Philippine Independence Day in Washington
BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2019 - 12:00am

We commemorated the Philippine Independence Day in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, with a reception for 422 confirmed guests composed of Philippine and US government officials, members of the foreign diplomatic corps in Washington, D.C., representatives of the business sector, as well as members of think-tank groups and Filipino communities. After the reception was a special concert in collaboration with Manny Pangilinan and the US-Philippines Society at the Kennedy Center Family Theater, by world-renowned Filipina classical pianist Cecile Licad.)

Below are excerpts from my remarks:

The Philippines has faced so many challenges, seeking its identity and carving its own destiny as a truly sovereign country that is able to take its rightful place among other nations of the world. 

But the path towards real independence is long and difficult – and I say this because I firmly believe that the real measure of a nation’s independence is not confined to the people’s ability to exercise the right to vote, or enjoy freedom of speech and religion. 

But rather, it can be real if we have a strong and resilient economy, as well as a capable military that can protect and defend citizens from internal and external threats. More importantly, an independent country must be self-reliant, able to use its own resources to provide the basic needs of its people and liberate them from the bondage of poverty.  

Our hopes and dreams are now on a steadfast course towards the path of economic independence as we witness recent positive developments, among them the upgrade of our credit rating to “BBB+” by Standard & Poor’s – the highest ever so far – which puts us within striking distance of the coveted single “A” credit rating, and underscoring our country’s resilience to external and internal headwinds.  

The strong macroeconomic performance of the Philippines under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte, whose economic team is led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, was only made possible because of significant fiscal reforms. The Philippines is now projected to become an upper-middle income country by 2022 if not earlier. International economists also see the Philippines growing into a trillion-dollar economy with a GDP per capita of $8,200 by 2032. 

With the Philippine population now estimated at 110 million and growing, the challenge is even greater in sustaining our growth momentum and live true to the promise of the Philippines as the next economic powerhouse in Asia. 

It is very opportune that our theme for this year’s Independence Day celebration is “Courage of the Nation, Compassion for the People.”

For it takes courage for a nation to tread the path of independence by relying on its own capabilities and resources to solve its own problems without being dependent on other countries.

To this end, the Philippines is working to beef up its military capability and is ready to purchase its own military equipment and hardware, as demonstrated in the formal launch in Ulsan, South Korea of our first brand new missile-armed warship, the BRP Jose Rizal, scheduled for delivery in September 2020. Its sister ship, the BRP Antonio Luna, is also scheduled for delivery in March 2021. We have also recently signed a contract for the purchase of 16 Black Hawk helicopters from the United States to beef up our Air Force capabilities.

The other half of our 2019 Independence Day theme, “Compassion for the People,” is apparent in the exercise of strong political will by the government to push for game-changing reforms and bold initiatives such as the ambitious infrastructure program of the Duterte administration with 75 flagship projects that seek to address income disparity and connect regions to markets in order to attract more foreign investments, create more jobs and spur economic growth across the country.

On foreign policy, President Duterte continues to demonstrate our sovereignty as a nation by adopting a foreign policy that allows our country to pursue engagements with other nations even while maintaining close relationships with traditional allies like the United States.

There are about 4.3 million Filipino-Americans living in the United States today, and I am proud to say that they are very much appreciated in this country. Many of them are highly respected individuals in their respective communities. A number have distinguished themselves in various professions and industries, even in politics with some now serving as public officials.

Our friendship with the United States in my opinion is now at its best ever because of the mutual respect that we have for each other, and the recognition that both the Philippines and the United States are sovereign nations with unique domestic issues that we must resolve separately on our own.

Many of our friends in the US Congress as well as officials of the US government whom I interact with recognize this principle of mutual respect when I tell them that as Philippine Ambassador, I am here in Washington, D.C. extending a handshake to show our commitment to this special partnership with the United States – not putting out my hand with the palm up asking or begging for aid.

Fifty-eight years ago, President Kennedy gave a profound message and issued a call to all freedom-loving nations all over the world when he said:

“…Fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America can do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

The Philippines is heeding that call as we commemorate our declaration of independence and work with our most trusted ally, the United States of America, in preserving our freedom and democracy.

*      *      *

Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com.

PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE DAY
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