SHANGHAI, SEPTEMBER 6, 2011 (STAR) By Aurea Calica – President Aquino defended yesterday his decision to have contracts signed during the previous Arroyo administration reviewed, saying it was meant to curb corruption and level the playing field among investors.

“Let me clarify that ensuring a level playing field today requires undoing the mistakes of the past. In some instances, this means reviewing contracts entered into without particular care for due process,” Aquino told participants and delegates to the Philippine Eastern China Business Forum here.

“We have already stopped a number of such projects after discovering that necessary processes were not followed and that laws had been broken,” he said. “We are holding accountable errant public officials who encouraged anomalous business deals: because we want to send the message that our government will neither tolerate nor take part in these kinds of practices,” the President added.

He said he hopes his decision will not discourage foreign investors from exploring the country’s business potentials.

“It is my hope that these reforms do not raise doubts among some who are contemplating investing in the Philippines. Let me assure you that we must do these things now in order to create a more equitable business environment, where each contract signed and each project completed will stand firmly on the bedrock of integrity,” he said.

“In other words, where every contract represents the Four ‘R’s’ we envision: Right Project, Right Cost, Right Quality, and Right on Time. This is the only way to ensure that your projects will not be questioned by the public, or by succeeding administrations,” he said.

“I trust that the businessmen of the world know that no one can afford to be near-sighted in these times. We must take the long view in order to achieve lasting, mutual gains. I am sure that the Chinese, known for always thinking many steps ahead and for appreciating the long-term aspects of business and governance, are with me in this regard,” he said.

The President continued his business meetings here after leaving Beijing where he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, Vice Premier Wang Qishan and Chinese National People’s Congress standing committee chairman Wu Bangguo as well as with businessmen and investors.

He said he embarked on his state visit to China upon the invitation of the Chinese president to boost bilateral relations and attract more investments.

Vision for Phl

“Our vision is of a nation of renewed vitality, which embraces competition, and thereby spurs growth. When I speak of growth, I mean the kind that is inclusive and equitable. That many of my countrymen still remain mired in poverty is no secret; and neither is my government’s strategy to raise them from such a situation,” the President said.

“As I said in my campaign for the presidency: ‘Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.’ Mei you tan wu, jiu mei you qiong kun. An end to corruption means an end to poverty,” Aquino said.

The President said ending corruption would mean ending transactions made for the benefit of those in power.

“By holding the corrupt accountable, we are sending a signal to the whole world: in the Philippines, the rules are followed. In the Philippines, we have a level playing field. In the Philippines, we are open for business: the clean, fair, and honest kind,” he said.

“The kind of nation, simply put, where anyone who is willing to work will earn the fruits of his labor, and will be able to achieve his dreams. This includes welcoming investors from abroad,” Aquino said.

He said new investments spawn new jobs as well as funds for government’s infrastructure projects and social services, including public health and education.

“All these create an environment where people are empowered with skills and capabilities to participate in society; where jobs give our people the chance to improve their lot in life; and where businesses thrive because there is ample infrastructure, and because consumers have disposable incomes,” he said.

“This plan is already unfolding. The results are encouraging. Our stock markets have hit all-time highs seven times since my administration took office. My country has received four credit ratings upgrades in a little more than a year – this compared to only one upgrade and six downgrades in the previous nine years,” he pointed out.

“We are also well on target with our social service commitments, and were able to fund even more projects without raising taxes in the past year. We are confident that the positive trend will be carried forward and onwards through our Public-Private Partnership Programs, increase in foreign direct investments, and improved industry competitiveness,” he added.

In order to achieve stronger growth amid global uncertainties, policy reforms have been carried out and a prudent fiscal management program put in place.

“Despite the problems that global economies are facing today, the medium - to long-term prospects for growth in Philippines-China economic relations remain positively strong, and the benefits to the Philippines and China from these prospects are potentially huge,” he said.

Aquino said many Chinese companies have already seen the country’s potentials and have chosen to work with the Department of Public Works and Highways on various key projects. Just recently, he said, the China International Water and Electric Corp. began a 58-kilometer road improvement project worth more than $21 million in Cotabato in Mindanao.

The same firm began last year a $33-million diversion channel project in the Gumain River in Pampanga.

“Consider this. In the past, our commercial relations have been more beneficial to you than to us: Filipino foreign direct investments in China totals $2.8 billion, while Chinese investments in the Philippines totals $500 million. Now, we have come here to potentially balance the equation. China has the financial and technological capability to be among the major foreign direct investors in the Philippines,” Aquino said.

The President said with Chinese technology and cost-efficient machinery and equipment, China could very well be an even larger source of investments for the Philippines to boost the country’s agri-food production and processing capabilities, energy sourcing and infrastructure projects.

“We welcome, as well, your exploring investments in the sectors of manufacturing, garments and textiles, and motor vehicles and automotives, as well as in tourism. The opportunities are there; let us partner together to turn opportunities into reality,” he said.

He also cited “incentives that make investing in our country an even more viable option, given my government’s commitment to providing a level playing field to all investors.”

“Today we can open a new chapter in the long, enduring ties between our peoples. The ballast brought by the sampans, junks, and galleons of centuries past, besides being known as ‘piedra China,’ also acquired a name in the Tagalog language. We know it as batong buhay, or living rock. Our ties of mutual interest and partnerships are unshakably firm; let us build on this to create, together, opportunities for a better life for both our peoples in the 21st century,” Aquino said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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