PGMA's Speech during the 60th Anniversary of the Leyte Gulf Landing
Thank you Dick for your very kind introduction and for your beautiful words. Thank you for introducing me in behalf of your co-chairman Secretary Alberto Romulo. Si Secretary Bert Romulo po sana ang magpapakilala sa akin ngayon, ngunit ipinadala ko siya sa Indonesia, dahil iyong ibang bansa ng ASEAN pumunta iyong mga pinuno nila sa Indonesia dahil ito ang unang malawak na halalan mula noong giyera at importanteng panahon ito para sa Indonesia. Ngunit hindi ako makapunta doon dahil ito ay mahalagang panahon para sa ating bansa dito sa Leyte
Governor Petilla, Congresswoman Petilla and the other officials of Region 8, including our host mayor, Mayor Cerilla of Palo, Reverend Dean, Archbishop, Former First Lady Mrs. Marcos, representatives of our allied forces, Ambassador Richard Ricciardone, thank you for the kind message from President Bush. Minister of State Douglas Alexander, thank you for coming all the way here and for the greetings. Our friends from Australia and New Zealand, Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps, our beloved gallant Veterans of the Philippines, America, Australia; members of the Cabinet, other presidential appointees, General Abaya and our other men in uniform, ladies and gentlemen. Maupay nga aga sa inyo na tanan. (Good morning to all of you.)
Sixty years ago today, the largest naval battle in the Pacific was fought and won here in Leyte. It marked the beginning of the end of all wars in our shores. And as patriots and allies marched forward and freedom surged across the place of Luzon, the coast of the Visayas and the jungles of Mindanao, 738 allied ships landed, 200,000 troops in the beaches of Leyte.
President Sergio Osmeńa, General Douglas MacArthur, General Carlos P. Romulo and other heroes waded into shore in a dramatic moment captured by the lens of history and now by our beautiful art work here in Palo.
Allies returned as promised in a saga of a brotherhood sealed in blood between fighters across the Pacific. General MacArthur was said to have 3 K's during the Leyte landing Vice Admiral Thomas Kinkaid, Lieutenant General Walter Krueger and Commander Kenny. But as Dick Gordon says, adding the Philippine perspective and interpretation of history, we must say he actually had a fourth K, the fourth being Colonel Kangleon, the Filipino resistance movement hero.
The Leyte area command under Colonel Kangleon gave MacArthur up to the minute intelligence on enemy ship movements, the weather and mine fields intelligence that greatly reduced war casualties. The Leyte landing therefore remind us of the valor not only of our allies, some of whom are still with us and have come back to celebrate with us today , but also the valor of our own war veterans.
If you are our grandfathers today, but most of you veterans were barely out of puberty when called upon to serve and fight. I salute you our war veterans and with the support of allies in the Senate like Dick Gordon, vow my utmost to find the means to enhance your rights and promote your welfare.
The valor of our war veterans continues to surge in the veins of the Filipino soldiers today. Their primarily war today is not a foreign invader, but rather the enemy within, especially the communist insurgents and other terrorists. In this war against the insurgents and other terrorists were bravely assisted by a continuing partnership with the allies of the Leyte landing, especially the United States.
With the United States, we continue to conduct Joint Military Exercises and Training to further hone our team capabilities against terrorism. With the United States we are working together to ensure the safety and security of our ports and the transport of passengers and cargo. As a result of this enhanced capability, the PNP and the AFP working with their allies have arrested suspected terrorists, defeated the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf, and preemptively seized bombing devices and explosives men to kill thousands of innocent people.
Within 6 months from now, 30 helicopters accompanied by spare parts will arrive in the Philippines from the United States. And the medium term, the U.S. for the next six years of my administration, the U.S. is assisting the Philippines in a wide ranging type of defense reforms worth about P4 billion. The historic bond between Filipinos and Americans forged 60 years ago in the flames of war lives on. USA idea seized Mindanao and other regions, particularly in education, human trafficking, women and children's rights and counter terrorism. It is releasing over $20 million in additional development assistance for the conflict within areas in Mindanao even before the signing of our final peace accord.
We have bilateral cooperation efforts against money laundering even after the US government is helping put together, a system to make it easier and cheaper for Filipinos abroad to remit their money to their families back home. The Philippines is on the list of recipients of development funding from the millennium challenge account and in an amicable resolution of a hard profile case between the Philippines' biggest and inherited telecommunications companies and American companies, the US busy court of Hawaii has nullified subpoena served on several Filipino businessmen. That bond forged in the flames of war yet lives on in our security and economic partnership with America.
It also lives on in a grand alliance of aspirations with the former enemy, Japan, now the leading source of official development assistance to the Philippines and a leading source of investment in tourism. It is a bond that includes very strongly other countries like Australia whose 5,000 soldiers also took part in the Leyte landing and which is now home to thousands of migrant Filipinos as well as being a strong supporter of the Mindanao Peace Agenda. It is a partnership that includes Great Britain, the source of the biggest single investment in the Philippines, namely, Shell natural gas investment. It includes New Zealand, which is very well known in Mindanao for a model Reforestation Program. Yes, the Philippines, the United States, Japan and other countries like Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand today believe in the same ideals, uphold common virtues and fight for the righteous cause. As vanguards of freedom, we derive mutual benefit from the relationship shared by a historic past, and blossoming in a challenging present.
More recently, the early return of our contingent from Iraq caused some frictions in our relationship with the United States and even with our other allies. The American government and even some of the other governments disagreed with our decision to put the life of a Filipino truck driver first before the exigencies of the diplomacy.
But, we do all that freedom to decide our national interests to the bloodshed by Filipinos, Americans and Australians in the Second World War. And we do appreciate that the controversy has ended and we have arrived at a higher kind of maturity in our strategic partnership.
As Dick said and as Minister Alexander acknowledged, our commitments to freedom and the war against terror are unplugging and they will be as unplugging in our determination to seek a just and honorable peace with rebels and insurgents. We will put down terrorists by the sword; at the same time that we seek to turn, the rebel swords into plow shares.
But again, as Dick said, let us also remember the civilians, the grandparents of many of those who are here with us today, the brave civilians to whom we owe our enduring tradition of democracy. Sixty years ago today, the ordinary Filipino is an epitome of sacrifice and courage, of resiliency and great fortitude. The late Carlos P. Romulo, incidentally my ninong, was with Mac Arthur in the landings has a story, that on the first few hours of the siege, a Filipino - weak and frail with hunger approached him and asked, "What can we do to help?" That frail and weak Filipino did not ask for food, for clothes, for anything at all, what he asked was what can could he do to help win the war.
That is the Filipino. Such selflessness and bravery are innate in the Filipino. And these are the qualities I still see today as we struggle against strong currents of fiscal crisis, as we ride the undertow of debt that we have gotten used to as a source of our development because it has been for generations, politically easier to borrow than to impose taxes. Decades of borrowing to finance our growth are catching up with us. Our budget goes to interest payments rather than to roads and bridges or to a more grandiose celebration that we could have today if we did not have to spend so much on interest payments or schools and medicines and our poor will suffer more if we fail in the eyes of our creditors, our American creditors, British creditors, Australian creditors, New Zealand creditors and then failing in their credit rating, find out that without borrowing from them, we have no more money of our own to fund our growth.
Political rhetoric will not save the poor, only a purposeful agenda carried out with strong resolve to reduce our debt and finance our development from our own resources, our own taxes, only these can liberate the Filipino from poverty and economic crisis. Let us therefore fight for the future of this country with all our might. Let us emerge from this painful but necessary period of sacrifice and self-renewal, stronger and more united than before. We must honor the sacrifices of our heroes and the flag that waves above us would be for courage and solidarity.
The road ahead is tough, but we are tougher. History has taught us that freedom is a just reward of the believer, not just military freedom but economic freedom. Last September, the US-ASEAN Business Council organized a business mission to the Philippines. Speaking in behalf of the Council, their President Walter Lowman (?) wrote me last week and may I quote, "Business interest is growing. This is the largest visiting business delegation we have ever had in the Philippines. This is a reflection of confidence in your leadership and commitment to reform. For our part, we are committed to work and complementing your leadership with private sector support." Ambassador Ricciardone, please give my thanks but also to President Bush, for all our brave American veterans but also to our friends, the American businessmen.
Sixty years ago, McArthur came back to fulfill a promise, that promise led to our military liberation. Today, let us make a promise; let us make a new pact with history to win back our economic freedom and to correct the moral and economic deficits of the past.
Fellow Filipinos, this is the most important war today. This is the most important promise we can make today. Let us make this promise now on these hallowed grounds where our patriots fought one of the greatest battles of all time. Let us do right by our veterans. Let us make life better for them. Let us make life better for their grandchildren and all their descendants.
To all of you, to all of us, our friends, our allies, our veterans, our citizens, thank the Lord for the Leyte landing.
Damo salamat. Thank you very much. Maupay nga aga sa inyo tanan. (Good morning to all of you.)
PGMA 's SONA 2004