PNoy Delivers His 5th SONA

In the much-anticipated 5th SONA of President Benigno Simeon Aguino III, the House of Representatives welcomed the Chief Executive despite threatening issues of impeachment and corruption. The “Filipinos are worth dying for, living for, fighting for” was the theme of BSA III SONA speech delivered yesterday.

In the much-anticipated 5th SONA of President Benigno Simeon Aguino III, the House of Representatives welcomed the Chief Executive despite threatening issues of impeachment and corruption. The “Filipinos are worth dying for, living for, fighting for” was the theme of BSA III SONA speech delivered yesterday. When Speaker Belmonte called the Session into order, the Full House applauded for the President as he climbed up the podium.  However, seven Members of the Makabayan Bloc walked out even before the President began his speech, as a sign of protest against the current Administration.

According to Sec. Sonny Coloma, PNOY’s SONA would focus on the accomplishments in relation to his platform and abide by the President’s personal “Filipino” touch. The SONA lasted for about an hour and a half and became emotional in the end.   Despite criticisms about his Administration, the President still is focused on his mission of guiding the Government back to its feet and to serve his true bosses, the Filipino people. 

 

Accomplishments

To start off the Administration’s Accomplishments, the President cited the P1.6 billion DAP-funded TESDA Training-for-Work Scholarship Program that sponsored 223,615 beneficiaries - 146,731 of them already graduated.  The President, in light of the DAP issue, was careful to note that these beneficiaries can be confirmed through the released list of names funded by said TESDA program. 

Since its inauguration, the Administration recognized the importance of the people by channeling programs to alleviate poverty incidence in the country.  The President pointed out that because of programs such as the Conditional Cash Transfer, and other relevant projects, 3% or 2.5 million Filipinos have been lifted above the poverty line.  To further improve this advocacy, the Expanded Conditional Cash Transfer (ECCT) Program was recently implemented with an approved budget of P 12.3 billion.  This ECCT extends its beneficiaries up to 18 years of age.  The President believes that helping the countrymen should not stop there and vows to eradicate poverty by implementing more projects in alleviating poverty. 

 

Road to Recovery

The President claimed that the country has managed to properly handle its funds with collected taxes increased from P1.094 trillion in 2010 to P1.536 trillion in 2013, this paved way for economic recovery and the implementation of present and eventually future projects.  Moreover, the President said debt and deficit had been lowered and claimed that money allotted to pay interests were rechanneled for programs on social services.  The P40B deficit left for the recapitalization in 1993 was now paid in full. 

In 2013, the Philippines acquired an investment grade status from Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard and Poor’s (S&P) – three of the most known credit rating agencies worldwide.  This was based on the country’s status on macroeconomic fundamentals and governance; thereby, increasing investors’ confidence and interest in investing in the Philippines.  Last May 2014, S&P upgraded the Philippines’ credit rating, yet again.  This in turn is a gateway for an influx of business opportunities and infrastructures that will surely boost the country’s economic stature.

The President was confident that the Philippine economy is ready to “take-off” as some 42% invested and entered Philippine Economic Zone Authority.  More good news followed suit as the International Civil Aviation Organization or ICAO lifted the ban on Philippine air carriers due to some safety issues so that finally, Philippine Airlines recently got a green light to fly Europe via London, and Cebu Pacific is expected to follow suit.  Moreover, the Philippines has been upgraded to Category 1 by the United States Federal Aviation Administration, allowing the country’s carriers more destinations in the United States.  These developments are seen to enhance tourism and an influx of investment in the country. 

The President was proud of the incumbent Secretaries and highlighted their accomplishments.   Special mention was given to the Department of Public Works and Highways.  From the P200.3 billion budget in 2011 the budget increased to P404.3 billion for infrastructure.  The President applauded Secretary Singson for removing the Letter of Intent in the bidding processes as this only becomes a tool for corruption and illegal bidding.  Apart from the speedy bidding process, P28 billion worth of funds were saved for future infrastructure projects.  Lastly,    a total of 12,184 kilometers paved national roads – that’s four highways linking Laoag to Zamboanga City.

In the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program, from December 2011 until June of this year, seven PPP projects (P 62.6 billion) were approved, surpassing six PPP projects in the past three administrations.   The other major PPP infrastructures approved and mentioned as great investments for future development were; the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Passenger Terminal Building (P14 billion), NAIA Expressway Project Phase 2 (P11 billion), the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike, which will address flooding – our perennial problem, will further be improved to provide clean water in Laguna Lake and construct an expressway connecting Los Baños and Taguig.  Still other infrastructure projects mentioned were: Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), Aluling Bridge, Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3, Ternate-Nasugbu Road and C-6 Basilan Circumferential Road. Once completed these should ease traffic and provide better connections to and from the Metro. 

To address water shortage, the Kaliwa Dam Project in Quezon was approved and also improves the Angat Dam. Alongside this projects were the approvals of the Water District Development Sector Project, under the Local Water Utilities Administration or LWUA. 

Other projects in the pipeline were; Laoag City Bypass Link Road Project; Cebu Bus Rapid Transit Project; LRT Line 1 South Extension and Line 2 East Extension, Puerto Princesa Airport  and Busuanga Airport.  These projects were said to improve transportation and connectivity. The Clark Green City in Capas, Tarlac was also seen as a bigger Bonifacio Global City which would serve as another commercial hub for the country. 

 

Man-made and Natural Disasters

The Zamboanga siege last September 2013 brought to the fore the crucial role of the Philippine law enforcement which saved 195 lives.  This led to the urgent implementation of the Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Reconstruction.  P3.5 billion was allotted for the infrastructures, P2.57 billion of which was already released to NHA and DPWH.

Following the siege were a number of natural disasters that hit Bohol and Cebu, which got a budget of P 3.583 billion for quick reconstruction of roads and establishments.  The recent Yolanda typhoon left 1.47 million Filipino families homeless particularly Eastern Visayas.  The President applauded the joint efforts of DOH, DSWD, TESDA, DTI, DOLE DOTC, BFP and DILG for these agencies’ in giving relief.  To further help the affected families get back to normalcy, livelihood interventions were extended to 221,897 people by giving them boats, fishing and farming equipment.  In a span of eight months, Mr. Yuri Afanasiev of the United Nations Development Programme said that: “We have never seen a recovery happen so quickly. And many of us have been in many different disasters.” In light of this, the LGU Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan was already signed for Cebu, Iloilo, Samar, Eastern Samar, Leyte, at Tacloban City.

 

Peace and National Defense

The ongoing modernization of AFP include the acquisition of 50,629 units of M4 assault rifles, eight Sokol Combat Utility Helicopters, three AgustaWestland-109 helicopters, one landing craft utility ship - BRP Tagbanua, UH-1 helicopters, two navy cutters, the state-of-the-art Command Center Naval Forces West in Palawan. Next year, two of the twelve FA-50 lead-in fighter trainer jets would have been be acquired to secure Philippine sovereignty. 

Meanwhile, to address crime and felony, “Oplan Lambat” tripled checkpoints and improved investigations resulting to the confiscation of 29 illegal firearms, and 587 warrants of arrest which led to 410 suspects arrested.  This lowered crime rates from 31 to 22 cases a week.   “Oplan Katok”, on the other hand was strengthened to verify license of firearms.

 

Reset

The President urged a reset in institutions that need to change.  He especially cited as an example the Bureau of Customs.  An overhaul of the Bureau ways were demanded which resulted to a 22% increase in cash collections or P117 billion in the first four months of 2014. 

In March 2014, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed and the President urged the Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law as he strongly felt it is vital to attaining peace and prosperity in an archipelago such as ours. 

 

Other Issues

PNoy dismissed the issues on unemployment and instead cited the increase in Filipino workforce by 1.65 million from April 2013 to April 2014.  He also related shortage of books, school facilities and classrooms to the crucial shift to the K-12 curriculum.  He also took notice of the 1:1 police-to-pistol ratio. 

On energy, the President advised Secretary Petilla to join forces with the Congressional Power Commission, the Energy Regulatory Commission, the stakeholders and the consumers so as to properly address energy shortage.  On agriculture the President revealed that 500,000 MT of rice would be imported through open bidding; 800,000 MT rice as buffer stock requirement; and, another 500,000 MT for emergency stock in light of calamities.  Since 2011 until May 2014 a total of 4,628 production machineries were given to farmers; 11,362 post-production machineries and 105 rice mills to different farmer’s associations. On-going farm to market roads and livelihood programs have been implemented to improve food security and protect farmers’ interests. 

In light of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) issue, the President pushed for the supplemental budget for 2014 so as not to hinder future implementation of projects.  Moreover, the President requested that both Chambers pass a joint resolution to clearly provide definitions for DAP, the budget; and powers of the Executive to avoid similar contentious issues in the future.

Despite the President’s critics and supporters saying “Noy, mag-iingat ka. Marami kang makakabangga.”, he remained steadfast and true to his tuwid na daan platform. 

The President’s SONA emphasized how “the Filipino is worth dying for”, “worth living for,” and “definitely worth fighting for”.  PNoy stressed that the Filipino people are his bosses.  At the height of his emotions, President Aquino concluded his SONA with a reminder to the Filipino nation that “Kayo po ang Boss, kayo ang lakas, kayo ang gumagawa ng pagbabago—kaya kayo rin ang magpapatuloy nito. Nasa inyo kung paanong isusulat sa kasaysayan ang mga panahong ito.” 

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