In an international conference on Economic Freedom and Human Rights in Business, Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo further accentuated that economic liberty is a human right.
"One may argue that businesses should not look beyond the purview of profit, and that human rights issues should be left to the activists. This is naive. We cannot divorce genuine economic freedom from the protection of human rights. We champion economic freedom because it is natural to the liberties that every person is entitled to." stressed Robredo.
She spoke before the attendees of the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia Conference on 23 November 2016 in Makati City. 186 guests were in attendance including 70 delegates from research institutes and policy think tanks from all over Asia, and from Germany, USA, and Canada.
Robredo's keynote speech gave a glimpse of the Filipino struggle for democracy in 1986. "The EDSA Revolution was marked by the death of one man, but it was fueled by the love of freedom of every Filipino man, woman, and child," she shared. "After decades of progress and growth brought about by larger spaces for democracy and economic freedom, we are again hearing a growing call for protectionism and iron-rule around the world. It is a puzzle to many why there is a clamor for walls to be built rather than bridges to be crossed," commented Robredo.
She acknowledged that global economic growth has contributed to the gap between the rich and poor. She noted that while the Philippine market has improved and that poverty levels have declined significantly in the last six years, but much more needs to be done. "Behind the towering bright light of our skyscrapers is the withering indignity of Philippine poverty. If we want to catalyze authentic change, we must be ready to work together across all sectors, across all political persuasions to uplift the lives of our poor. This isn't just true in the Philippines, this is true of all our nations," remarked Robredo.
When she was a congresswoman, Robredo authored bills on citizen empowerment and participation in governance. She continues to engage various sector of society in her role as Vice President. "Social responsibility can no longer be the exclusive realm of government and civil society nor can governance be the sole responsibility of governments. Corporations and businesses must stand with us now in confronting the inequality head on, still within a democratic system that continues to value human rights and the freedom to choose. It is time we do justice to the necessary link between economic freedom and the protection of human rights," urged Robredo.
"The lessons of history tell us that true progress can only be achieved if our economies are free enough to liberate our people," said Robredo. "We must never lose sight of this truth - that we are all accountable for every human does not enjoy these rights. We are all accountable for each other," she added.
The Philippine Edition of the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) Report 2016 was also presented to Vice President Robredo. Produced by Fraser Institute, the report measures economic freedom - levels of personal choice, ability to enter markets, security of privately owned property, rule of law - by analyzing the policies and institutions of 159 countries and territories. The 2016 report is based on data from 2014, the most recently available comparable statistics. The Philippines is ranked 80 in the report.
"The yearly country ranking in the EFW Report has shown that there is a strong correlation between economic freedom and higher living standards. By publishing this in the Philippines, we hope to contribute constructively to the debate in the country, and further highlight that the requisites for sustainable good business are the same building blocks for a prosperous and just society," said Wolfgang Heinze, Country Director of Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) Philippines.
The EFN Asia 2016 Conference was organized by EFN and FNF, in cooperation with the Philippine Economic Society, Ateneo Human Rights Center, and Bloomberg TV Philippines, with the support of the European Union Delegation to the Philippines.