Bounty of good news elates Aquino


President Aquino. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III kept a happy face when he met visiting dignitaries in Malacañang on Thursday, buoyed up by a bounty of “good news” from newspapers.

“I had to admit the energy level was a bit down this morning until I read the papers which surprisingly had tremendous good news, left and right. That’s kind of unique. I think I will preserve my copy of today’s paper for posterity, just in case they never repeat it,” Mr. Aquino told them.

In particular, the President was ecstatic over the decision of the European Union (EU) to lift a three-year ban on Philippine Airlines flying to European airspace as it would complement the robust growth in tourism, one of the engines of the country’s economic growth.

The Inquirer and other major dailies also prominently carried news about the higher growth forecast for the Philippines by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the growth in all income groups of Filipinos belonging to the middle class, and the initial success of proponents of the reproductive health law in the Supreme Court.

Pepped up by the good news, Mr. Aquino welcomed ambassadors, consul generals and tourism directors from North America led by Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. who called on him at Rizal Hall in Malacañang.

Welcome relief

The President said his guests provided him a welcome relief from his stressful duties. For the past three days, he has been scrutinizing his national budget proposal for 2014 that will be submitted to Congress later this month.

His enthusiasm drew applause from the 392 delegates from Los Angeles, Hawaii, Washington DC, New York, San Francisco and Chicago in the United States, and 105 from Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver in Canada.

They were attending the 8th Ambassadors, Consul Generals and Tourism Directors’ Tour, a joint project of all Philippine Foreign Service Posts in the United States and Canada in cooperation with the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Trade and Industry.

The project aims to promote the Philippines as a top tourist destination by encouraging Filipino-Americans and Filipino-Canadians to visit and discover the natural wonders of the country.

CAAP’s ‘stunning progress’

Mr. Aquino also heaped praises on the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) under William Hotchkiss, which, he said, had been working long nights and “made stunning progress.”

He recalled that his administration had worked hard to liberalize aviation since 2010, and to open up the country to new local and foreign airlines.

In March, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) lifted the “significant safety concerns” it had previously identified in the Philippines. “This led to the very good news we received just (Wednesday) that the air safety committee of the European Commission has allowed our flag carrier—Philippine Airlines—to resume direct flights to Europe,” he said.

For this, he declared that the CAAP “has achieved one of its major goals.”

“I extend my full gratitude and congratulations to its head General Hotchkiss and all who worked to make this possible,” he said. “Hopefully, this development will give them the extra energy they need to pursue all our other goals in the aviation sector.”

Fun mood

The President was also in the mood to tease his audience.

“While looking at your faces, I was wondering if you’re all still victimized by jet lag. I wonder if I look like you. We finished at about midnight (of Wednesday) going over the budget, and some details about our ongoing negotiations on the annexes on the framework peace agreement with the Bangsamoro,” he said.

Learning that his guests had visited museums, campuses, a hotel and casino complex and a mall in Metro Manila, and that some went to Cavite, Laguna and Tagaytay City, he said the sheer number of natural gifts in the country “can take your breath away.”

“But I also hope that in the few days you have spent here, you have seen the can-do attitude and the renewed confidence that have revitalized the Philippines. We are once again an up-and-coming place, respected in the community of nations, where families are moving forward as we strive for inclusive growth,” he said.

Mr. Aquino explained how his administration had “turned things around.”

“From a place of unfulfilled potential to a nation and people not just exceeding expectations but also creating even more potentialities for Filipinos and other people of good will,” he said. He described tourism as “a lyncpin for our economy.”

“We identified tourism as a low-lying fruit that needed to be picked. From day one, we have worked to grow tourism in the Philippines to the industry that it could become,” he said.

President thanked Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. for the “highly successful tourism campaign.”

“In fact, after the tours you have gone on, you can probably attest that it really is truly more fun in the Philippines. That is the secret of our campaign: We are not mouthing a marketing slogan. We are simply repeating a basic truth,” Mr. Aquino said.

Ultimately, he said, “the good news is you—and the millions of other tourists who have passed through our country—are not the only ones who have noticed.”

In its 2013 report, the World Economic Forum Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index ranked the Philippines No. 1 in the world in terms of government spending on tourism as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).

“This helped us jump twelve spots in their index—from 94th to 82nd,” Mr. Aquino said. Citing reports in several publications, he said “we are among the world’s best diving and beach destinations.”

“Travel+Leisure magazine has even recently called Palawan ‘The World’s Best Island,’” he said.

Tourism targets

Last year, the Philippines breached the four-million mark in foreign tourist arrivals for the first time, recording 4.3 million or a 9-percent increase from the 3.9 million in 2011. A total of 37.5 million domestic travelers was recorded in 2011, surpassing the government’s target for 2016.

“We have already surpassed the 2016 target as early as 2011,” the President said. “Of course, we are always looking to improve on our performance, and so we have decided to put just a little bit more pressure on Secretary Jimenez.”

From 35 million travelers, the domestic tourism target for 2016 has been adjusted to 56.1 million by 2016 and 6.8 million by next year, Mr. Aquino said.

The President also reported on efforts to stamp out corruption and the strong economic growth since 2012.

Inclusive growth

“We know fully well the challenges that remain. We must make certain that this growth becomes even more inclusive—that the economic benefits do not merely trickle down to our people, but that every Filipino is able to ride the rising tide of progress. If what we have achieved in the past three years tells us anything, it is that nothing is impossible to a united Filipino people,” he said.

He challenged the Palace visitors to become “informal Philippine ambassadors,” invoking “the spirit of bayanihan—the spirit of coming together to lift each other up—burns bright in every Filipino.”

“Our country is on an upswing, and I invite you, and every Filipino out there, to help keep our momentum going—to help us bequeath to future generations a Philippines they can be truly proud of,” he said.

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  • disqusted0fu

    Pnoy shouldn’t be surprised anymore. The Palace takes care of the media very well. If it didn’t, the news about Balsy Aquino and her husband being involved in corruption would surely be headlines of every newspaper in the PH.

    • desi derata

      Provide the details and not just idle insinuations.

    • Nagagalitna

      Ikaw yong walang kwentang Pinoy kasi manhid ka sa katutuhan. Wala ka nang ginawa na maayos sa bayan talangka ka pa.

  • disqusted0fu

    There’s nothing new here. It’s still all talk at the end of the day. There’s still more bragging than evident results. These sweet nothings of Pnoy doesn’t mean anything for the Filipinos. It would be better if we could see these things that he is talking about materialize

    • desi derata

      There is nothing new in your post too.

    • Nagagalitna

      isa ka din sa walng kwentang Pilipino kasi ayaw mo na umayos ang basang Pilipinas

      • Zaraqael

        Die-hard yellow fanatics scurrying out of their holes….

      • Bayang_magiliw

        You are a die hard bottom dweller CRAB that had been stirred by this positive news!

  • desi derata

    Bakit kaya hindi kayo matuwa sa magandang balita?

    Baka hindi na magtagal iyong mga pamilyang may 7 anak ay makasama na sa “inclusive” growth. Iyong mga batang kulang ang edukasyon baka ma-hire sa high-paying jobs, in short baka may miracle na mangyari.Hindi ninyo na sisihin si “penoy” o si balut. Baka hindi na ninyo i-equate ang condom sa abortion.

    Walang investors sa manufacturing because it is difficult to compete with China’s low labor costs and govt manipulation of the currency.

    Iyong mga potential investors, they collectively flew out right away your May elections. Probably, they feel that Filipinos still choose useless candidates over honest ones.

    You harbinger of bad news and to those who over-joyed in the misfortune of the nation, may your tribe reduce in number and those that would remain, do something positive for the country.

    Plant corn or sweet potatoes. Control your tendency to steal from others. Be a man who believes in God and lives his life with integrity. Vote for the right person and cease on your unrighteous indignation.

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