24 July 2019, Balamban, Cebu
As delivered

Ladies and gentlemen, magandang hapon sa inyong lahat.

I’d just like to say that this is really an exciting day for us Filipinos, for us promoting trade and industry in the country, promoting investments in the country.

I will start where the governor ended. I would like to really thank Austal Philippines for really believing in the Filipino, the capabilities and all the positive attributes. Normally, if we talk about foreign investors, we hear those positive traits to the point that they’re becoming rhetoric. Highly-educated, easily trainable, honest, creative. But really hearing from the investors themselves gives us a feeling that they’re for real. They are really citing positive factors to them why they chose the Philippines.

This is really inspiring. I had about a two-minute speech with the President. I was lucky to have with me pictures of the high-speed patrol boats and so many beautiful ships being built by Austal. Of course, a lover of all these boats and military equipment, our President really was impressed by these pictures.

And I was saying to the President, Mr. President, all these high-tech, high-speed patrol boats are being done here in the Philippines by Filipino workers. Filipinos are so good in fabrication that they only needed help in design engineering and that is what Austal provided. You are helping us elevate skills of the Filipino workforce. And that to us means a lot. That is really the pride and joy of the Philippines—the Filipino workers themselves.

When the President learned that these are done in the Philippines, right here in Balamban Cebu, he got excited. He said that, hey, we should have these ships in our Philippine navy. I guess you just have to go through the regular bidding process, but I am sure that there is really an advantage of getting the boats from local manufacturers.

Obviously, it creates jobs and creates a lot of income opportunities around the town and around the country. I’m also looking forward to OPVs (offshore patrol boats) coming from Austal. Of course, subject to the usual bidding process.

But the good thing with the President is that you can always hear him say that contracts should not be awarded just to the lowest bidder. We have several meetings to hopefully change this. It should be the specifications, quality, brand-based bidding and having a lowest bidder based on those quality and brand. That is what we’re really aiming for. Hopefully we would have that changed and really give more premium and preference for those who can give high quality equipment, vessels, or anything that we need.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) fully supports Austal and the Philippine shipbuilding industry as they contribute to our drive to expand our manufacturing base by building more ships locally. You don’t just build our domestic capacity. You also build our capacity to export and improve the country’s balance of trade position.

There are huge opportunities in the shipbuilding industry, especially every time we meet, I ask David how is the local content contribution? You’ve cited that it is increasing, the last time it was 15, but I think you want to bring it closer to 20, 30, even up to 50% local capacity. You have given a lot of jobs, close to 1,000 and with your investments, this would be a big boost to increasing domestic capacity that will help us in the balance of trade.

As of 2018, the Philippines is recognized as the 4th largest shipbuilder in the world, and thanks to Austal for being part of it. Total employment in the industry is estimated at around 50,000. We have 119 shipyards and 167 shipyard facilities across the country, but we can only cite the big ones and Austal is one of the big, modern, high-capacity facilities.

Even as President Rodrigo Duterte himself has lauded the ships made in our country, we take inordinate pride that many of our countrymen are working in the industry. But we admit that there is a need to broaden their shipbuilding skills and knowledge in terms of design and operation, and we are hopeful that further training can help in this regard.

Meanwhile, the Inclusive, Innovation-led, Industrial Strategy (i³S) includes Shipbuilding among our Top 12 Priority Sectors that we will grow and develop into globally competitive and innovative industries. We will also strengthen their linkages into domestic and global value chains. Lastly, we have a Manpower Development Plan for the shipbuilding sector that we’re coordinating with the Technical Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and other technical vocational institutions that can help train, just provide the basic training. And Austal can pass on the curriculum and module that can be passed on to workers.

We are grateful that with Austal’s expansion of their Balamban shipyard, we can continue to improve our shipbuilding industry. We are already thankful that their investment of that will increase our country’s Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).

In closing, we hope that this greater collaboration between the Philippines and Austal will result in more ships—including patrol ships and advanced high-speed ferries—being built locally. On the government’s part, let me reiterate the promise of the President that there will be no corruption under his administration and that we will not tolerate any harassment of investors. As President Duterte said, your investments will be protected here.

More importantly, the Filipino people will gain a better quality of life through the jobs and employment opportunities created by Austal’s investments and expansion. To this end, we are all fulfilling the promise made by President Duterte’s vow of Tapang at Malasakit. That is bravery and concern for others. Salamat po at mabuhay tayong lahat.