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04 MARCH 2009
‘RP NO LONGER SICK MAN OF ASIA’
LOS ANGELES—The Philippines is no longer the “sick man of Asia,” Philippine Cabinet Secretary Edgardo D. Pamintuan declared in a series of dialogues with Filipino-American community leaders in the United States.
“It used to be that when America sneezes, the Philippines is already suffering from pneumonia. But as the US, Japan and many other countries slide deeper into recession, the Philippines has still been registering respectable economic growth,” Pamintuan said.
Pamintuan, chair of the Subic-Clark-Alliance for Development, is head of a four-man delegation from the Philippines on a “good news” road show about the economic performance of the country in the face of the global crisis; the developments of key infrastructure projects; as well the progress of the conversion of Clark and Subic from military to economic bases.
With Pamintuan, who is also development champion for the Luzon Urban Beltway super region and presidential adviser for external affairs, are Alexander Cauiguiran, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Clark International Airport Corporation, Undersecretary Danilo de Austria Consumido and Director Leonardo Kirk Galanza of the Office of External Affairs of the Office of the President.
Pamintuan and his team met with leaders of the Filipino-American community in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. They will meet with Filipino-American leaders in San Francisco this weekend.
Noting that infrastructure development is key to mitigating the impact of the global crisis, Pamintuan enumerated several key infrastructure projects being implemented in the Luzon Urban Beltway super region, which covers Central Luzon, Metro Manila and the Southern Luzon provinces.
He said these projects are mainly road and highway networks, rail systems, airports and seaports that are aimed to interconnect the production and industrial enclaves of Southern Luzon to the commercial and consumption centers of Metro Manila, and to the rest of the world through the freeports of Clark and Subic.
“We are trying to create a seamless network of multi-modal transport-oriented infrastructures that would promote greater efficiency in the movement of goods, services, people and information,” Pamintuan said, adding that these projects would greatly reduce the cost of doing business.
“Because of the global crisis, companies would now be locating to areas where there are efficient facilities and where the cost of doing business is lower. Add to this the availability of highly-skilled Filipino labor, I believe we can even take advantage of the opportunities offered by the global economic situation,” he explained.
Consumido, meantime, presented the measures being put in place by government to mitigate the impact of the global economic meltdown. He cited the optimism of global financial institutions and credit rating agencies on the chances of the Philippines in even benefiting from the situation.
For his part, Cauguiran presented the dramatic development of Clark and Subic as freeport zones where major global economic players are now among their locators. He also cited the record growth in passenger traffic of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark, which, he said, is fast developing to be the main international gateway of the country.
He said the DMIA has better runways and radar systems that can accommodate the biggest airplanes in the world, including the gigantic Airbus 380. The DMIA has since become a hub for budget international airlines catering to overseas Filipino workers from Central and Northern Luzon.
On the issue of human rights, Pamintuan said that the recent US State Department country assessment on human rights in the Philippines is “more or less fair.” He said the report noted that the necessary policies, laws and institutions are in place to protect human rights, but their implementation has to be more strictly ensured.
He declared that the human rights situation has greatly improved in the Philippines in the last two years, particularly on the issue of unexplained killings. He said that from a high of 145 verified cases in 2006, the figures went down to six in 2007 and to five in 2008.
“We should have zero tolerance on political killings, but there is still a long-running insurgency in some parts of the countryside, and a Moro rebellion in the south. These are dirty little wars, and the combatants of both sides are accusing each other of committing certain atrocities,” said Pamintuan, a human rights lawyer imprisoned during Martial Law.
“There is no country in the world that can claim a perfect human rights situation,” he said. “Not even the US can lay claim to that.” ###
ELMER G. CATO Second Secretary & Press Officer Philippine Mission to the United Nations 556 Fifth Avenue, Fifth Floor New York, New York 10036 Tel. No. 212.764.1300 Extension 38
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