Speech of
Mar Roxas
At the 6th Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations
Novotel Araneta Center, Quezon City

[February 18, 2016]

Thank you very much to Dr. Vincent Fabella, president of Dr. Jose Rizal University.
We greet Brother Jun Erquiza, the COCOPEA chairperson and the CEAP president.
The president of the Araneta University, Dr. Miguel Udtohan, COCOPEA Vice Chairperson.
My good friend, Dr. Karen Feliciano-De Leon, president of PACU, president of Misamis University. Dr. Jose Paulo Campos, President of PAPSCU and likewise president of Emilio Aguinaldo College. To Dr. Teodoro Robles of Ilo-ilo. Dr. Dante Klink Ang of Trustee. To the president of the university and colleges members of the board of trustees of COCOPEA. Principals, faculties and students of the universities of all of the associations here present. It’s a whole alphabet soup of acronyms. COCOPEA, PACU, ACSCU, CEAP PACU and TSVA; and, friends, ladies and gentlemen:

Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat. [Palakpakan]

I see this ballroom so full. It reminds me of when I was running in senate many years ago, and I have visited many of your campuses. And during one of those trips, you know, the campus, the gym would be very full the way that this ballroom is now—full of people. And in the course of the program, little by little the audience would stand up and leave. And it was not yet my turn to speak because there were many candidates who were being showcased or being asked to speak. And so little by little, people would stand up and leave. And I asked the organizers, “Papaano ‘yan? Umaalis na ang mga tao?” And the organizer said, “Don’t worry. ‘Yung mga umaalis kumbinsido na ‘yan. So you just have to talk na lang to those who are left behind.” And so my name is “R”—Roxas. So I was towards the very end and by the time that it became my turn to speak, what was once a full ballroom like this, was down to one table na lang. And so I asked the moderator, the emcee, that, “Sasalita pa ba ako, isang lamesa na lang?” Sabi niya, “Lahat ng umalis, lahat iyan, kumbinsido na. Itong 20 na lang sa isang lamesa ang kailangan n’yong kumbinsihin.” So I stood up to speak and introduced myself, gave my program of government, and true enough, those remaining stood up and also left until there were only three people left. So I said you know, I can’t stand it anymore, I just said, “Di na ako makatiis. Excuse me, lahat ng kasama ninyo ay nakumbinsi na, bakit kayong tatlo ay iwan pa rin dito?”

So they answered, “You know, matagal na kaming kumbinsido. Kami ang nag-donate ng sound system na iyan. Hindi kami makaalis until matapos kang magsalita.”

I understand that COCOPEA and all the associations invited the presidentiables. The fact that you are all still here means that hindi kayo nakumbinsi kaya nandito pa kayong lahat.

I’m very happy to be here with you this afternoon. I read the papers and studied up on the position that was taken up COCOPEA on a variety of issues, the most important which administratively and financially is relating to the two years of the K-12 and how that will impact your operation. I understand from Brother Armin and Secretary Patty Licuanan that several measures have already been put in place particularly relate to funding the education and training of the faculties that they can spend this time in order that they can further their competence and skills, also been tweaked relative to the program of the vouchers, the vouchers that DepEd has been giving out for those institutions that will use part of those facilities in order to accommodate the extra years or so that the students will be required to take as part of the senior high school. I can only say that clearly it is something that we need to do. As hard as it may have been, this transition period in private schools in particular have to undergo. But the additional two years is something clearly undebatable. We needed to increase the amount of time spent in school because in principle because we need to be on par with the rest of the world, with the amount of education and training and discipline that the kids have by the time they exit high school and eventually go to college. This period that we are in has been oftentimes described as the time of the knowledge economy.

By definition, knowledge economy means there will be a transiting of jobs from the brawn jobs which require muscle and perspiration to the brain jobs which require competence and skills and know-how. And we need to be able to prepare our people and our country for this transition. And one of the most important steps was undertaking the K-12 program which unfortunately has led to some sort of distortion in the flow of entrance to higher education institutions but which with this mitigating factors I believe that we will be able to cross-over. And I can assure you that in my time in the cabinet, and currently, the preparation for today’s interaction in my talk with Secretary Patty and Brother Armin, as well as with TESDA Secretary General Joel Villanueva, and with the president before he left for the United States, clearly this is something Daang Matuwid is committed to, and given the chance to continue on with our programs up to the next elections, then you can be assured that I too am committed to the continuation of this transition which will see the help and the crossing-over of the higher level institutions back into the normal grind of having the students come in as freshmen into your institutions. So I am very happy to be given the opportunity to be with you and to really listen, listen to some of the issues that will come up and how we might be able to address them together. It’s very important that even as we address, even as we address the physical infrastructure that has hampered our country’s competitiveness that we might as well invest in and address the human infrastructure, the training, the skillsets, the disciplines that our population will have because this is really what will propel our economy and our country into prosperity in the coming years.

The world has changed substantially since the last time I was here with you during the COCOPEA. I remember I was in your, I was in the—yes in the first COCOPEA 19, the first COCOPEA, April 19, 2005. I was together with COCOPEA during your first congress. I was a newly elected Senator at the time. And from that time to the present, the world has changed substantially. The challenges have evolved and have changed.

Imagine this, from the operations fuel which was once $120 a barrel is now at $30 a barrel. Mode of transportation which was once by both—by from those who are in Visayas—it was really the principal mode of transportation which is both today is by air. In fact, last year there were 50 million paid tickets for air travel in our country, who would have thought 50 million tickets—50 million passengers coming to and from one part of our country to another. Just the other week I was in Negros and speaking to the planters there. Any Negrenses here? There you go. And you can validate this if you wish, but the planters are complaining, and for the first time I was pleasantly surprised because they are not complaining for a land reform. They were complaining for the lack of manpower of those who will cut the cane and load them on to the truck. I did a little investigating and what was revealing was this, apparently because of your efforts, because of our government, because of our collective efforts, the next generation of sakada were no longer interested on physical broad-based manpower work of cutting the cane, pulling it and loading it up into the cane truck. There are now, believe it or not, I was also pleasantly surprised, 22,000 call center IT jobs in Bacolod alone. Whereas before, when we talk about Bacolod or Negros, the imagery was one of hardships, was one of poverty, was one of sakada and sugarcane. You have a Negros now where 22,000 call center jobs and there are nearly a 100 thousand hectares of rice lands in the entire Negros island. Whereas there was a monocracy, a sugarcane, they are now 90% self-sufficient in rice. They have tourism, they have hotels, they have a whole different segment of economic activities that here before are not present. All of these require manpower, all of these require a manpower that is up to the track of being able to address these new challenges.

So, clearly, our country has changed over the last five years. We were once known—so embarrassing—we were once known as the Sick Man of Asia. Para tayong lumpo, may sakit. We could not keep up with the newly industrialized countries of Southeast Asia. But now, we are known as Asia’s Bright Star, we have had five years, an average of five, six percent economic growth, we have had a system where, think about this because this is, many of these may have been the families of your students.

Last year, there were six and a half million patients who were helped by PhilHealth to about P70 billion. Those families, those patients, did not have to dig into their pocket, did not have to sell any kind of their asset, they did not have to borrow 5-6, did not have to stop the schooling of one of the kids in order to pay for the healthcare of their loved ones. So all of these came above because we installed an honest, straight government in 2010. All of these came about because your money. Our people’s money is now being taken care of. The fight against graft and corruption has been a priority and that is why there has been a minimization of it. We do not say that it has been completely eliminated, we do not say that we have reached paradise or perfection, but I do say that there’s a substantial progress has been made. If you think about it, the budget that was passed in 2010 before, on the first year we started the Daang Matuwid amounted to roughly a P175 billion in capital outlay. Six years, 2016, the amount of capital outlay that we will be spending all across the country is going to be P800 billion. That’s a factor of times 5, and for all of you who are not part of Metro Manila, all of you who are from the provinces, I’m sure you have seen the four-lane highways that has been built in the expansion, in the road system has being built. The concretization of farm to market roads, this is major, major program that we have where we do allow just travelling farm to market roads, we put in cement so clearly it will be fixed once and not have to fix it again, year after year after year, after the rain. In a way, we are stopping graft and corruption from happening.

So, all of these, all of these progress, all of these projects that we have is supported by an educated population that your sector contributes to, we do not look upon you, we involve and look upon you as the competition. In fact, we look upon you as trailblazers, we look upon you as the source for innovation, at the source of creativity, as the source of new ideas that will be coming in because you are the ones who are more fragile in order to adapt and adopt to new technologies, new information, new ways of doing things that you see from other educators from all across the globe.

So, clearly, in terms of nation building, we welcome our partnership with you. We want to make sure that you are successful, your success is our country’s success. The kids that go through the portals of your schools are the ones who are going to be the engineers, accountants, and the lawyers and the managers and the people who will be continuing the growth of our economy.

Our economy is the bedrock of all progress. Kung may pera, kung maunlad ang ating ekonomiya, then we have money to spend for all of our other means. What is true for one family is true for a school, is true for a nation. Kung walang kita, walang pera, it’s hard to get anything done, or it’s hard to progress. But that’s why we are fighting very hard to the continuation of the Daang Matuwid. We are fighting and campaigning very hard so that we, those who believe in Daang Matuwid in 2010 and who has seen the progress over the last five years, will continue to stay on board.

We have, if we are to use the analogy, the metaphor of a vehicle, we have in the past: No matter how much we step on the accelerator, our vehicle will not move very far. Why? The gasoline we were putting in the tank has been stolen, so we could not move very far. Now, we have plugged the leaks and we have now reached a stage where we are growing quite fast.

This year alone, let’s just take a look, just take a look at our national budget. We hit P3 trillion in the services, in the infrastructures this year from roughly 1 and 1.3 children five years ago. So, clearly, doubling from the last five years is indicative of the relative strength that we are experiencing all across our country. What’s important is that we continue. We continue to invest and reinvest in ourselves, we continue to believe in ourselves, we continue to believe that a future in the Philippines may provide Filipinos continues to be the best opportunity, the best prospect that families will have. And our partnership, your contribution to this endeavor is at utmost importance. So, I congratulate all of you for your continued commitment towards excellent education indeed, indeed you are the means by which every Filipino can attain or has been the Filipino ideal since the time of Rizal which is to be an educated Filipino.

Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat. Magandang hapon. Mabuhay ang COCOPEA. [Applause]

I understand there will be a question and answer portion, I’m happy to engage with you in fact, I am more interested in listening to what your views are so we can have an honest, and frank and straightforward discussion as oppose to just you listening to me and telling you what you already know.

So I look forward to listening from you. Maraming salamat, magandang hapon sa inyong lahat. [Applause]