WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Philippine Embassy marked the 115th year of Philippine Independence on Wednesdaywith a well-attended diplomatic reception that allowed it to share the good news about the economic transformation taking place in the country.
“Truly, we have much to celebrate as a country and as a people. Hope is permeating the Philippines today and a renewed sense of confidence is felt by Filipinos all over the world,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. told the close to 300 guests who attended the reception at the Hay Adams Hotel.
“Key credit rating agencies have upgraded the Philippines to investment grade. Thus we hear about the Philippines being “the country to watch out for,” “the new Asian tiger,” and “an emerging economic giant,” testaments to the reforms instituted by the Aquino Administration,” he said, adding that the 7.8 percent growth the Philippine economy recorded in the first quarter of the year was the strongest in all of Asia.
Ambassador Cuisia’s positive outlook of the Philippines was also shared by Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo; Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States House of Representatives; and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.
In his remarks, Secretary Domingo echoed Ambassador Cuisia’s optimism: “We have been improving in the competitiveness rankings released by the World Economic Forum, which has raised us from 85th place in 2010 to 65th place. We hope to continue to see more improvements in this rating.”
Among other accomplishments of the Philippines, Secretary Domingo told the audience about the country’s recent investment grade ratings from Standard and Poor’s and Fitch and its emergence as the No. 1 call center destination in the world.
Congressman Royce, for his part, said: “Our economic ties are an important part of this relationship. For too many years, the Philippines had failed to reach its enormous potential. The problems have been bad government, corruption, and generally harmful economic policies.”
“There are welcome signs that conditions are improving. When I met with President Aquino earlier this year in Manila, I was deeply impressed by his commitment to reform. He has already accomplished much under very difficult circumstances,” the California lawmaker added.
In his remarks, Deputy Secretary of State Burns said: “The US is one of the top trading partners of the Philippines and together, through the Partnership for Growth, we are working hard to support and sustain the Philippines’ unprecedented economic growth.”
“We hope to bolster President Aquino’s goals of generating more jobs, attracting greater investments including a more equitable future for all Filipinos for many generations to come,” he told ambassadors and other diplomats, business leaders, congressional staff members and leaders of the Filipino-American Community present.
During the program, Ambassador Cuisia presented awards of recognition to Dr. Gabriel Esteban, President of Seton Hall, the largest Catholic university in New Jersey, and White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford for their outstanding accomplishments.
According to the Ambassador, Dr. Esteban, the first non-Catholic priest to head Seton Hall University, impressed the university with his leadership and business acumen while students and faculty praised him for his personal touch and take-charge personality. “He has led the University to greater heights, with Seton Hall winning more international faculty fellowships and student scholarships, including the first-ever prestigious Rhodes Scholarship,” he said.
Ambassador Cuisia said Comerford was recognized for becoming the first woman and first minority to hold the top position in the White House Kitchen. She served as assistant chef during the Clinton Administration and was subsequently elevated to executive chef by Mrs. Laura Bush in 2005. She was reappointed by First Lady Michelle Obama for her passion and emphasis for healthy eating. Her many responsibilities include designing and executing menus for official dinners and social events.
The event was capped with a performance by Filipina-American Broadway artist, Stephanie Reese, who captivated the audience with her impressive rendition of popular Broadway songs and the time-honored Bayan Ko and Ako ay Pilipino. ###