Ambassador Raul S. Hernandez of the Republic of Philippines in Seoul and Madame Mria Ana A. Hernandez hosted a reception at the Grand Hyatt Seoul on June 12, 2015 to celebrate the 117th anniversary of the Proclamation of the Philippine Independence. The reception was attended many distinguished guests from Korean government and other segments of society as well from the Seoul Diplomatic Corps and the Philippine and other international communities.
Attending the party from the Korean side were Speaker Chung Ui-hwa of the National Assembly, Reps. Choi Kyu-seong (chairman of the Korea-Philippines Parliamentary Friendship Association) and Jasmine Lee, and many other dignitaries from all walks of life.
From the international community came many fforeign mission chiefs and other senior diplomats, who included Ambassadors Elisabeth Bertagnoli of Austria, Natallia Jhylevich of Belarus, Guadalupe Palomeque de Taboada of Bolivia, Sylvestre Kouassi Bile of Cote d'Ivoire, Tomas Husak of Czech Republic, Hany Moawad Selim Labib of Egypt, Hassan Taherian of Iran, Dato Rohana binti Ramli of Malaysia, Kaman Singh Lama of Nepal, Zahid Nasrulah Khan of Pakistan, Krzysztof Majka of Poland, Milan Lajciak of Slovak Republic, Gonzalo Ortiz Diaz-Tortosa of Spain, Tissa Wijeratne of Sri Lanka, Myrat Mammetalyyev of Turkmenistan andYadira Hidalgo de Ortiz of Venezuela.
Speaking to the guests, Ambassador Hernandez said that the Philippines sent more than 7,000 troops to help defend and later rebuild this young republic, based on the same principles by which hundreds of thousands of our people took up arms in 1896, 1898 and 1942. Then he said that “112 of our soldiers paid with their lives and another 300 or so were injured as a result of this tragic and needless conflict that continues to affect this great nation and divide the Peninsula.”
On cultural and people-to-people relations, he said, “More than 100,000 Koreans call the Philippines home, while more than 1 million Koreans have been coming on short stays every year since 2012, accounting for a quarter of the total number of foreign tourists.” “At the other end,” he noted, “52,000 Filipinos live and work here, with a fifth of them married to Korean men and at least 23,000 are workers.”
(Excerpts from the speech are at the end of this Article.)
There were traditional Philippine music performances presented by a Philippine lady music troupe against the back drop of cool water fountains outside the northern glass walls of the Grand Ballroom.
Excerpts from the speech of Ambassador Fernandez:
It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome all of you here at the Grand Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel on the occasion of the National Day of the Republic of the Philippines. This day is especially meaningful for me and my wife as it is the first National Day reception we are hosting since arriving in Seoul in May last year.
This year we mark the 117th anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence, which falls on the same month as the 65th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. The Philippines sent more than 7,000 of its brave and faithful sons over five years to help defend and later rebuild this young republic, based on the same principles by which hundreds of thousands of our people took up arms in 1896, 1898 and 1942. “Freedom is not free,” it is said, and so 112 of our soldiers paid with their lives and another 300 or so were injured as a result of this tragic and needless conflict that continues to affect this great nation and divide the Peninsula.
Even as these bonds forged by blood formed the foundation of our 66-year relations, our two nations continue to stand side-by-side not only as staunch defenders of freedom and democracy, but as steadfast partners in development and prosperity. Korea is our fifth largest trading partner and fifth largest source of investments since the start of this decade. More and more Korean firms are entering, or ? taking advantage of the ASEAN-Korea FTA ? are interested in the Philippines as a manufacturing and services base in the ASEAN Economic Community that will be formed at the end of the year.
Official development assistance from the Korean government and loans with very low interest rates have been extended to finance the many road projects, airports, seaports, power plants, dams and irrigation facilities all over the country.
In cultural and people-to-people relations, more than 100,000 Koreans call the Philippines home, while more than 1 million Koreans have been coming on short stays every year since 2012, accounting for a quarter of the total number of foreign tourists. At the other end, 52,000 Filipinos live and work here, with a fifth of them married to Korean men and at least 23,000 are workers. Inspired by Korean dramas and K-pop, almost half a million more Filipinos come to Korea as tourists.
We also have more than 600 Filipino students absorbing new ideas from the best universities and academic institutions in Korea. On the other side of education equation, more than 200,000 Koreans from pre-school to university levels learn or polish their English in ESL courses throughout our sun-drenched, sea-splashed archipelago.
Korea has likewise stood by us through thick and thin, most recently by sending more than 500 medical and engineering troops for one year to help rebuild areas in Leyte devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in December 2013 and also by engaging our armed forces in comprehensive and robust logistics cooperation crucial to our plans to establish a minimum credible defense capability.
Let me take this opportunity to recognize our Guest of Honor for his efforts to sustain our vital and vibrant ties. In the time-honored tradition adhered to by presidents and heads of the independent branches of both our governments, Honorable Rep. Chung Ui-hwa visited Manila in March this year to further enhance Philippines-Korea bilateral relations and pursue active dialogues not only with our legislators but also with President Benigno S. Aquino III and our other ministers. In the wake of his visit, we eased our rules on Korean permanent residents and committed ourselves to ensuring the continued safety and well-being of all Koreans living or traveling in the Philippines.
Finally, tonight is also an excellent occasion to take notice of some of our recent achievements. The Philippines has been in the last couple of years one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, and certainly in Southeast Asia. While the most recent figures have shown some reduction in pace, I am proud to state that our economy has now registered positive quarterly growth rates for a whopping 65 consecutive quarters. That is more than 16 years, from 1999 to 2015. Further, business optimism in the country’s growth prospects has grown, bolstering our confidence that we will make our yearend target of 7 percent.
As we enter the sixth and last year of the Aquino administration’s thrust of good governance and prudent fiscal management, we look forward to enhanced political and economic stability in Mindanao, which would usher peace after four decades of conflict and unleash the growth potential of the Philippines’ second biggest island and land of promise. Congress is considering amendments to the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, which would allow foreign investors to own land as well as remove restrictions in the control and management of Filipino companies and liberalize investments in natural resource extraction, media and education. Further, our country has just approved the implementation by 2016 of the CARS Program, which will provide US$600 million in incentives to encourage qualified car makers and car parts manufacturers to boost production in order to elevate the Philippines into a car manufacturing hub in the region.
In closing, I would like to thank all of you for coming tonight to celebrate and remember the things the Philippines ? as a responsible and law-abiding citizen of the global community ? has achieved together with our friends and partners, like Korea, with whom we share common values, in order to uphold peaceful, stable and prosperous multilateral relations based on the rule of law and international legal principles.
Kamsa Hamnida (Thank you). Mabuhay and good evening to everyone.