'US-PHILIPPINE SOCIETY': NEW POWER GROUP TO PITCH RP IN U.S.
 

[PHOTO - THE NAME RINGS A BELL. President Aquino congratulates US Sen. Richard Lugar after conferring on him the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Grand Collar (Supremo). Lugar, who became a household word here during the “snap” election in 1986 while here as an observer, was cited for his significant contributions to the enhancement of US-Philippine relations. EDWIN BACASMAS]

WASHINGTON, JUNE 11, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Daxim L. Lucas - President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday night (Friday morning in Manila) told Filipino and American businessmen here that the Philippines’ economic growth stemmed from his administration’s pursuit of good government.

Speaking at the launching of the new lobby group US-Philippine Society at Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Mr. Aquino pointed to seven positive actions by international credit rating agencies over the last two years, all of which cited his government’s efforts at fighting corruption.

He said the 6.4-percent economic growth of the Philippines during the first quarter of the year was the highest in Southeast Asia. And indications from his economic managers, he said, are that growth in succeeding quarters this year will be just as good.

After his speech, Mr. Aquino conferred the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Grand Collar (Supremo) on Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, who had introduced Senate Resolution 481 calling for increased American defense and security cooperation with the Philippines, including support for the modernization of the Philippine military.

Introduced to mark the 60th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Philippines, the resolution was passed on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).

[PHOTO -President Aquino delivers his speech during the launch of the US-Philippine Society at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Thursday during his working visit to the United States. The US-Philippines Society was founded May 2012 out of the collective interest of both Filipinos and Americans to raise the profile of the Philippines in the United States.]

The US-Philippines Society is a think tank cochaired by businessman Manuel Pangilinan and former US Ambassador to the Philippines John Negroponte.

According to a statement signed by both cofounders, the Society’s mission is “to elevate the Philippines’ profile in the United States, at a time when America’s policy attention is focused increasingly on East Asia.”

“The Society will develop programs to encourage economic ties, promote trade and investment, support bilateral strategic and political goals, strengthen cultural, educational and people-to-people linkages, and support academic exchanges,” the statement said.

A nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization, the Society “relies on the generosity of its donors and members to develop and carry out the kind of meaningful programs our founders envisioned,” the statement added.

The honorary cochairs are Washington Sycip and Maurice Greenberg, formerly CEO of AIG and now CEO of the Starr companies, CV Starr and Starr International.

Mr. Aquino spoke to the group for 14 minutes, after which he left the event without having dinner.

Notable Filipino businessmen present at the event were Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Ramon del Rosario Jr., Doris Magsaysay-Ho, Manuel Pangilinan, Washington Sycip, Aurelio Montinola III and lawyer Simeon Marcelo.

Mr. Aquino spoke about the causal relation between his government’s fight against corruption and economic growth. “Connections and the willingness to bend the rules went out the window; success became about hard work, ingenuity and innovation,” he said.

“We’re making sure that those who fall in line get what they’re lining up for, without anyone cutting in,” the President said.

Giant, progressive step

“But, of course, focusing on the economy requires a counterpart effort in fighting corruption, which is why I am glad to report that the good news extends to our crusade to bring back integrity in government,” he said, pointing out that the Philippine Senate recently removed Renato Corona as the country’s chief justice “through a constitutional, peaceful, and credible process worthy of a rapidly maturing democracy.”

“This is a giant, progressive step for our nation, especially since, in today’s global environment, a culture of transparency and accountability is a major competitive advantage,” Mr. Aquino said.

After his speech, Mr. Aquino honored Sen. Lugar with the prestigious Lakandula Award. The citation for a key member of the US Senate came at a time when the Philippines and the United States were forging closer ties to offset China’s growing military might and increasing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.

Lugar, chair of the US Senate’s powerful appropriations committee, was a household name in the Philippines in the 1980s, especially in the run-up to the 1986 snap election called by then President Ferdinand Marcos. He was part of the group of foreign observers invited by the Marcos administration to monitor the conduct of the election—the rigged results of which led to the People Power Revolution weeks later.

‘Extraordinary time’

Lugar was given the Lakandula award for his “significant contributions to the enhancement of the Philippine-US alliance and friendship.”

The citation said “Lugar has been a steadfast friend of the Filipino people and has consistently supported the development of a robust democracy and has promoted economic progress in the Philippines.”

After receiving the award, Lugar recounted that 1986 was an extraordinary time in his life.

“President Reagan asked me to go to the Philippines in response to a request from President Marcos that the elections be observed,” he said. “And we did observe, and made reports to [President Reagan] and I had very good discussions with the President for several days. He came to a conclusion that the time had come for change, as indicated by the votes the people had made.”

He added, “And thus, President Corazon Aquino was endorsed by President Reagan and the rest of the world.”

Lugar described the late President Corazon Aquino as “a person of dignity and grace and wisdom.”

He praised Mr. Aquino for producing economic growth for the Philippines at a time when the rest of the world economy continues to reel from successive crises.

Finally, Lugar noted that President Aquino comes “at a time of greater solidarity with the United States in defense than at any time I can remember, as it pivoted toward the Pacific and our interests there.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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