His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the inauguration of Coca-cola FEMSA Philippines Canlubang Plant Expansion
[Delivered in Canlubang City, Laguna, on November 3, 2014]
Thank you. Good morning.
His Excellency Julio Camarena, Ambassador of Mexico to the Philippines; Secretary Rene Almendras; Secretary Neric Acosta; Mr. Juan Ramon Felix; Mr. Juan Carlos Dominguez; Mr. Guillermo Jose Amador; Mr. Jorge Martinez; Congressman Jun Chipeco; Governor Ramil Hernandez; Mayor Timmy Chipeco; Usec. Ponciano Manalo Jr. of the DTI; officials and employees of Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines; honored guests; fellow workers in government; mga minamahal ko pong kababayan:
Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.
The past 128 years have seen Coca-Cola evolve dramatically. It has gone from a concoction sold in soda fountains, to a remarkable phenomenon and brand, known not only for refreshing millions worldwide, but also for its determination to spread happiness. Here in the Philippines, Coca-Cola has certainly lived up to its goals. Your beverages are served in fiestas and parties, in all kinds of establishments, and even in our Cabinet meetings. It is well known that I drink a lot of your product, and since you are probably wondering, I will preempt the question and say, for the record: yes, my love life is still like Coke Zero [laughter and applause]. I hope that when I step down from the Presidency, it will at least go back to being like Coke Light. [Laughter and applause]
Kidding aside, the ubiquitous presence of Coke in the Philippines is a testament to the commitment you have displayed to our country, since operations first began here in 1912. That commitment has never wavered. I remember well the pledge that Coca-Cola Pacific Group president Glenn Jordan made to me just a couple of months after I assumed office in 2010: a billion dollar investment into the Philippines over the next five years, ostensibly by 2015. This announcement was especially heartening since, at the time, my Cabinet and I were heavily preoccupied with issues of corruption that we seemed to unearth every day. The problems we inherited appeared so vast that we thought it would take at least two years before the Philippines could start reaping the fruits of reform. Thanks to investors like you, we were able to jump-start the resurgence of the economy much sooner than anticipated.
Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines, together with the Coca-Cola Export Corporation surpassed this one billion target by investing over $511 million in the country on top of the $700 million acquisition of 51% of Coca-Cola Philippines in January of 2013, for a total of over $1.2 billion already invested into the Philippines. These funds went to the rehabilitation of the Tacloban Plant, the upgrade of the Misamis Oriental Plant, the acquisition of a new facility in Davao del Sur, and, of course, the expansion of this Canlubang Plant. By improving your operations through the most advanced technology available today, you have been able to increase production output to 265 million physical cases a year, as Mr. Felix mentioned earlier, and that’s only for Canlubang. I am pleased to hear the good news that your commitment does not end here; that, in fact, another $500 million in upgrades and other investments will come into the country by 2015, for a total of $1.7 billion in investments by next year. This is, indeed, a tremendous achievement. [Applause]
I believe that these kinds of strategic investments will ensure your longevity and your continued success. They reveal a keen awareness of the changing times in which we live: that success cannot be won on a single front, that complacency is unacceptable, and that we must continue to innovate and seek out new areas and potentials for growth. This, I believe, is why you are not only producing Coke and its related sodas, but also bottled water, juice, and tea drinks; this is why you have chosen the Canlubang Plant as the site for the installation of three of the world’s fastest bottling lines; this is why Coca-Cola FEMSA chose the Philippines as the country in which to establish its first presence in Asia.
Another trait that sets you apart from many other businesses: Coca-Cola has always been a corporation that recognizes the need to ensure the parallel development of the community. The Philippines saw this most recently in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda as we call it. Together with the rest of the Coca-Cola system, Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines gave so generously to help relief and rehabilitation efforts. You did not stop at providing facilities, transport, and relief goods; you did your part to help survivors experience the happiness of the Filipino Christmas season, through Christmas parties, concerts, and Media Noche packages. You have also continued your support, through the promotion of hygiene practices in two of the municipalities affected most by Yolanda, and through a water treatment mobile plant that can be utilized in the aftermath of calamities to provide safe drinking water to affected areas. You also collaborated with Teach for the Philippines, empowering children to deal with high-risk situations such as bullying and peer pressure. Moreover, through rehabilitating your Tacloban Plant, you provided a much-needed infusion of opportunity and hope to communities determined to get back on their feet after the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.
The initiatives you have taken in your 20 months in the Philippines make it clear that you take your contributions to development seriously, not only in terms of business, but also and more importantly, in terms of inclusiveness. It is also, I believe, an expression of the way you see the Filipino people, who are themselves a perfect complement to everything that Coca Cola stands for. I could not help but notice that the majority of the values in your presentation are also values for which Filipinos are known all over the world. Indeed: My countrymen are creative, innovative, respectful, honest, and hardworking. The happiness you wish to attach to your brand can definitely found in the Philippines, where, as we say, it’s more fun. Perhaps more than any other audience, you are well aware of the fact that, when you bet on our people, they will do everything in their power to help you succeed.
Today, as I congratulate you on the successful expansion of this facility, I must also express my gratitude for your constant presence in the Philippines, reaffirmed by these investments, which give our people a chance to showcase their abilities on a global stage. Happiness is your mission, and it is clear to me that it is not a gimmick: Coca-Cola FEMSA has brought happiness to thousands affected by Yolanda; to 8,000 men and women who can return to their homes every day content with the knowledge that they are earning a decent and respectable livelihood; and to millions more Filipinos whose lives you have affected, in one way or another. Rest assured: in our government, you have a steady partner. We are ready to listen, and to work with you, and help you prove that Coca-Cola’s decision to bet on the Philippines, whether in 1912 or in 2013, was the best decision you could have made.
Congratulations. Thank you, and good day.