(MANILA ,Mabuhay) – As his administration grapples with the problem of jobless growth, President Benigno Aquino III stressed the need to ensure that “wealth is not concentrated in the hands of the few” in a speech before captains of industry in Bali, Indonesia.
He arrived in the island, where he is to attend the 21st Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, before noon Sunday.
Speaking at the CEO Summit Conversation with Leaders, Aquino said that inclusive growth lets people contribute to nation-building.
“The challenge for governments has deepened: When in the past we gravitated towards metrics that reflect merely the wealth collectively amassed by an economy, more and more the task of governments has become ensuring that this wealth is not concentrated in the hands of the few, but rather that it is equitably utilized to raise levels of human development,” Aquino said.
“In this manner, we engender a situation wherein the broader base of society can benefit from opportunities opening up through economic growth,” he added.
The Philippines received another investment grade rating last week, solidifying the country’s status as the latest invesment hub in the region, but critics have said the government lags behind job creation and poverty alleviation.
The economy grew by 7.6 percent in the first half, the fastest in Southeast Asia, while inflation remains below the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas target of 3 to 5 percent.
Joblessness has been blamed for the country’s stubbornly high 27.9 percent poverty rate as of June last year amid a strong economy.
In his speech, Aquino said that without inclusive growth, a nation may experience “periods of cyclical growth” but any progress may be vulnerable to disruption.
He said his administration has set aside a “substantial” amount of the budget to fund social services in education, health and poverty alleviation.
Aquino also made a pitch for the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which he said benefits four million families and has expanded to include families with children in high school, as “there is a 40-percent increase in income for those who finished high school versus elementary graduates.”
He said among the reforms the government has undertaken are new laws such as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, which allows access to information on family planning, and the Sin Tax Reform Act, which increases revenue from tobacco and alcohol and channels them to health services.
“Our task is to ensure that our people have the wherewithal to utilize, and indeed maximize, the opportunities opening up with the new-found revitalization of our economy,” he said.
According to a report from Agence France-Presse, the continuing US government shutdown has also been a hot topic at the leaders’ meet, with Aquino saying that what happens in the US “affects all of us.”
“The world economy obviously is not in a position to withstand too much shock at this time when we are just recovering as a global economy,” he added.
US President Barack Obama canceled his scheduled visit to the Philippines because of the shutdown. Manila will instead play host to US Secretary of State John Kerry.
84-member PHL delegation
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on government-run dzRB that Aquino and his delegation’s trip to Indonesia for APEC on Oct. 7 and 8, and his upcoming trip to Brunei for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit from Oct. 9 to 10 may cost P14.3 million.
Among the members of Aquino’s 84-member delegation are Finance Sec. Cesar Purisima, Trade Sec. Gregory Domingo, National Economic and Development Authority director general Arsenio Balisacan, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, and Presidential Management Staff head Julia Abad.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang were part of the advance party, Valte said.
She said Aquino will attend a dinner hosted by the APEC CEO summit on Sunday.
After the APEC summit, Aquino will proceed to Brunei for the ASEAN summit, Valte said.
He is expected to return to the Philippines on Oct. 10. (MNS)