William J. Burns
Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Cotabato City State Polytechnic College
Cotabato City, Philippines
July 21, 2010

(As Delivered)

Mr. Mayor,
Mr. President,
JEEP students and teachers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Afternoon to all of you!

I am delighted to be here with you today, and it is a great honor to represent the U.S. Government on this occasion where we welcome Cotabato City State Polytechnic College as the most recent college to become a partner institution in the U.S. Government-supported Job Enabling English Proficiency Program, known as "JEEP."

I've had a fascinating visit to the Philippines these past two days. Though it's not my first time to visit the Philippines, it is the first time I have had the opportunity to see the beautiful green island of Mindanao. This morning we were in Zamboanga City where I met commanders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and some of the U.S. military servicemembers who are there supporting the Philippines' security efforts. It was heartening to learn how Filipino and American military personnel are working so closely together on development programs in rural villages of Mindanao. Their strong cooperation is an enduring symbol of the friendship between our two countries and of the many good things we are accomplishing together. It’s that same spirit of cooperation and friendship that has brought us together today to reaffirm the importance of education.

Just a short while ago I also had conversations with government and civil society leaders here in Cotabato City who are working to address the governance, peace, and development needs of Mindanao communities. It was an honor to meet them and to learn about the many social and political challenges they face -- and overcome -- every single day. I can tell from my short visit here that Cotabato City is a place of great energy and great promise, and I can’t think of a better place to be on my first visit to Mindanao. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for your kind welcome to your city.

My visit to Cotabato City State Technical College looks like it will be the best stop of the day. I genuinely appreciate the warm and enthusiastic welcome your students extended to us. I had heard a little bit before about the hospitality and graciousness of the people of Mindanao, but now I understand it first hand. This college and its students are clearly very special. Thank you all very, very much.

It is always a pleasure to have the opportunity to visit colleges and meet with talented students who have bright futures to look forward to. Before me now we have the future of the Philippines. I see businessmen and women, academics, skilled professionals, and government and civil society leaders. I can tell that you all have bright futures ahead and that you all will help lead the people of Mindanao to a better future.

We are delighted and honored that you and your College have chosen to partner with us in the JEEP effort -- just one of many ways the United States is helping support education and development in Mindanao. The JEEP program will enhance job prospects for graduating students in some of the Philippines’ most important and fastest growing business sectors. We know that your College already has an excellent reputation for turning out graduates who quickly assume leadership positions in the public and private sectors, here in Cotabato City as well as throughout the Philippines and around the world. JEEP will further enhance that reputation and help open the door wider to a world of possibilities. To all the students of Cotabato City State Technical College here today, never forget that your futures are yours to build and shape as your hearts and minds desire. When you work together with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and classmates, no problem is insurmountable, no goal is unattainable, and no hope is unrealizable.

Again, thank you very much for your welcome and your memorable hospitality. And thank you for giving us the opportunity to partner with you on this exciting program.