Isang karangalan para sa akin na ibahagi sa inyo ang bunga ng aking opisyal na pagbisita sa Malaysia magmula ika-27 hanggang ika-29 ng Mayo at sa Estados Unidos magmula ika-29 ng Mayo hanggang ika-3 ng Hunyo. 

                  Together with 35 business leaders from the Philippines, I embarked on my official visit to Malaysia with a mission to bring the good news about the Philippines to our ASEAN neighbor.

                  Not only did I meet with members of the Malaysian business community, I also had the opportunity to hold bilateral talks with ranking officials of the Malaysian government, led by no less than His Excellency, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, for the first high-level bilateral discussions between our two countries in the last five years.

                  And I am happy to report that there is renewed enthusiasm about the Philippines. Lahat po ng aking nakausap, negosyante man o mataas na opisyal ng pamahalaan ng Malaysia, ay nagagalak sa nangyayari sa Pilipinas. Handa silang dagdagan  pa ang kanilang pamumuhunan sa ating bansa at higit pang palawigin ang pagkakaisa at pagtutulungan sa pagitan ng Malaysia at Pilipinas.

                  The Malaysian business community, to use their own words, is very excited about the Philippines. They are attracted by the broad business opportunities and a business environment that encourages growth. They gladly welcome the new policy directions set by the administration of President Aquino promoting transparency and a level playing field.

                  This excitement and enthusiasm was manifested by the revival of the Malaysian-Philippines Business Council, which includes some of the big names in Malaysian business, and the convening of the Philippines-Malaysia Investment Partnership Forum where I had the honor to deliver the keynote speech.

                  I believe my interaction with the Malaysian business community has further fueled their enthusiasm. Before my departure, I was informed that several investors will be arriving in Manila within the next few weeks to explore investment opportunities, particularly in agriculture, agribusiness, housing, banking and finance, energy, tourism and infrastructure. 

                  As proof of their commitment to the Philippines, I witnessed in Kuala Lumpur the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the MTD Group of Malaysia, the Isabela Power Corporation and Greenpower Resources Corporation for the construction of nine mini-hydro power plants in my home province of Isabela with a cost of us $240 million. These power plants are expected to generate and add about 80 megawatts to Luzon’s electric power grid, and will be implemented within a period of three years.

                  I had the honor of meeting His Excellency Prime Minister Najib at his office in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s government center.  

                  I shared with His Excellency my belief that the strong political interests between Malaysia and the Philippines can only grow stronger in the years ahead.  Our partnership is not only bilateral but also regional and through ASEAN and BIMP-EAGA we have strong institutions that offer maximum opportunities for political and economic cooperation.

                  On our dispute with China over Panatag Shoal, His Excellency expressed Malaysia’s support for our position that a resolution of the dispute must be within the framework of international law. He also proposed a broad regional approach that would include other claimants to Spratlys, which is also in the South China Sea.

                  On the Southern Philippine problem, I conveyed to His Excellency our government’s gratitude to Malaysia for being an active third country facilitator in the peace negotiations between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. I also assured the Prime Minister that President Aquino is committed to ending the secessionist conflict within his term. Both the Prime Minister and myself were in agreement that peace in Mindanao would bring development not only to the Philippines but to the region as well.

                  As Presidential Adviser on OFW concerns, I asked the Philippine Embassy to arrange a visit to the Filipino Workers Resource Center where I talked with 19 wards billeted there.  Most of them were victims of illegal recruitment, arriving in Malaysia via Tawi-Tawi and Sandakan in Sabah.  I encouraged them to execute affidavits against their recruiters so we can file the necessary charges upon our return to Manila. The embassy has assured me that all the 19 will be returning to the Philippines upon completion of the necessary exit documents.

                  While preparing for my departure to the United States, I received the news that a Malaysian court has sentenced a Filipina to death for drug smuggling.

                  I immediately instructed Ambassador Ed Malaya to extend assistance to Eliza San Gabriel, and the ambassador assured me that the Philippine Embassy will assist Eliza in filing her appeal before the proper court.

                  While the news is disturbing, I remain optimistic that Malaysia will extend its compassion and leniency to Eliza, as it had done in the past.

                  In fact, on the same day that the report about the tragic fate of our kababayan was released, I was informed by our embassy that three Overseas Filipino Workers have been spared the death penalty in Sabah after receiving pardons from the Malaysian government.

                  We sincerely appreciate the grant of pardon and see it as further validation of the strong ties between the Philippines and Malaysia.

                  My visit to the United States was upon the official invitation of the World Bank to speak before the 5th Global Housing Finance Conference at the World Bank Headquarters’ Preston Auditorium.

                  I had the opportunity to meet with senior officials of the World Bank where I informed them of our efforts to address the housing needs of our people, especially the underprivileged, the resettlement of Filipinos displaced by natural calamities, and the concerns of informal settlers both in urban areas and in the rural areas.

                  I encouraged the World Bank to consider extending both technical assistance and financial assistance to the Philippines, namely in the implementation of our program to build sustainable housing communities in areas like the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, North Triangle in Quezon City, San Miguel New Town, and Welfareville in Mandaluyong.

                  We also sought technical assistance in reforming our loan program for the homeless poor, and the formulation of a policy to encourage rural banks to open a special window on housing and micro finance.

                  I am glad to announce that the World Bank has acted positively on our requests and that steps will be taken to see to its immediate implementation.

                  I also had the occasion to meet with Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, chief of the office monitoring compliance with the trafficking in persons campaign of the US State Department. I gave him a detailed report on the Philippines’ progress in our fight against human trafficking.  Ambassador CdeBaca commended our efforts, and expressed his wish that the Philippines play a key role in promoting the campaign against human trafficking in the ASEAN region.

                  He also extended an invitation to a forthcoming meeting on human trafficking with other leaders of Asia and the Pacific in Yangoon sometime in July 2012.

                  I also had a meeting with a group of Filipino teachers and professionals who were victims of illegal recruitment by agencies based in the Philippines and the US. I assured them that my office will review their complaints and file the necessary cases against those behind their recruitment.

                  My visits will not be complete without a dialog with the Filipino communities. In both Malaysia and the United States, I encouraged our kababayans to help spread the good news about the Philippines, to be proud of being Filipinos, and to show their faith the Philippines by investing in their land of birth.

                  Thank you for your time. It’s good to be back home.