Keynote and Acceptance Speech of Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo
Vice President of the Philippines
SEIPI Q1 General Membership Meeting &
Recharging the Industry and Economy through Transformational Leadership and Resilience
Good morning, everyone. Good morning to the officers and members of SEIPI, and to everyone joining our General Membership Meeting and Partner of the Industry Awards 2022! Congratulations as well to all the new members we are inducting today.
You join this organization at a time of great disruption and uncertainty. Two years on, we continue to deal with the challenges and disruptions of the pandemic. After a stretch where the situation seemed to be getting better, we are again faced with another surge in cases. We have much work to do to free ourselves from the pandemic, rebuild our economy, and help everyone get back on their feet— especially those who lost their jobs and livelihood, and who are sinking deeper into hunger and poverty the longer we remain in this crisis.
The challenges we have faced over the past two years have only highlighted the importance of transformational leadership— the kind of leadership that proactively looks for ways to make the economy more robust, while at the same time ensuring that our society is fairer, more humane, and more just. That always seeks to take what’s considered best and make it even better. That refuses to be boxed in by old and rotten ways of doing things, and will always do what is right even if it means going against powerful interests and deeply entrenched systems. That brings people together, enables them to see past their own self-interest, and does the work alongside them towards a shared horizon.
This has been the kind of leadership we have always endeavored to bring to the Office of the Vice President— whether in our Angat Buhay projects, where we leveraged our linkages to help the farthest reaches of the archipelago, or our COVID-19 Response Initiatives to fill the gaps in government response. SEIPI knows how we work; it has always been an honor for the OVP to be counted among your closest partners, especially in your CSR initiatives. As mentioned earlier, when Typhoon Rolly struck in 2020, SEIPI quickly reached out to us to ask how you can contribute to our relief and rehabilitation efforts. We are also very thankful for your donation to the Tanging Yaman Foundation in the wake of Typhoon Odette last December. The generosity of your staff and member companies has enabled us to bring more aid to our typhoon-stricken kababayans, helping them rebuild faster.
If you can allow me, I just would like to take special mention of all the member companies of SEIPI who contributed to the Typhoon Odette donations to Tanging Yaman Foundation: Tong Hsing Electronics Philippines, Inc.; SPI Semicon Asia, Inc.; Test Solution Services, Inc.; Tsukiden Electronics Philippines, Inc.; Excelitas Technologies Corp.; Reel Service Philippines, Inc.; SN Aboitiz Power, Inc.; JB Elite Corporation; Maxeon Solar Technologies; Ibiden Philippines; Edgeworth Laguna, Inc.; and Littelfuse Phils. Inc.
Two of your annual business partners, PLDT and Globe, have also been reliable partners in some of our initiatives— for instance, in providing free WiFi for our dormitories for frontliners in Metro Manila in 2020 and 2021 and for our Community Learning Hub in Pasig; and in setting up Community Marts in Quezon City, Pasig, and Muntinlupa.
This is the kind of leadership we hope to harness in order to free ourselves from the pandemic and ensure jobs for all. I know you are particularly interested in our plans to sustain manufacturing growth; this is something we have emphasized in our Hanapbuhay para sa Lahat plan, which we released last month. Our plan focuses on key local industries where we believe are big opportunities for us: The maritime and fisheries industries for instance, the climate industry, the tech industry, and the manufacturing industry— the last two of which are industries where SEIPI has a strong foothold.
For the tech industry, we hope to match the skills and talents of Filipinos with the competitive pay they deserve. We also recognize that better infrastructure is the important first step; we will need faster internet connectivity that reaches the countryside while supporting national digitization. We need to institute policy reforms, fast-track programs, and offer incentives to achieve lower electricity costs. We will also focus on harnessing partnerships between universities and independent research centers, the private sector, and the local and national government so we can capacitate and impart new knowledge to our workers.
We also aim to revive the manufacturing industry by crafting and implementing industry roadmaps. We will maximize our resources and build strong links between different industries to ensure that everything we need— from upstream to downstream industries— can be manufactured in the Philippines.
But we also made clear what the key first step of this plan is: We must restore trust in government. Investments will only dramatically rise and industries will only grow if we have a strong and stable political and economic climate, and if we have the necessary infrastructure and logistics for them to thrive. Policies must be dependable, consistent, and predictable; rules for businesses must not change in the middle of the game; government must earn that trust by professionalizing its bureaucracy and institutionalizing transparency and accountability. Only then can we begin the work to unlock the energies of our economy. With an honest government at the helm, the work ahead becomes easier— whether in strengthening the implementation of existing laws like the Ease of Doing Business Act, reviewing policies and legislation that have served as roadblocks for businesses to thrive, establishing incentives to attract business, or working to lower energy and transport costs.
With an honest government, we can unleash the immense potential of the industry— and here, the opportunities abound. As of November last year, semiconductors accounted for 41% of our overall electronic exports. The number is impressive, and it is a testament to your hard work; and yet we know this remains an upstream product. As laid out in our jobs plan, our goal now is to grow our downstream industries to ensure we manufacture and export higher-value products. We can capitalize on this by processing and using semiconductors domestically. We can invest in industries like microchip manufacturing: With higher-value products, we get more profits and increase GDP. This is something we can take advantage of especially now that we face a global microchip shortage because of reduced production due to the pandemic, as well as tensions in trade between the U.S. and China. You all know what it would mean if we can catch this train: More investments and more jobs that could uplift more lives.
I know we have much to do in order to achieve all these. But I also know that SEIPI’s leadership in the industry, your inputs and expertise, and the partnerships and linkages we have built over the years will help us achieve our goal to reawaken the strength of the Philippine industry, and in doing so, develop cycles of empowerment, opportunity, and widespread progress— a goal that I know SEIPI shares.
Before I end, I would like to thank all of you for the trust and recognition you place in me as a Partner of the Industry. I got the award you sent last night— I had this since last night— and I am very much honored and humbled by this award. I share this with all the people and organizations who placed their faith in me and our office as we did what we can to save and uplift lives over almost six years, and especially during the pandemic.
As I receive this award, I affirm my commitment to the business community: My government will always remain a strong and steady partner of the industry. As I have said in many different dialogues with the various members of the community, we will foster an environment where enterprises can compete fairly; where government is more enabling and less regulatory: Not fixating on restrictions, not waiting to pounce and penalize those who make the smallest missteps, but a partner that listens, collaborates for the common good, and harmonizes discordant voices.
Again, it is my deep honor and privilege to thank you for this award. I wish you all a fruitful and meaningful membership meeting. Maraming salamat, mabuhay kayong lahat!