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[OPINION] He served our country well

He was an honest, decent, and very private man. He was also one of our most effective presidents.

President Noynoy Aquino did not have a remarkable stint in Congress prior to his landslide election as president. He won mainly as a result of our country’s outpouring of love and sympathy on the passing of his mother, our beloved President Cory. He was elected by a people eager to regain their faith in their leaders after 12 years of division amid corruption in government’s highest levels. Filipinos gave him their trust, which he reinforced by forming a Cabinet made up of men and women of very impressive competence and integrity.

President Noynoy’s leadership was quiet, humble, and respectful, and it was effective. Through his personal integrity and his administration’s credibility, diligence, and competence, he gained the confidence and support of the majority of Filipinos, not the least of whom was the business community. As chair of the Makati Business Club, I was often the spokesperson for the advocacies and concerns of the business community voiced through the Philippine Business Groups and the Joint Foreign Chambers and had ample opportunities to interact with the President and his key advisers and congressional leaders. We were treated with respect and our views were discussed seriously, and while we did not always agree, mutual trust was established and we became very willing supporters and collaborators in the pursuit of common economic goals. The PPP model of public-private partnerships came to life and gave rise to numerous infrastructure and other vital projects.

Even outside purely economic concerns, the business sector found an administration willing to listen and respond, and thus through Philippine Business for Education, we collaborated with the Department of Education and became principal advocates of the shift to the K-to-12 basic education system, a very significant and much-needed reform for Philippine education. In support of Philippine history and culture, the PNoy administration provided unprecedented funding for an entirely new National Museum of Natural History, and when the project needed support from the private sector, the response was massive and immediate, and the result is now present for all to see, a living example of a world-class public-private partnership.

Soon enough, the rest of the world began to notice that the Philippines, under the enlightened management of President Noynoy, was worth a fresh look, and we were back on the radar screen of global investors. The tone from the top was set by a President who lived simply without a tinge of greed or corruption and who seemed truly determined to do only what would improve the lives of his people. He practiced good governance and respected the rule of law. And he was supported by a respected Cabinet who shared his vision for a better Philippines. These plus a reform agenda that was implemented competently proved to be a potent formula for a successful presidency. Was it perfect and trouble-free? By no means, but the results throughout his term were there for all to see.

The Philippine economy grew an average of 6.2 percent and twice exceeded 7 percent, the best performance since the 1970s, and the Philippines obtained its first investment grade score from a major credit rating agency. In rankings of global competitiveness, the Philippines scored major gains from 2010 to 2015: from 115th place to 70th in the Economic Freedom Index, from 92nd to 64th in the World Economic Forum Global Enabling Trade Index, and from 85th to 47th in the Global Competitiveness Index. Foreign direct investments improved from $1.07 billion in 2010 to $8.2 billion in 2016. Employment rose and 7.7 million Filipinos were lifted out of poverty.

Finally, in the administration’s crowning achievement, we stood up to China and forcefully asserted our sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea by obtaining a unanimous ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that rejected China’s sweeping claims under their “nine-dash line.” Through this bold initiative, President Noynoy restored Filipino pride and showed how much can be achieved through principled courage and confident action.

Like his parents before him, President Noynoy served his “bosses,” the Filipino people, extremely well, and we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Maraming salamat, Mr. President.