Address by President Nelson Mandela at the banquet hosted by President Ramos of the Philippines, Manila

1 March 1997

Your Excellency President Ramos and Madame Ramos;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen

It is indeed a great privilege for me and my delegation to be here in Manila. It is a very long distance from our shores. But even after less than a day in your company, we all feel at home from home, among friends, brothers and sisters.

Not everything about the Philippines is very well-known in South Africa. But most will tell you that it is a unique country of over 7000 islands. Now, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I know islands: I spent over 20 years of my life on one!

But here the similarity ends.

While the island which was my home for those years was a symbol of repression, the Philippines is a free, vibrant country, with a strong, growing economy, improving living standards, and a country which plays a growing role in regional and international affairs.

Much of Asia's success as the world's most dynamic region, can be ascribed to good leadership. And this undoubtedly applies here. The amazing development of your beautiful country over the last few years is certainly to a large extent due to the inspiring leadership of President Fidel Ramos.

You have succeeded over the last few years in transforming your country from a situation of insurgency, instability and uncertainty, to one of peace, development and indeed one of Asia's success stories. To create three million jobs in three years, and to place the Philippines amongst the Asian tigers, is surely a great achievement.

In particular, Mr President, I salute your untiring efforts in promoting peace in the southern region of your country which has resulted in the recent Mindanao peace agreement. This is surely a great force of example to many other countries.

I would also like to pay a special tribute to your former President, Madame Corazon Aquino, who has been an inspiration, not only to her own people, but to the world. In bringing unity and promoting democracy in your country, in demonstrating the quality of leadership that women can give both in times of peace and in times of struggle, she became a symbol of inspiration in our country as well.

Mr President;

We bring you greetings from the people of South Africa, a rainbow nation in the making. Many of our people followed very closely the struggle and sacrifices of Filipinos in the years of social conflict.

For a nation that has undergone similar experiences, our bonds of friendship and solidarity are, in a sense , forged in blood. And we know there is much that we can learn from your own experiences.

We have come humbly to report that, out of our own struggles and your solidarity, South Africa is free at last; and our nation is engaged in the difficult but exciting process of building one nation based on equality, justice and the building of a better life for all. For your solidarity over the years, we say, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Because of the common experiences we share, the Philippines and South Africa possess great potential for multi-pronged relations for the benefit of our peoples. Though our Ambassador presented her credentials only a few months ago, we can already feel the emergence of a dynamic relationship between our respective nations.

We know that South Africa stands to gain from such relations. On our part, we wish to assure you that our business-persons are eager to expand trade relations and to take advantage of the opportunities for investments.

We are confident that these relations will grow from strength to strength, including in the fields of tourism, human resource development and transfer of technology. Indeed, we owe it to our peoples to join hands to fight poverty and disease, to protect the environment and to co-operate in the quest for a better world.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

The leading role that the Philippines has played and continues to play in the strengthening of regional bonds is a source of inspiration to us in Southern Africa.

The advances that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has made in ensuring rapid integrated development shows the great achievements that can be made from hard work and collective effort.

We in Southern Africa are looking forward to the deepening of relations between ASEAN and the Southern African Development Community. The will is there. The geographic and political conditions make this opportune. The social and economic challenges dictate it.

We hope that by our presence here, and out of the many discussions which will take place between government and business from both our countries, we shall help to spur on relations that date back many years - in struggle and now in the battle for reconstruction and development.

Mr President;

Allow me to express my sincerest appreciation to the government of the Philippines, and in particular to you for the warm reception and hospitality extended to us. Your generosity attests to the mutual respect and friendship among our peoples. It demonstrates without any doubt that our relations can only grow from strength to strength. To this I can only say; selamat poh - thank you very much.

It is now my privilege to ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to join me in a toast to the health of President Fidel Ramos, and to the growing friendship between our two nations.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website