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interview with Fidel Valdez Ramos

It is no secret in the Philippines that if not for the constitution, Fidel (Eddie) Ramos would have easily won a second presidential term in 1998. During his five-year presidency, the Philippines enjoyed economic growth, and he sought to cut and restructure the country's bloated bureaucracy and to prosecute tax evaders. It was during his time that a peace agreement with military rebels and the MNLF separatists in southern Philippines was achieved, which won him (together with MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari) the UNESCO Peace Prize in 1997 - the first for Asians. As the country's 12th president, Ramos is best remembered 'for his ability to lead and his willingness to be led - not by astute advisors and political strategists, but by the people whom he served.'

Today, his role as mediator and peacemaker in the troubled political world of the Philippines, as well as in the ASEAN region, is invaluable. In the current political turmoil surrounding the presidency of Gloria Arroyo, Ramos represents the voice of reason. Ramos has proposed that the Constitution be amended by a constituent assembly and that the country's form of government be changed to minimize political bickering. Besides politics, another of Ramos' major interest is a non-profit organization he founded and heads, the Ramos Peace & Development Foundation. In line with its slogan of Caring and Sharing for one another and Daring to sacrifice for the common good, its activities are geared towards helping the country's 14.4 million poor families. Since 1998, economic development in the Philippines has been slowed down by the regional financial crisis and internal politics. A national survey organization in 1999 found fully 64 percent of respondents rated themselves as 'poor' or 'very poor.'

He travels widely in his capacity of trustee, board member and advisor to the following organizations: the Carlyle Group, World Intellectual Property Organization (PAC-WIPO), World Bank East Asia Pacific Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, Asia House International Advisory Council, International Crisis Group, to name a few. The following interview with President Ramos was held in June 2005 in Manila.

The PhilippinesCIA World Fact Book
Interview with Fidel Valdez Ramos,
Ricky Carandang [time 29:51]

Welcome to THE LEADERS. I'm Ricky Carandang for AsiaViews in Manila. Ten years ago, the Philippines was on a roll. The economy was booming, investments were coming in, people were optimistic. Today people are less optimistic, the government grapples with record budget deficits, the economy is slowing down. Our guest for was president of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998, Mr. Fidel Valdez Ramos. Mr. President, thank you for joining us.

Ricky Carandang: Mr. President, what happened in the last ten years? From one of the booming tiger economies we've become less sure of ourselves, a little bit more pessimistic, what happened in the last ten years?

Fldel Valdez Ramos: Well, let's say we talk about the last seven years, because up to June 1998 it was still very good. There are really three reasons. First of all, the 1997 financial crisis that hit us here in Southeast Asia, starting in Thailand. But we have recovered from that. Second, the prolonged drought called the El Nino, from about '97 for the next two years, really hit agriculture here. And the third, which is what we call the triple whammy situation, was poor governance, to the extent that the Filipino people, for the second time in recent history, threw out an entire government because of poor governance: the cronyism and the corrupt approach to running the show.

RC: There are some people who say that even after we threw out the government of President Estrada things have not gotten better. What is your view?

Ramos: It's because after you come from a boom and then you decline, it takes time to recoup and restore credit ratings, and most especially, the return of confidence of the international community. Who are the investors, who are the do-gooders? Who are the partners?

RC: Mr. President, beyond the economic indicators, beyond the confidence of investors, it seems to me that sometimes the Filipino people are suffering from a lack of confidence themselves, as a country, and in its place in the region. Do you have that sense that, there's a sense, that we might have lost our way somewhere?

Ramos: We used to say that we must reinforce our unity, our solidarity, and our teamwork. Unity is just being together. As a people this country is made up of 7,107 islands during high tide and some more during low tide. So the culture here, the ethnic origins are very diverse, and therefore unity is very important. But beyond that there must be solidarity in values, in what you're talking about, a spirit of confidence, pride in being Filipinos. Now the third component is really putting unity and solidarity into action, and that means teamwork, because the name of the game out there is competitiveness. The Philippines must compete against a very strong Thai national team, a strong Malaysian national team, and the Vietnamese national team, and now, getting stronger and stronger, an Indonesian national team. We cannot afford to relax or let go of our unity, solidarity and teamwork.

RC: But how do you do that? Perhaps our recent history has exposed some of the divisions that are present in Philippine society. But now that we know that there are divisions, how do we go about uniting people and getting people to work together as a team, as you like to say?

Ramos: Where government is weak, or even failing, is where political will and leadership must come in. Because whatever system of government, whatever the historical experience or the cultural endowments of the country are, it is still the leaders that must carry the ball, see the vision, promulgate the strategy, so that the nation, the people, the country, can go there. For us in the Philippines, it has always been that because of our diversity, and also our poverty at this time, estimated at maybe 30 percent. Who are there, in that situation, according to United Nations standards, it is the national as well as local leadership, that must fill in the void, and then bring the local communities in the country as a whole, to a better condition, in terms of the economy, in terms of social harmony, also in terms of respect and recognition from the international community. And this will all add up to a better future for the country.

RC: Is there a lack of leadership, a lack of vision, in the country today?

Ramos: It's not so much the lack of leadership per se, because there are so many capable leaders here, and maybe that's the problem. There are just too many of them, and they just can't get their act together. And this is the challenge for the Arroyo government, in which I am trying to help as much as I can, as a private citizen, as a man who has retired from public service.

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Presonal Plofile
Fidel Valdez Ramos,
President Fidel Valdez Ramos, the Philippines' chief executive from 1992 to 1998, was born in Pangasinan province on March 18, 1928. A West Point-trained general in the Philippine Constabulary prior to his election as president, Mr. Ramos served as Minister of Defense and the Philippines Armed Forces Chief of Staff. Today, he is chairman and founder of the Manila-based Ramos Peace & Development Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing assistance to 14.4 million poor families in the Philippines. He also travels widely in his capacity of trustee, board member and advisor to the following organizations: the Carlyle Group, World Intellectual Property Organization (PAC-WIPO), the World Bank East Asia Pacific Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, the International Crisis Group, to name a few.
Ricky Carandang, [Interviewer]
Ricky Carandang, is a news anchor/reporter and interviewer for the ABS-CBN News Channel in Manila, Philippines, covering topics on national affairs, business and the economy. He has also undertaken investigative reporting that has resulted in a number of exclusive stories. Prior to joining ABS-CBN, Mr. Carandang, who holds an MBA degree and has a background in banking and securities, was president and business editor of Newsbreak, a Manila-based fortnightly news magazine. Newsbreak is one of the most highly regarded news publications in the Philippines and is a member of the media group that is part of AsiaViews, an online and hardcopy magazine featuring news and commentaries from the Asia region.
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