President of the Philippines Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III outlined the positive economic changes his country has undergone over the last two decades in a public address at the Institute of Politics on Monday.
Speaking to a full crowd, which included several members of the Philippine government, at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, Aquino told anecdotes from his childhood, presented individual case studies about economic growth, and answered questions from the audience.
Aquino said that his country has made great strides since the People Power Revolution of 1986, which removed authoritarian leader Ferdinand Marcos from power after 21 years, restoring a democratic government to the country. Aquino emphasized the economic growth over the last few years of his leadership, despite inhibiting factors such as super typhoon Haiyan, which struck the archipelago last November.
Aquino credited “the mandate to change” following the reinstitution of democracy in the Philippines with helping his country recover from Marcos’s rule.
Citing 6.4 percent growth in gross domestic product in the second quarter of the current year—one of the highest growth rates in the region, according to Aquino—and the 2.5 million Filipinos who have raised themselves above the poverty line since 2012-2013—Aquino discussed his government’s dedication to its citizens.
"If a nation's greatest resource is its people, then it's the state's obligation to invest in its people," Aquino said.
He added that between July 2013 and July 2014, the Philippine economy added a net 1.6 million new jobs.
“Coming to the presidency, I inherited many problems which at the time seemed insurmountable,” Aquino said.
“Why...endure the status quo when we can change it,” he added, referencing his inspiration for helping the Philippines recover from some of the economic issues he inherited.
Aquino ended the forum with words of advice to future politicians sitting in the audience.
“Our challenge today is to make the gains even greater and to ensure that transformation becomes an intuitive mainstream of justice and inclusiveness,” Aquino said. “It is my hope that our experiences will motivate those like you from the other side of the world to be influencers who in turn will inspire communities and institutions that will be willing to act.”
Aquino’s visit to Boston marks his first time returning to the city in 31 years. Aquino moved to Boston in 1981 to join his family for two years when they were living in exile during the authoritarian regime in the Philippines.
Aquino’s father, then Philippine senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., served as a research fellow at Harvard during his exile and was assassinated upon return to the Philippines in 1983. His mother, Corazon Aquino, became the first female president of the Philippines in 1986 after the fall of Marcos.
Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood ’75 moderated the forum and introduced Aquino as a politician “capable of reaching across the political divide,” noting that this trait is “something we could use in this country.”
Harvard is the second stop on Aquino’s trip to the U.S. He spoke at Boston College on Sunday. He will travel to New York City next to speak at Columbia University and attend and speak at the United Nations Climate Summit on Tuesday.
—Staff writer Forrest K. Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ForrestKLewis.
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