Commencement Speech
Far Eastern University – East Asia College

Engr. Louis Napoleon C. Casambre
Executive Director, DOST-ICTO

Dr. Echauz, Mr. Tan, FEU-East Asia College Faculty and Staff, our dear Parents and most of especially, FEU – East Asia College Class of 2012, a pleasant good afternoon to all.

First of all I would like to thank Mr. Benson Tan for extending this invitation to speak before you today on this momentous occasion. When you leave these hallowed halls in a few hours, whether you know it or not, like it or not, your lives will never be the same.

In preparing this speech and as a long time ICT professional I was inclined to write something that many of you young folk can relate to like social networking, the latest high-tech gadgets, my reflections on the latest Avengers movie, or the latest showbiz gossip. But to do so will not do justice to the hard work, blood, sweat and tears that you and your parents had to shed to get you to this point.

Batch of 2012, you could not have graduated at a better time than now.

We are at a turning point in our country’s history. Events have been unfolding in the past couple of years that I personally thought would never see in my lifetime. For decades the Philippines has been burdened with an unusually large foreign debt that was incurred way before any of you were born. My generation was actually resigned to the idea that your generation as well the generation after you will be encumbered with paying off this liability. In 2003 the Philippines’ debt crisis was at its peak owing its creditors US$57.6 billion.

My good news for you is that this is no longer the case. As of March of this year the Philippines no longer a debtor to the International Monetary Fund, / but instead, believe or not, / is now a net creditor. Now the IMF actually owes the Philippines money! 500 million dollars were loaned by IMF from the Philippines which in turn lent it to Spain and Italy to help relieve the effects of the EuroZone crisis.

Our foreign reserves that were less than 40 billion dollars in 2008 have doubled to 80 billion in the span of only four years, much in part due to the remittances from our OFWs, which have grown from US$8 billion in 2004 to US$20 billion today, nearly 10 percent of gross domestic product or GDP.  Likewise, the country has attracted more than 6 billion dollars in foreign direct investment in the last year alone, a 15 year high of the Philippines.

Investors have taken notice, Rating companies have upgraded the country’s investment status and our stock market is a buzz with activity bringing our stock index to all time highs. Our budget deficit as a percentage of GDP has shrunk from 3.7 percent in 2009 to just 1 percent last year, according to Bloomberg’s economist Tamara Henderson. That puts the Philippines budget deficit at the same level as Germany’s and far better than India’s alarming 7.3 percent.

In an April 25 Reuters TV report, Morgan Stanley Investment Guru Ruchir Sharma was featured, saying that investments in BRICs is passé (BRIC stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China) and that wise money should focus on TIP – Turkey, Indonesia and the Philippines. Goldman Sachs, HSBC Research, and the World Bank echoed similar rosy forecasts for the Philippine economy.

A recent report by HSBC titled “The World in 2050” captured widespread attention on the Philippines by predicting that the country will become the world’s 16th largest economy by the middle of the century: up 27 places from today. The report predicts that strong fundamentals education levels, strong democracy and low wage costs and powerful demographics  with a young and fast growing population could make the Philippines the “star performer” among emerging economies, with an average annual growth rate of 7% over the next 40 years.”

All of these good news about the Philippines from the outside world only prove that we are on the right track to once again being an Asian Tiger economy.

Right now you are probably wondering why is this guy talking to us about all these economic and investment data and what not? We’re not accounting or business or economics graduates, our chosen field is Engineering and Information and Communications Technology.

I’m telling you all this because the country has changed significantly from when you first enrolled as freshman. Back then the best employment opportunities the Engineering and ICT were to be found overseas. But now my dear graduates, I am happy to report that the best place to find a job in Engineering and ICT is not in Singapore, Taiwan, or the U.S. but here… where you are right now… In the Philippines… where it is…. more FUN!

I am sure that many of you have been thinking of careers abroad and I’m equally sure that many of you have parents that put you through school through their hard work in foreign countries. Almost a tenth of the population still live and work overseas. Our OFWs are our heroes, and forever will be. It is through the steady stream of OFW remittances that our country has weathered economic crisis after economic crisis and they are in great part one of the reasons we are on the verge of this new found prosperity.

As a people however, we have also paid the price for this economic diaspora, families have been broken up, children raised with absentee parents, marriages falling into ruin because of long distance relationships, friends and family left behind… all for the dream of having a better life.

The recent economic good news I shared with you about earlier is a clear signal that our society doesn’t need to be burdened with the social cost of having family and friends working overseas, or to have to find better opportunities elsewhere, for they are already here, or rather it is up to us to make it happen.

Believe it or not, your chosen field in engineering and ICT are actually best suited for our current surging economy, as the professions and options available to you are boundless. Technology and Innovation is fuel the brought established Asian economic powerhouses such as Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia to the levels they are today.

Our current status as an upcoming preferred IT-Business Process Outsourcing destination means that other than finding employment to support local industry, you also have the opportunity that your parents never had, and that is… working abroad but living here.

Globalization has taken down borders and outsourcing has changed the way companies all over the world operate and do business, essential IT jobs like, Application Development, Application Maintenance, System Analysis, Systems Integration, IT Infrastructure Services like Data Center Services, Network Operations and Product Support as well as Design Engineering, Systems Design, Integrated Circuit Design, to name but a few are now outsourced to countries like India and the Philippines, by companies in the U.S., Japan, Europe and Australia.

Likewise, as one of the pioneers in fielding graduates for the IT-enabled creative industries of game development and animation, your alma matter FEU East Asia College is well in touch with the skills and talent needs of the ICT-enabled Creative Economy.

Business Process Outsourcing is now the second largest contributor to the country’s GDP, second only to OFW remittances. Last year the BPO industry contributed US$10.9 billion to our economy and by 2016 we expect this to reach US$30 billion, essentially more than what OFW remittances bring in today.

Likewise, our electronics industry is once again surging, attracted by the country’s improved investment climate, a trustworthy government, as well as a multitude of talented individuals such as yourselves to fill their ranks, multinational electronics giants such as Texas Instruments and Toshiba have scaled up their local operations and new companies are coming in as well.

Class of 2012, your families and friends need you, the ICT industry needs you, your country needs you. Our Executive Director, my boss, actually declined a U.S. immigrant visa because he wanted to stay here and make a difference, and this was when he was still working in the private sector.

So my dear graduates, now it is your time to make a difference.

Make us proud.

Thank you and good day.