(Pre-departure area, Iloilo Airport Cabatuan, Iloilo. 13 June 2007)
Thank you, Congressman Art Defensor. It's just so appropriate that you would introduce me not only because we are now in your district but also because you conceived of this Iloilo airport when you were governor of Iloilo. Congratulations!
Ambassador Yamazaki, thank you so much. Through you, to the Japanese government for the loan that only charged 0.9 percent so that we could build and complete this airport. Governor Niel Tupas, congratulations! If Governor Defensor conceived of the airport, you gave birth to this airport. Congresswoman Judy Syjuco, congratulations! Also because while this terminal is located in the district of Congressman Defensor, the entrance to the airport, the access to the airport is in your district. Congratulations!
I would like to also greet our other congressmen who are here today from the other districts. We have Congressman Ferj Biron and we have Congressman Jun Gonzalez. And not only from the other district but from the other island, Congressman Monico Puentevella, looking forward also to the day when we inaugurate the Bacolod airport in August.
May I greet the mayors who are here especially Mayor Ramon Yee of Cabatuan. We are right here in his jurisdiction. And all the other mayors and board members of Iloilo who are here today including the mayor of Iloilo City Jerry Treñas.
Of course, to our cabinet members who are here. We have Secretary Larry Mendoza, under whom the airport is operating or will be operating starting today and having the first flights tomorrow. But we have also our two cabinet members from Iloilo: we have the chair of the Technical eEducation Skills Development Authority, Buboy Syjuco, from this district. And from Iloilo City, we have our Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzalez. And our Presidential Adviser for Region VI, Secretary Lito Coscoluella. Also from outside the region but very much concerned with the island of Iloilo being one of the top rice producing provinces in the country and still having a very important agricultural economy, Secretary Arthur Yap. I would like to greet the Commander of the Central Command, Lieutenant General Cardozo Luna. And the other gentlemen and ladies of the uniformed services, guests, government officials, ladies and gentlemen:
This was a beautiful story. When I was riding in the plane with Congressman Defensor and we were having our private meeting on the briefing, he told me the story of how the Iloilo airport was conceived and how finally it was born. When he was governor about 1997 or so, there were some Japanese consultants who came and said that Japan might be interested in funding an airport but they were choosing among several airports to modernize or to upgrade and one of the rivals was Bacolod, and at the end of the day Bacolod was chosen. Then came the Germans, KFW, because they like the fact that this used to be already a Japanese airport, air force airport. Therefore, technically, technical, technically it was very suitable for an airport and an airport of international standards. So the feasibility study was made and submitted to the KFW of Germany for funding. And it was offered to be funded by KFW. But at that time KFW was offering six percent interest which should have been prohibitive given our very, very bad fiscal condition at that time. And during one of the meetings that then... Already Congressman Defensor had already in our administration with the DOTC trying to find a way to fund this airport, one of the senior personnel of the DOTC whispered to him, there is still some leftover of Obuchi fund and we may get it for one percent. Actually, the Philippines is the biggest user of the Obuchi fund, incidentally. And so when it was submitted to the Obuchi fund it was approved during our administration not at one percent interest but at 0.9 percent interest. And now this airport is born.
Nagapasalamat gid kita sa mga congressmen, mga senador, gobernador, mga LGUs sang probinsya na nagpakusog para matapos dayon ining atong airport.
Congratulations! Sa mga pumuluyo sa cabatuan. Mga kasimanwa ko diri sa Iloilo tapos na gid ang dugay nato nga ginhulat. Tatlo ka tuig ang nagligad halin sa pagkari kita sa groundbreaking. If you remember in January 2004... Oh! Let me also greet Governor Sally Perez from the neighboring province of antique. You were also there in the groundbreaking. Subong ari na ang bag-o nga airport. May state-of-the-art nga galamiton kag moderno nga passenger terminal building. In fact, Secretary Mendoza says this is the most modern and most beautiful airport in the Philippines today.
This is a symbol of our collective political will and the people's support. We're also pleased that preparations to bid out the old airport in Mandurriao are underway. I was asking Secretary Mendoza, what is the status of the Mandurriao airport, because we need to fund the servicing of this airport. We need to fund the serving of the loan on the airport and we want to get it from the privatization of the Mandurriao airport. And his report is that there was a failed bid because the three bidders: Gokongwei, SM and -- no, no. Ayala did not join -- bank of South Asia did not submit any bid higher than 800 million pesos and the floor price is 1.2 billion pesos. So now the department of finance is the one, Larry? Who will ask them to which... Whoever one of them will be able to upgrade their bid to 1.2, at least 1.2, then the one that gives the best offer will be the one that will be chosen. But since the bid failed, even outsiders now can come and say, "hey! I can give it to you for 1.2 billion." I'm recounting this to you in the interest of transparency so that you all know where we are.
And because leading funds for this project was not easy -- in the past the national government's earning were barely enough to service payments for our ballooning debts -- seeking soft loans at that time of fiscal crisis loomed... Looming in our horizon demanded the combined efforts of all. But we were not deterred by the magnitude of the challenges, with concerted effort and the faith of all the Ilonggos, we concentrated on completing it on time. In fact, Larry Mendoza says that this is one of the fastest construction periods for an airport of international standards. From January of 2004 to June of 2007 is barely 30 months.
Tough and timely decisions, and long and hard work have made our dream come true. And the results are here for all the world to see. This is a shining example of the best that is yet to come for all the Filipino people.
We broke the back of our economic lethargy... Our lethargic economic legacy by a combination of tough fiscal measures and equally political and difficult decisions to make more revenue. Our economy has reached a new level of maturity with some of the strongest fundamentals in a generation. I thank our congressmen for making those tough decisions to raise revenue. And as Niel Tupas says -- although Frank Drilon is not here today -- we acknowledge that he was the senate president during that time when those difficult revenue measures were passed.
Now, that we have the revenue, and now that compared to before when we were looking and looking for who could lend money. Now that creditors are all coming, offering us to fund various projects, our administration will focus on pro-growth, pro-trade and pro-investment strategies that will lift our people up from poverty and make the Philippines finally in contention as a real investment destination. And with this Iloilo airport here, Iloilo is also in contention as a major investment destination.
Indi lang investment, mas madamo na gid ang turista nga maka-ari kag makita sa katahom sang iloilo kag Guimaras. Ginsuguran na ang road widening sang kalsada nga Iloilo City-Cabatuan, and Congressman Art Defensor said that we should also work on asking the DPWH, since our regional director is here, to examine how much it would cost, so we can have the Cabatuan to Calinog airport as well. Asphalt overlay.
Kinahanglan pa nga kaayuhun ang iban dalan pakadto diri sa airport. Because we want this to be the hub of new economic development. And as I said earlier, Iloilo is not just now an area for investment and tourism but still an important area for agriculture. Of course Iloilo is no longer number one in rice production. Nueva Ecija is number one in rice production. Nonetheless, Iloilo with this airport will really have a new source of great income and that is tourism.
But we still want your production to continue, not necessarily because... Or agricultural production, not necessarily because we want you to remain an agricultural country -- we want you to become a tourism country -- but because we want you as much as possible to be self-sufficient in your food production including the servicing of the food requirements, the food and beverage requirements of the various tourist areas that are sure to come up with this Iloilo airport.
I was telling Arty and art in the plane that when I go to Boracay, it's very sad to buy souvenir products that come from Indonesia or made in China. I mean, if you buy a sundress, why does it have to be a batik sundress. Why can't it be a Hablon sundress or an Iloilo silk sundress. You know, things like that. And why did they have to import their vegetables for their salad from Baguio and Benguet. Why can't they not produce it in the highlands of Iloilo. And so this is what we would like to see in the years to come.
I was also telling them the story of Bali. I don't know the size of Bali but I have the impression it's about like Iloilo. But Bali started with Kuta, that little beach there that is like the Boracay of today -- actually, Boracay is more beautiful -- but from Kuta development has spread throughout the whole Bali. And you have many other beaches now outside of Kuta. But it's not only the beaches that makes Bali so attractive. One is the accessibility. Because you can fly straight to Bali from Australia. You don't have to fly to Jakarta, you can bypass Jakarta. Well, that will be solved because you can now fly straight from some Asian capital to exactly to Iloilo. In fact, again in the interest of transparency, I'd like to announce that the DOTC and the C.A.B. have just finished their negotiations with the government of Korea for 19,000 new seats, airline seats, because Korea's make up one-fourth of all our three million tourists. And Secretary Mendoza told me that he will... In granting the actual licenses to fly into the country, he will assign several of the applications to land right here in Iloilo airport.
And so when all those things happen then... And tourism grows, then we want to be like Bali. Everything coming from here. Food coming from here. Restaurant food, hotel food coming from Panay Island to include Antique because sally is here. Actually, sally is benefiting from Boracay tourism because some of the resorts are already in Northern Antique. But we also want the souvenirs to come from here. So with this airport ang isa pa na kinahanglan naton padamuon pa naton ang produktibidad sa aton mga vegetables and even our nice consumer products that can be sold in the tourist shops for souvenirs. Because tourism earns for Spain more than oil earns for Saudi Arabia. And this Iloilo airport is really a symbol of the future direction of Iloilo and Panay province, and even of the Philippines. The Philippine economy is stable and strong.
And we can say after the last elections, how peaceful it was. How stable the path we have set for economic reforms has not been upset by partisan elections. And if you want proof of that statement, just look at the ones who are here in this platform today. From different contending parties in the last elections, we are all together for the future of Iloilo, Panay Island and the Philippines.
Gani subong nga natapos na ang eleksiyon ibalik naton ang focus para mas magdako pa ang ekonomiya. And so that is the message of this Iloilo airport. We all went through tough times to conceive and to give birth to this airport. Let's be together to make it grow and reach its fulfillment for the good of Iloilo, Panay Island and the Philippines.
Damo gid nga salamat kag mabuhi kita tanan!