His Excellency Joseph Ejercito Estrada
President of the Philippines
Upon his Arrival from the Official Working Visit to the United States
[Delivered at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila, August 5, 2000]
A GRAND SLAM OF A VISIT
Ako, at ang bumubuo ng aming delegasyon ay nagbabalik ngayong umaga matapos ang isang matagumpay na pagdalaw sa Estados Unidos ng Amerika. Dala namin ang mga bunga ng masigasig na pakikipag-ugnayan sa lideratong politikal at ekonomikal ng pinakamalakas at pinakamayamang bansa sa buong mundo, gayundin ang pagmamahal at pangungumusta ng ating mga kababayan sa apat na lungsod na aming pinuntahan.
Twelve days ago, I embarked on an official working visit to the United States of America on the invitation of U.S. President Bill Clinton. Our goal was to re-affirm our long-standing friendship with a country with whom the Philippines maintains one of its most dynamic and important bonds, and to prepare our two countries for a closer relationship that will address the challenges of the 21st century and the new millennium.
This visit took me to four major U.S. Cities – San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles – where we met key government and business officials, as well as the Filipino-American communities in those places. Throughout our stay, we conveyed the message that numerous opportunities await stronger interaction and exchanges between our two countries, both on the government-to-government level and on the private sector front.
On our arrival this morning, I announce with pride that we have achieved – and have even exceeded – all the objectives we had set for ourselves on this trip. Our official working visit to the U.S. may be likened to winning a baseball game with the bases full but we made a grand slam home run.
First, President Clinton accorded me and the members of my delegation such personal attention at the white house that our meeting with him was extended by an additional hour. The president of the most powerful country in the world not only welcomed us with warmth and hospitality but virtually became my tourist guide at the White House. And he introduced to me each of the 21 Filipino staff at the White House like they were part of his family which, in turn, made me very proud.
This genial and generous reception pervaded the discussions between President Clinton and me, together with our respective delegations, that resulted in greater cooperation between the Philippines and the United States. These covered defense and security, economic and development cooperation, trade and investment, as well as other subjects.
In the political and defense/security arena, President Clinton and the leaders of the U.S. Congress reaffirmed the importance of the democratic alliance between our countries to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. We agreed to intensify defense cooperation and to build on the gains we have achieved since the ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement.
We also pledged to pursue greater cooperation to counter terrorism and narcotics trafficking through measures that will include improving the capability of our police and coast guard. Just as important, the United States pledged to provide additional defense assistance in support of our defense modernization, beginning with the provision of helicopters and a coast guard cutter vessel under a letter of offer and acceptance signed by our tow governments last July 27.
The Philippines and the United States also issued a joint statement on cooperation in the environment and public health, under which the U.S. will assist the Philippines in building an institutional and technical capacity to address environmental and public health problems.
In response to my representation on behalf of our World War II veterans, President Clinton pledged to support pending bills providing for additional veterans benefits. He told me that, although the necessary legislation has not yet been passed by the U.S. Congress, he has already issued an executive order directing the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to do everything possible within the bounds of law to improve the benefits available to Filipino veterans.
And in California on the eve of my departure for home, I witnessed the ceremonial signing of Assembly Bill 1978 which gives Filipino veterans the opportunity to enjoy their full state benefits even after they have returned to the Philippines. We hope this will persuade other states to enact similar laws in favor of Filipino veterans living in other parts of the U.S.
With regard to the situation in Mindanao, the American leaders assured us of their support for our peace process. I am also pleased to announce that our efforts to achieve peace and development in southern Philippines received a big boost with the signing of a new $20 million food aid package for Mindanao.
I could perhaps describe our days in Washington as the most meaningful official visit I ever had since I became president. Indeed, this is a significant way to start the third year of my presidency.
Second, our coast-to-coast information technology blitz proved very productive. My meetings with I.T. chief executive officers from Silicon Valley and McLean, Virginia, have resulted in the signing of several agreements that will help the Philippines realize its potentials to become the region’s information technology center, as well as harness the energies of our high-level I.T. workers.
As you may know, the U.S.-based Meta Group recently ranked the Philippines number one among 47 countries in terms of knowledge jobs and workers. This received a substantial boost with the signing of the R.P.-U.S. joint statement on e-commerce, which recognized the importance of the joint promotion of electronic commerce.
I also had an extensive dialogue with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on the challenges of the new economy as it relates to the Philippines and how we can benefit from its potentials. Mr. Gates committed to provide, among others, 20,000 units of its software for our PC’s for Public High Schools Program
Third, we succeeded in securing a financial package with the International Monetary Fund, which granted us its approval of good housekeeping for the way the Philippines has been managing its fiscal and monetary policies. At dinners hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. and the Asia Society in New York, I assured American businessmen that the climate in the Philippines is more conducive than ever to foreign investments.
I also witnessed the signing of other government-to-government agreements that promise to further advance our economic relationships. These include the agreement on mutual assistance between R.P. and U.S. Customs Administration and the joint statement on a $5 million grant under the Global Climate Change Program.
Fourth, this visit afforded us intimate meetings with the Filipino communities in both the east and west coasts. I am pleased to have seen for myself the unity of Filipino-Americans, as well as their achievements and influence in American politics, civil service, business, and other fields.
Sa aking pakikipag-ugnayan sa ating mga kababayan sa Amerika, napatunayan kong kahit sila ay nasa malayong lugar, ang kanilang mga puso, isipan at damdamin ay nasa Pilipinas pa rin. Kaya, hiniling ko sa kanila na manatili silang nagkakaisa at nagtutulungan para sa kapakanan ng ating mga kababayan sa Amerika at sa ating inang bayan. Sinabi ko rin na ipagpatuloy nila ang pagtataguyod sa mataas na pagtingin atpagkilala ng Amerika sa kakayahan ng Pilipino.
The many solid achievements we accomplished during our stay in the United States and the goodwill generated by our very fruitful and meaningful discussions with our American counterparts are truly important milestones in the history of Philippine-American relations.
Our alliance has never been stronger. And our future as partners never been more promising. All these, we are confident, will ultimately redound to the benefit of the Filipino masses, whose welfare has been at the heart of my presidency from the time I took my oath of office.
I am pleased to be back in our country to begin building on the foundations we have laid for stronger Philippine-American ties, and for a more peaceful and prosperous Philippines.
Ako po at ang aking mga kasama ay taos-pusong nagpapasalamat sa inyong mainit na pagsalubong sa amin. Mabuhay ang pilipinas at mabuhay tayong lahat.