Opening message of Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua
#AskNEDA Media Briefing
27 June 2022

Colleagues in government, friends from the media, fellow Filipinos, good morning and welcome to the final #AskNEDA media briefing under my term.

In our previous media briefing, we discussed two of NEDA’s four proposed priorities for the next planning period: innovation and regional equity. Today, we will discuss the other two priorities: climate change and smart infrastructure.

Undersecretary Mercedita Sombilla of the Regional Development Group will present how the Philippines is responding to the growing threat of climate change.

Afterwards, OIC-Undersecretary Roderick Planta of the Investment Programming Group will present the government’s strategies to achieve sustainable and smarter infrastructure.

Since this is my last media briefing as NEDA Secretary, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the reporters and journalists who have journeyed with me and NEDA in the past two years.

Thank you very much for the effective partnership. Your factual and diligent reporting of both the good news and the not-so-good news have been instrumental in helping the public better understand our socioeconomic situation and the government’s programs.

Thank you for your commitment in communicating the Administration’s reforms to the public. Our economy in the past two years has faced unprecedented challenges and continues to face more risks, but the economy’s fundamentals are stronger today because of our game-changing reforms.

As I have shared before, I joined the government in 2016 with a deep desire to give my son, Keid Ashby, and his generation a better future. At that time, my son was one-year-old. The hardest part of joining the government was not losing the comfort and stability from my previous work, but losing precious time to see my son grow up.

The past six years were very challenging, but also very fulfilling. We improved upon the prudent macroeconomic and fiscal management of the previous administrations. With a stronger macroeconomy, we were able to shift our attention to addressing micro-issues. We pursued the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program; the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program; the Rice Tariffication Law; the National ID Program; the Ease of Doing Business Act; and the Amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, Foreign Investments Act, and the Public Service Act.

We also enacted the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Law to help manage risks from the pandemic; we also enacted the Universal Health Care Law; the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program Act; the Free Tertiary Education Law; and the Philippine Innovation Act. Congress has also ratified the Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Development Financing System Act.

In the past year, several executive orders were issued to extend or modify tariff rates and minimum access volumes to expand the supply and thus lower the prices of key commodities, such as pork, rice, corn, and coal. These have all helped reduce the pace of inflation.

The pandemic has slowed down the pace of our development, but not our resolve. The good news is that our recovery is very evident as we manage risks better, increase vaccination rate, and open further the economy. Our 8.3 percent GDP growth rate in the first quarter is a testament to our strong recovery.

However, the recovery of the education sector has significantly lagged behind. I mentioned earlier that when I entered government, Ashby was only one-year-old. Now, he is almost seven years old. He spent his entire Kinder and Grade 1 studying online. He is now in Grade 2 and is only going to school every other week due to an existing one-meter rule inside the classroom that effectively reduced capacity to just 50 percent. This obsolete rule has to go, especially since the entire country is in alert level 1 or 2.

Ashby and other children can go to the malls, play in the streets, and even travel, yet they cannot fully have face-to-face classes. This is very unfortunate. For many Filipinos who do not have power, money, or influence, a good education serves as the stepping stone to realizing their potential and securing a better future. I was one of them.

With all our children safely back inside their classrooms, our recovery from the pandemic will be stronger and their future more secure.

Thank you very much and I look forward to seeing you on the 1st of July 2022 for the turnover ceremony with incoming Secretary Arsenio Balisacan. Take care.