My warmest greetings to the Filipino people as we welcome the New Year.
The year was propitious for the nation, especially for the economy: This year, we were able to secure successive ratings upgrades from the three most prominent credit ratings agencies. Our stock market reached its highest level in history this year, reflecting the confidence in an economy that continues to lengthen its strides, and which has now grown by at least 7% for five consecutive quarters.
The year was also eventful in terms of strengthening the bureaucracy and our institutions. The successful elections last May affirmed how Philippine democracy remains strong, allowing the Filipino people to demonstrate the power of their voice by giving fresh mandate to leaders who will hopefully steer the nation to a brighter future. Together with Congress, we put an end to a mechanism perceived to be a source of corruption and patronage in Philippine politics. And just recently, we have agreed on an important annex to the comprehensive agreement that will secure final, lasting peace in Mindanao, and bring much needed investments to that oft-neglected part of our Republic.
However, along with our victories, the past year has also burdened our people with various challenges. Lawless elements threatened our sovereignty in Zamboanga City; a 7.2-magnitude earthquake devastated Bohol, Cebu, and neighboring provinces, right before a once-in-a-generation super-typhoon once again tested the resolve of our countrymen across the Visayas.
At the time, each of these appeared too great for us to bear; taken together, a weaker-willed people would have been brought to their knees. But steadied by our dreams, we rose to meet the task at hand. We have proven to the world, and to ourselves, that no siege, no tremor, no storm can make the Filipino yield. With our unity strengthened, our confidence lifted, and our bayanihan spirit reignited, these setbacks are mere bumps on the road in our journey towards the fulfillment of our aspirations. In this New Year, a time of transition, change, and hope, let us all look deep into ourselves, examine all the events that transpired over the past year, and endeavor to become the empowered, motivated participants in nation-building that our country requires at this crucial juncture in our history.