conditions of our overseas workers. And this is one reason why we make every effort to visit various mid East countries whenever possible.

There are now 400,000 Filipinos in the Emirates.

UAE today is the second most popular destination of Filipinos bound for the region.

Pero kayo rin ang paborito ng mga taga-Emirates sa lahat ng mga expatriate workers dito. All the Emirati that we met in our trip have the highest regard. Sabi nila kayo ang pinakamagaling, pinakamabait, at pinakamalinis sa lahat ng mga expatriate workers. Congratulations.

I am pleased to note that some Filipino organizations here in the UAE are supporting community-oriented projects back home.

You bring honor to our country and contribute to the strength of RP-UAE ties. Lahat kayo, hindi lang si Ambassador Cabactulan, ay embahador ng Pilipinas sa UAE. We are very proud of you.

Kasama na sa pumupuri sa inyo ang Ruler ng Dubai na kausap ko kaninang tanghali. We thanked him for the fair treatment you receive in the UAE, which has one of the most progressive labor laws and regulations in the region.

Thanks to the labor agreement we concluded with the UAE last April, we now have a bilateral institutional mechanism – a joint committee – where we can tackle OFW concerns.

We honor and value the contribution of our overseas workers for your sacrifice and dedication to your work, your family and your nation.

Salamat sa inyong tulong sa ating pag-unlad sa pamamagitan ng mga remittances ninyo patungong Pilipinas. Remittances from UAE exceeded half a billion dollars last year.

But I am also proud to say that our ambitious economic reforms are helping to break the offshore cycle and supporting an economy that is growing at its fastest pace in 20 years. The economic gains we are seeing now are paving the way to the day when Filipinos no longer need to go abroad for a job and the day when overseas work is just another career option and not the only choice you have to earn a living.

Our economy has reached a new level of maturity and stability with some of the strongest macroeconomic fundamentals in a generation. Seven years ago, no one thought we could get more revenues, cut down on tax cheats and smugglers, and move the stock market. And no one thought we could bring down our budget deficit, lower our national debt and raise employment, but we have. Kaya tuloy lumakas ang piso.

We recognize that the strong peso has reduced the buying power of the remittances sent home by many of our Overseas Filipino Workers, our OFWs. But on the other hand, the peso has helped offset the impact of the rising cost of oil, so transportation fares have not gone up inspite of the high price of oil in the world market. It has reduced the amount of national debt we have to pay and therefore it has reduced interest rates, which helps your families buy homes or start businesses. It is contributed to lowering the price of imports and in the process, kept inflation down.

But to cushion the impact on the strength of the peso, our Administration is addressing the weak dollar very aggressively.

Just before our meeting we met with big Emirati companies employing Filipino workers. This was in line with our efforts to identify ways to mitigate the effects on the stronger peso on your take home pay.

We met with them to solicit their support for the efforts of our Government to ease the effect of the “strong peso/weak dollar” on the inward remittances of our OFWs to youer families. The employers affirmed their support for the “hedging” program of the DBP, specifically: 1. a pre-agreed exchange rate if the peso further strengthens, but not if the peso weakens; or 2. paying an “insurance fee” to DBP at approximately 1.14% of the amount to be remitted to cover the OFW at a pre-agreed exchange rate if the peso strengthens, and pay te prevailing market exchange rate if the peso weakens.

We are hereby officially launching this hedging facility today.

We are also launching the OFW bond during this visit to Dubai . We are also working with the Central Bank and the Philippine Stock Exchange to promote financial literacy among OFWs and your families so that you can turn your hard-earned money into working capital and become Overseas Filipino Investors.

We are also launching the program to franchise Tindahang Pinoy so that OFWs can be encouraged to have an additional source of income. Tindahan Pinoy consolidates the products from the participants of our One Town One Product program such as Cornick or Boy Bawang from the North, Broas or some other delicacies or native products from the South, Sarangani Bay sardines from Mindanao, dried mangoes from Cebu . It doesn’t have to be just food. This shall be part of OWWA’s entrepreneurship training for reintegration when you go back home.

Clearly, there will be some impact on all countries of the possible U.S. slowdown because of the global significance of the U.S. economy. However, while it could dampen the growth of emerging markets, we are confident that the Philippines will withstand most of the adverse effects of such a development largely because of our improving economic fundamentals.

Moody’s upgraded the Philippines to positive this week for very good reasons: we have the fastest growth in a generation – 7% for 2007, faster than our neighbors in the region.

Today the Philippines is on a path to permanent economic growth and stability. Investments are pouring in and we have created 7 million jobs in seven years. And we have a surge in foreign reserves, an all-time high of $34 billion. And the Middle East is taking notice: the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Dubai World, Dubai Holdings, Emaar, the Qatari Investment Authority, and Noor of Kuwait believe the Philippines offers one of the best values in Asia for foreign investors and have told us that they will invest in our country.

Our aim is to make our reforms permanent so that our nation is on a sustained path of economic growth and stability. We have turned the economy and for the first time in a generation, we are investing heavily in human and physical infrastructure. Roads, bridges and airports as well as new schools and scholarships are the central building blocks that are necessary for the long term prospects of our citizens

We are committed to building a country that you can come home to with pride. Mabuhay kayo at maraming salamat!

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