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PGMA's Speech during the General Body Membership Meeting of the Indian Chamber of Commerce Philippines, Inc.

Grand Ballroom, Hotel Intercontinental Manila
Ayala Avenue, Makati City

May 04, 2007

Thank you.

Thank you very much, Secretary Peter Favila. And thank you for leading the competitiveness task force that led to these reforms that Mr. Sitaldas talks about that have made life easier for our Filipino-Indian businessmen.

Mr. Sitaldas and the other officials of the Philippine-Indian Chamber of Commerce; Ambassador Mitter, very nice to have you here; immediate past president, Mr. Vishnu Hathiramani; members of the Indian Chamber of Commerce to the Philippines and leaders of the other important Philippine business organizations who are all here tonight; and I think we should also welcome the new commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration, former Congressman Nonoy Libanan; and other representatives from government agencies who may be here tonight.

I'm very happy to be here with you tonight. And when Ram was talking about how the importance I gave to your chamber because I came at a very... Even if I have a very busy time. You know, I'd like to let you know that the first date that this was set was during the week when my husband had surgery. And I had told my appointments' secretary, "cancel everything except the Indian chamber." But the Lord was very good and you were very good. I got the message saying that you moved your meeting to this date, tonight. So, I'm very thankful for your thoughtfulness, whether it was a coincidence or providential, thank you that you're all here together tonight. And thank you for your prayers for my husband.

I've been with the Indian chamber many times in the past. Because, of course, India is very important. Has been important for many, many years, for centuries. And by history and trade, India has been a partner of the Philippines in building a world of freedom and prosperity. In fact, Ram talked about the free press. I remember when my father was president of the Philippines, he was telling me that the acknowledged leaders of the democratic world, in other words, leaders in democracy in Asia at that time were already at that time India, the Philippines and Japan. So India's democracy is very old, very mature, and that is something we share together.

Though I've been with you many times, my being with you tonight is important, especially important. First of all because we want to support India's "look east policy." We want to take advantage of India's "look east policy." We want to take advantage of India's plans to integrate with both South Asia and Southeast Asia.

We have a big Indian community here in the Philippines. But I know that until the recent years, the Philippines as a whole, as an economy was not very much on India's radar screen. If it look east, it look to the peninsular ASEAN. In other words, it look to Malaysia, Singapore where there are very, very huge Indian populations.

But I am very happy that with the visit of President Kalam and with the participation of Prime Minister Singh in the ASEAN and Southeast Asian Summit, India has seen the Philippines and we are back on the radar screen. And that's one very important reason why this meeting between us is especially important tonight.

Another very important reason why this meeting is truly essential is our recognition and the world's recognition that within the next quarter century India will be one of the world's top economies. And India will become an undeniable driving force behind global economic growth.

So at this point in time, the integrative policies of India are indispensable also to our plans and the plans of our neighbors to build a complete Asian community.

In the past when our neighbors and Southeast Asia were growing -- that was in the 1970s -- they grew because of a large export market that they were able to penetrate U.S. and Europe. But now because of the growing market of India and China, Asia's growth is no longer export-driven. It is transitioning from being export-driven to being domestically-driven. In other words, Asians producing for Asians because the demand in India, China and Japan now makes up the bulk of the market for our production.

In India itself, of course, the impact will be profound. And we are delighted with the growth of India along with China to add to the power of Japan in the region. In the Philippines, we benefit from this growth. India's awakening can only lift up our nation. This is a positive, healthy development. And it is also clear that there will be political, economic and strategic implications for India and the entire region as a result of India's newfound economic power.

We welcome the economic growth of India. We hope for greater integration between the Philippines and India. And we hope the Philippine-Indian business community will be active in promoting that integration.

Last January in Cebu, the Prime Minister of India joined us, as you know, in the East Asian Summit. That plus the state visit of the president of India last year are the first steps toward closer political, security and economic engagement that will only strengthen the Philippines and strengthen our ties with our new special partner -- India.

We're now receiving billions of investments from the U.S., for instance, Texas Instruments has just announced a one billion-dollar investments in the Philippines. From Europe, Shell, for instance, has put in more than five billion dollars so far. From Japan, we have Japanese companies all over Calabarzon. From Korea, in Subic alone, Korea's Hanjin is putting a billion dollars over the next ten years. It has already put about 300 million dollars so far. Hopefully, one day, we will also receive such kinds of investments from India.

And as far as trade is concerned, the internal market demand and domestic consumption of India is having a direct and positive impact on our nation in terms of job creation, investment and balance of trade. Though we are not talking yet about billions of dollars, we are already happy that Indian investors have created jobs in our business process outsourcing, in textile, and in steel. We hope it continues. And once again, we hope the Philippine-Indian business community will be active in tapping the market demand and the domestic consumption of India.

As India becomes a true political and economic giant, its obligations to its neighbors will also increase -- it's already increasing -- separate from its obligations to its own citizens. Ascendance on the world state -- as what is happening to India now -- carries implications not just for economic development, but for management of our environment on a sustainable basis, and for maintaining broader peace and stability in the region. These are big responsibilities of India now which will be accommodated, which will have to be accommodated in our Philippine bilateral relations with India.

Well, speaking of economic development, we've already talked about the Indian investments here -- BPO, steel, textiles and others, retail trade. When the president of India made a state visit to the Philippines, one of his main agenda items was energy. He was here among many other missions to share with us India's Jatropha technology for energy independence. And when I go to India for a state visit sometime late this year, not only will we be talking about economics, not only about energy, but also we will discuss how to cooperate on peace and stability in the region. I hope that when I make that state visit, the leaders of the Indian chamber will join me on the trip.

And India's positive contribution to peace and stability is also behind the policies that we have made to make the visa rules, residence and visitors much easier for the Indian citizens.

Indeed, there is great potential for more collaboration and cooperation between our two countries -- your two countries -- in both trade, investments and even tourism.

I'm very happy that India has reiterated its unilateral air rights for Philippine aircrafts. It is our Philippine aircraft companies that are now having to purchase their planes that can travel a long distance from the Philippines to India. Right now their long distance planes are going to the United States, so they're buying new ones just to be able to accommodate... Not accommodate, take advantage of the air rights that India is giving the aircrafts in the Philippines.

And as travel becomes easier, not only because of the reduction in red tape on the visas, but also because of more flights, flights on Philippine aircrafts, there is a large role for the Philippine business community to play in the regard of increasing our economic relations. You can contact your counterparts in the Indian business community and they can be the distributors of Philippine exports to India, or you can be the distributors of Indian exports to the Philippines. You can also be the Philippine partners of Indian investments in the Philippines.

Ram talked about pharmaceuticals. Yes, we are buying a lot of pharmaceuticals from India as an important, essential part of our program to provide half-priced medicines for ordinary Filipinos. Most of it is traded by the Philippine International Trading Corporation. But I want to let you know that it is not our policy that PITC will be an exclusive agent. Private companies can also engage in the trade. So I urge Indian businessmen here in the Philippines to go into that trade also and bring in half-priced -- half-priced from the point of view of the Philippines -- pharmaceuticals from India. Indeed, I hope the Indian chamber will take advantage of that market opportunity.

So there are so many things that we can do especially now with India's economic awakening.

So let me conclude on these final thoughts. I'm bullish on India. I'm bullish on India's ability to help drive positive change in the world. And we here in the Philippines have the unique opportunity to learn from India and create our own path to development. Through our bilateral, political and business relations, and business relations with India and other parts of the world, especially with India, we have the chance, we can learn from India, how India use technology, innovation and change to the advantage of India's economy. We can do that too.

India jumped to what it is today among other things because of technology and innovation. We're also good at technology. In fact, that's why there are many good partnerships between the Indian business community and the Philippine business community on business process outsourcing because we're the two countries who are very good in that today.

And so I count on the Philippine-Indian business community to stand by our side in meeting our common challenges and taking advantage of our common opportunities.

Mabuhay ang Indian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines!

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