Finance Undersecretary Karl Chua; Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino; BIR Deputy Commissioner Marissa Cabreros; Dean Patricia Empleo, UST Alfredo M. Velayo College of Accountancy; Dean Jose Ireneo, Executive Director of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA); Professors and Officials of the University of Santo Tomas; students, guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Let me thank the University of Santo Tomas Alfredo M. Velayo College of Accountancy and the UST Accountancy Student Council for all the effort you have put making this Consultative Tax Convention and Youth Consultative Workshop happen.
I would also like to thank the National Federation of Junior Philippine Institute of Accountants of the National Capital Region, and the Junior Philippine Economics Society for the invaluable support provided for this convention.
As you may know, the first Sulong Pilipinas consultative workshop was held in Davao City in June of 2016, right after the election and prior to the inauguration of this administration. The recommendations submitted during that meeting were instrumental in finalizing the 10-point socio-economic program of the Duterte administration. This reform agenda has begun to produce desired results for our people. The comprehensive tax reform program now produces reliable revenue flows that enable the government to undertake its ambitious Build, Build, Build infrastructure modernization program. Infrastructure modernization, in turn, allows our economy to grow at a faster rate and attract more investments to make our development more inclusive.
Since 2016, we have conducted a number of additional Sulong Pilipinas consultative workshops around the country. This enabled us to fine-tune our socio-economic reform priorities to the stated needs of specific sectors of society.
Today’s consultative workshop is the first Sulong Pilipinas workshop catering exclusively to college students. This focus on the youth is crucial and timely. Over half our population now is composed of millennials. We have one of the youngest demographic profiles in the world, with a median age of 24 years old.
My staff early today just showed me that we are the second youngest in the Asia Region. Only Laos is younger than ourselves–has an average age of 22 years old–while ours is 24.
Having a young workforce is both a great opportunity and a challenge. We need our economy to grow rapidly to accommodate a huge wave of young Filipinos entering the workforce.
A young population is also one of our country’s greatest assets. We need to be ready to reap the benefits of our “demographic sweet spot”, by cultivating a dynamic, well-trained workforce to enable sustained economic expansion long into the foreseeable future. This is the reason we have devoted a significant portion of our increasing revenue flows from the improved collection performance as well as from tax reforms towards investments in our human capital.
By 2020, millennials are expected to make up approximately 50 percent of the worldwide workforce and take senior positions across all sectors, according to various global reports. Before you know it, you will be taking critical roles in various fields and areas of expertise.
Your energetic participation in tackling societal issues, evidenced by your presence here and your active voices in social media, show that you are invested in pushing for genuine change. You can all be effective drivers of change today, and it is imperative to recognize real opportunities to make a difference.
Former United States President Barack Obama recently said, and I quote: “If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself, see how woke I was, I called you out. That’s not activism. That’s not being about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far”, close quote.
Being woke must translate into action carried out beyond cyberspace. The “call-out” culture should take a backseat to what is true activism – meaningful, proactive action that will improve the lives of the Filipino people.
Therefore, I challenge everyone here to apply what you are learning in economics, accounting, finance, and related courses. Aim for excellence that is not only reflected in your G-P-A or Q-P-I, but in the application of what you are learning to solve real problems that our fellow Filipinos experience. If you hold steadfast to this conviction, I know our country will be in good hands.
No matter how many likes or hearts your last post received, it cannot, on its own, raise the resources needed to sustain an effective program or help poor families access the credit they need to invest in healthcare or their children’s education. Real problems require real solutions – and we all know that not everyone will click on “like” for every good idea that also manages to strike a balance among competing interests. Every solution will result in “winners and losers” and winners will like you, and the losers might dislike you. It takes courage and grit to fight for what you know is right, whether or not it is trending positively online.
And it doesn’t stop here in this workshop and in our social media accounts. It’s our responsibility as law-abiding citizens to take up the call of the times – to make meaningful change happen in the real world.
I will leave you with another challenge. I challenge you to bring your talents and skills to public service. I hope to see many of you joining government service as we need more young people like Elijen Saez – where is Elijen? There. Stand up, Eli. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Economics degree as Summa Cum Laude, in UST Class of 2018. And of course, Attorney Nina Asuncion. She completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism — stand up, Nina – in 2006, and Bachelor of Laws in 2010 in UST as well, to bring new perspectives and reinvent and refresh the governance of this country.
We need you to remind all of us belonging to the older and more cynical generations for whom we are actually working so hard to make things better and that you are willing to dedicate some of the best years of your professional lives to achieving the same.
I value working with young people. You will find that the average age of the members of my immediate team in my office is about 25 years old. The team is comprised of highly energetic, dynamic, dedicated and smart individuals like Eli. In fact, my team includes class valedictorians and achievers from various universities including the one that won the UAAP (Basketball) Championship.
I believe that most of you, like the members of my team, you will find government work to be very difficult, long hours, lousy pay but exciting and fulfilling. The scale of the impact of what we accomplish in our Department and other agencies makes taking on the challenge worth it. When we win, we win big for our people.
You, the young Filipinos, are the direct beneficiaries of the sustained growth we seek to achieve through the reforms we now undertake. The future belongs to you. You have the greatest stake in our economy’s success. It will shape your career paths and the quality of your lives. Your voices must be heard.
Therefore, on behalf of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte who at one time was young like you, I accept the recommendations arising from your intense workshops. These recommendations, coming from the successor generation, will certainly enlighten our policymaking.
Thank you for taking a step forward with us today. I hope this workshop has been as stimulating and rewarding for you as it has been for us.