Press Release
July 14, 2014

Sen. Grace Poe's Speech
At the PICPA Accountancy Week
July 14, 2014

Before anything else, let me first acknowledge the following guests and officers of PICPA:

It is truly a great honor to be given this opportunity to speak before you today. I have always been in awe of accountants and, in all honesty, I admire the job you do. To me, accounting is a job that seems very tedious, quite complicated and rather boring. This is probably because mahina ako sa math (joke).


I would like to begin my speech by talking a little about one of my foremost advocacies at the moment. And that is the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

Much of my first year in the Senate was spent working for the passage of a (strong) Freedom of Information bill. As you may well know, pumasa na po ang FOI bill sa Senado noong Marso. Sa ngayon, ang FOI bill ay dinidinig sa Kamara de Representante, sa ilalim ng kumite ni Congressman Jorge Almonte (ng Misamis Occicental).

Maraming nagsasabi, "Grace, huwag mo nang ipaglaban yang FOI, hindi naman yan ma- appreciate ng masa." But what is really the significance of the FOI? This act will empower the people to gather information from the government. Thus, this will compel state institutions to grant the public access to information about what their government is doing and not doing for them. Once the FOI is passed into law, any citizen can request and scrutinize public documents that were before not accessible to him. Of course there will be exemptions, those documents that are protected for national security. With this increased level of public scrutiny and transparency, FOI will reduce corruption and bring about better government in the Philippines. If we had the FOI, I don't think we would have reached this point of controversy in our PDAF because at the very start, every senator's office should be able to upload in their website and made available for scrutiny all the projects that they have. So even the media will be able to approach the office or check the website and see for themselves if those projects are legitimate or not.

I thought of mentioning the FOI here because you accountants (especially those among you working in government) will play an invaluable role in the success of FOI. This is because, as accountants, you are (usually) the custodians of the financial records of your respective organizations. You know how much was spent for what project and for whom. You help prepare the financial statements, liquidation reports and the plantilla of your organization. These are the types of information that our people would be interested to know once we have FOI. Therefore, as accountants and financial officers, you must make sure that all (financial) information that you post online or release to the public must be true and accurate. Financial statements, budgetary disbursements, corporate disclosures and other similar documents (that you usually prepare) must reflect the truth and must never mislead the public. This is your professional as well as moral obligation as licensed certified public accountants (CPAs), as contained in your Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). You must never allow yourselves to be used as tools by corrupt government officials to cover up a malfeasance or to deceive the public, hindi nagsisinungaling ang numero. As accountants, you must always fight for what is true.

This is why I am very happy and excited to hear that your group is organizing an "Operation Election Count" to help ensure clean and honest elections this coming 2016 and beyond. I think this is an excellent idea- sino pa ba ang mas gagaling mag-tally ng boto kung hindi kayong mga accountants? Please know that you have my full support on this initiative, and I will encourage COMELEC and urge all of you to throw your full support to this worthwhile endeavor, so that in 2016 our country will have election results that is truly reflective of the true choice and voice of the people.

One of the bills that I would like to concentrate my efforts on to pass is the Standard Lunch Program for public elementary and high schools. I would like to pitch this now because first of all, 34% of our population are children below 17 years old. Nakita ninyo kung gaano kababata ang sa workforce natin ngayon, kayo sa opisina ninyo diba napakarami ring mga bata na mga nag-aaaply? It is the young ones, our rich resource in our youth--being able to supply the needs of our employment requirements that is our prime advanatge. But then to be able to preserve this advantage, we have to make sure that our kids in the public schools are well-fed. Ladies and gentlemen, hindi naman tatalino yang mga yan kung gutom sila. So that's what I'm saying, dapat may Standard Lunch Program sapagkat ano ba naman ang pagkagastusan ng gobyerno ang pagkaing mapupunta diretso sa tiyan ng ating mga anak. Kung P63 billion ang conditional cash transfer program a year, ang free lunch program para sa mga bata ay P11 billion, hindi pa mabubulsa ang pera. Kaya nga kailangang pag-aralang mabuti para yung logistics ay magawa. So I'm fighting for a version of this. I hope it will pass but of course we will need the help of accountants to make sure that the bidding process and everything else, how it will be managed, is really viable. Ladies and gentlemen, China is a very powerful country today. But in a Time magazine issue, it said that in the year 2050, one in three people in China will be over the age of 60 years old, even their population is growing old. The same is true for Japan. But the Philippines, by 2050, we will be at the peak of our workforce, with a lot of young members of society getting into the workforce. So we have to be able to invest in this particular advantage of ours. At the very beginning, as a mother, I think all of you will appreciate this. A child that is properly fed, properly clothed, properly cared for will be a child that will have better chances of succeeding.

Let me now go to the topic at hand.

This year's convention theme is "LEAP and BEAT the Odds" as PICPA gears toward meeting the challenges and opportunities presented by ASEAN Economic Integration in 2015.

I think the question in everyone's minds right now is: ano ba itong ASEAN Economic Integration? And how will it affect me as a professional accountant once it takes effect next year?

Well, allow me to share what I take ASEAN Integration will mean for you in the simplest terms.

Noon, kung bagong CPA passer ka, ang karaniwang "career path" mo ay maghanap ng trabaho sa Makati (e.g. apply ka sa SGV) and then, after gaining some experience and contacts, set up ka ng sarili mong accountancy firm or maghanap ka ng trabaho sa U.S., Canada o sa Middle East.

With ASEAN Economic Integration, our Filipino professionals will have greater employment opportunities and broader career options. Once the Philippines is fully integrated into the ASEAN economy, a newly-licensed CPA will now have broader opportunities for employment. Kung noon, pagkakuha mo ng lisensiya mo sa Makati ka lang naghahanap ng trabaho, sa ASEAN Integration puwede ka na tumingin kung may opening sa Malaysia, Singapore o Indonesia. Or kung halimbawa hindi ka na happy sa present work mo (e.g. dahil mabagal ang promotion o limited ang career advancement prospects mo), you can explore and transfer to another company in another ASEAN country without suffering any diminution in your rank or pay.

Pero bago po ito mangyari, may mga hakbang tayong kailangang gawin para maisakatuparan ito. Before this could happen, both the Philippine government and the professions need to put in place policy reforms. First and foremost, we need to formulate clear guidelines and procedures for the "reciprocity of professions" within the ASEAN region. DOLE and PRC, I believe, are currently in the process of finalizing policy measures for the implementation of the "Mutual Recognition Agreements" (MRA) with our ASEAN neighbors. The accountancy profession is perhaps more fortunate (than other professions) because the MRA process for your sector started quite early (commencing as early as February 2009), with PICPA and PRC taking the lead in negotiating reciprocity agreements with their ASEAN counterparts. So chances are, Filipino accountants will be among the first Filipino professionals to enjoy this "reciprocity of professions" under the new ASEAN Economic Order.

But just on the issue of changing the school calendar and adjusting the curriculum to meet the ASEAN's standards, these two were very contentious. Diba maraming problema about the K-12, but as we have seen, if the proposed change is explained properly and sufficiently to our people, their initial rejection will give way to cooperation, because the goal of the K-12 is that when you graduate from the K-12 system, you will be able to work in certain fields or in certain professions without having to continue to college or obtain a college degree. Not because we are discouraging those to seek college degrees but they should be able to have live skills as soon as they graduate from K-12, that's why as chairperson of Public Order in Dangerous Drugs Committee, one of my bills is to be able to make sure that those that will graduate from the K-12 will be eligible for admission in the Philippine National Police.

But more important than policy reforms, there must be a change in your mindsets. Even now, I can sense that some of you are adamant or scared of ASEAN integration. Huwag po kayong matakot. Instead, you must welcome and embrace change. Kasi, ika nga ni Jose Mari Chan, "life is a constant change." Actually, dapat mas matakot sila sa inyo, because the Filipino accountant is reputed to be one of the world's best. This is because, aside from the fact that we are the best English-speakers in the ASEAN region, our professionals are known to be the most hard-working, dedicated, easy-to-get-along-with, creative and competent professionals in Asia. I imagine that there is an accountant in Singapore (Malaysia, Thailand or Brunei) who feels threatened, frightened that he/she will be "boxed out" by an accountant from the Philippines.

To be sure, full economic integration will not happen overnight. It will take many years, decades even, and there will be setbacks for sure. I expect that the process of economic integration will be a tough and long process, fraught with much controversy and strong resistance. For example, to achieve full economic integration, the Philippines must synchronize its educational system, legal framework and other institutional mechanisms with the rest of ASEAN. But just on the issue of changing the school calendar and adjusting the curriculum to meet ASEAN standards - these were two very contentious issues and most of our schools were against it initially. But as we have seen, if the proposed "change" is explained properly/sufficiently to our people, their initial rejection will give way to cooperation. This is why professional organizations, such as PICPA, must step up on its efforts to explain the implications of ASEAN 2015 to all its members, and make the transition process as less "painful" as possible.

For my part, I would be more than willing to sponsor a bill in the Senate to amend the Accountancy Charter to make it more attuned to modern times. The Accountancy Law (Republic Act 9298) was last amended 10 years ago, and it may require further refinements, in light of current developments like the impending ASEAN Integration in 2015. The door of my office is always open to PICPA should you have any concerns or measures you want passed to make the accountancy profession more competitive vis-à-vis our neighbors in the ASEAN.

In closing, I would like to say that we have no choice but to integrate with the rest of ASEAN. Huwag po tayong matakot. Instead, let us prepare ourselves to meet the challenges ahead and grab the opportunities presented by the new ASEAN Economic Order.

Maraming salamat at maganding umaga po sa inyong lahat.

News Latest News Feed