Statement: President Fidel V. Ramos at the Social Reform Summit

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Statement of President Fidel V. Ramos:
At the Social Reform Summit

[Delivered at the Philippine International Convention Center, Manila, September 27, 1994]

An alliance for
social change

WE CONVENE HERE this morning to advance one more step the cause of social reform to which we are all committed. Three months ago, many of us from the public sector and the leaders of the basic sectors—farmers, fisherfolk, urban poor, rural poor, workers, women, youth, the elderly, the handicapped—forged a Social Reform Agenda in preparation for today’s event.

At that meeting, we declared our common commitment to place the Filipino people at the center of development, and to make as the real measure of growth the well-being of the ordinary Filipino.

Last June, we decided on a package of Government interventions to integrate the most disadvantaged among our people into the mainstream of society—by providing for their basic needs and giving them the opportunity to help themselves.

That Social Reform Agenda did not just talk of goals. It laid down strategies and specific programs of action. It focuses not only on our wish list, but on what is achievable. And it recognizes as vital for the Agenda’s success that the private and public sectors work in concert in the effort at reform.

Since our meeting last June, we have started carrying out our social reform program, especially in the 19 poorest provinces we had identified as the most needy areas. Even as we meet, the work of reaching out to our poor communities is continuing—carried out by thousands of Government workers and volunteers from non-Government and people’s organizations.

Building effective partnerships

Our summit today expands this effort by dealing with the challenge of building effective partnerships between the private and public sectors in implementing our agenda of social reform.

In this assembly are gathered the leaders of both chambers of Congress, representatives of the 19 priority provinces, leaders of business, the churches, non-Government organizations, foreign institutions and officials of different agencies of the Government.

Through our earlier work, we have already defined the nature of the problem we must solve and the strategies and programs we would use. We know that those of our people who have low incomes also tend to have little education, poor health, marginal shelter, no land, less access to economic opportunities—and more children.

And knowing all these, we recognize that effective intervention to improve the lives of our poor must involve action in education, health, family planning, community development, access to credit and livelihood opportunities, job generation and public safety.

You in the private sector and we in Government are already carrying out various programs and projects to deal with mass poverty. Yet, as our Social Reform Agenda recognizes, we can do much more—more quickly—if we join hands and work together—if we share information, expertise and resources.

Effective partnership can multiply the cumulative impact of our work on our poor communities. Only through such interaction and cooperation can we measure methodically and accurately the efficacy of our performance and the progress we achieve.

I hope you bring to these discussions your professionalism, your candor, your expertise, your generosity and, above all, your enthusiasm. For we are all part here of a cause much larger than ourselves. Our country’s need for social justice and our people’s quest for stability and progress impel us to carry out social reform. For the key to social peace that endures is reform that deals with the root causes of social discontent.

Imperatives of development

The imperatives of development too call for social re-form. Because if economic growth benefits only a few favored sectors of national society, then the misery of the many will sooner or later overcome the affluence of the few.

I have sometimes spoken of our goals as winning the future. And that is because we are engaged in many battles all at once—against poverty, against ignorance, against disease, against apathy and powerlessness.

None of these adversaries will give in to us if all we deploy against them are homilies and rhetoric. We must wage against these enemies the moral equivalent of war. We must fight against them as though the nation were at war for its life.

Economists conventionally measure growth by such statistics as GNP, trade and investment, infrastructure, inflation, high technology and the like. But, in real life, these indicators mean little if they do not translate into real changes in the lives of everyday people.

In real life, it is possible to have growth without development. It is possible for the gross national product to grow year after year—while ordinary people sink deeper and deeper into misery.

Our object is to ensure that this does not happen in our country. We are determined to place our people at the frontline of national development-both as participants and as beneficiaries. And to do this we must translate our action program into basics. First of all, we must help our people obtain their basic needs.

Let me repeat these basic needs—so we do not forget them. They are health, nutrition, water and sanitation, income security, shelter, peace and order, basic education and political participation.

Social Reform Agenda

Because we ourselves take these basic needs for granted, we tend to think they are easy to meet. But they are not. And we cannot ensure these basic needs become available to the poorest unless, in partnership, we reform the way we do things in this country.

Our Social Reform Agenda answers this need for both reform and partnership. It is a systematic and coherent effort to enable our Filipino people to help themselves. It consists of practical and achievable reform measures. And it invites the collaboration of Government and the private sector.

We can say we have already leaped one major hurdle. We have given up the practice of defining the Filipino poor in statistical terms. We have tried to see their faces and hear their voices. We have sought to know who really need our help the most.

This is why, in our action agenda, we speak more and more of farmers and landless rural workers; of fisher-people, of the urban poor and of indigenous cultural communities; of small entrepreneurs and overseas workers; of women, students, children and the youth; of the handicapped, the elderly and the victims of disasters and calamities.

We have realized there are different degrees and varieties of poverty in our land. We have begun to identify who the poor really are. We are learning to locate where they are, and to understand why they are poor.

Redirecting Government policies

Our Agenda redirects the policies of Government so that we can intervene more effectively to change the lot of the poor. It is also designed to be carried out geographically—starting with the provinces in the greatest need.

Formidable as the challenge is, I believe we will succeed because for the first time we are all in this struggle together. In all my years in government, I have never seen every sector of society and every branch of government engaged in one all-encompassing program.

And our effort is helped by another fortunate development. We are undertaking this antipoverty program during a period of economic recovery, political stability and social optimism.

This is the right time to accelerate and expand our action program to raise up the common life.

In the legislature, let us seize the moment to craft reforms that will reflect and respond to the needs of our people. In the executive, let us seize the moment to improve the delivery of government services. In local governments, let us recognize that it is in your communities where the anti-poverty war begins—and where it must be won.

The basic sectors must organize, link up and network for this campaign. The business sector must lend us its expertise, its resources and its organizational skills.

Working together, at this time of new hope in this country, we can win this struggle. So let it be our pledge—here and now—not to relent and not to lay down our weapons, until this fight against poverty is won.

Source: Presidential Museum and Library

Ramos, F. V. (1995). From growth to modernization : raising the political capacity and strengthening the social commitments of the Philippine State. [Manila] : Friends of Steady Eddie.