SONA 2013 | PNoy touts reforms, expanded services; unveils long wish list until 2016
The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines – More than three years after accepting an urgent challenge to lead a crisis-ridden nation, President Benigno Aquino III said Monday he has done everything possible to solve many of the country’s most pressing problems and is comforted by the strong public support for difficult reforms begun in his term.
In his 4th State of the Nation Address as the 16th Congress opened its first regular session, Mr. Aquino listed the key initiatives taken since 2010 to ensure sustainable growth, to close development gaps between regions and sectors, and to pursue tough fiscal reforms to free up resources for public welfare. He also outlined plans for more of such tough reforms and for more ambitious goals across all sectors until 2016 when his term ends.
The President began his SONA by recalling how, nearly four years ago, a group of well-meaning people persuaded him to run in the 2010 presidential elections, assuring him that while serious problems hound the country, they expected him only to start laying the groundwork at least for permanent resolution of those problems. They assured him they would help him face the challenges all the way, he recalled.
Mr. Aquino said he hesitated, but knew that he wasn’t raised to evade responsibility, and he could not live with himself if he did that. Thus, he said, began his long, difficult journey.
He also took pains to thank the people, referring to them again as “ang aking mga boss,” for giving him affirmation in the recent May 2013 elections, by signalling their approval of the directions he was taking, by electing nine of his candidates to the Senate.
Signs from the last elections, he said, are clear: to add to the number of sitios that have gotten electricity; to provide more decent shelter for informal settlers; to boost the 40-billion additional money that was freed up by correct, efficient tax collection, in order to provide for education, health, and public services.
“My faith,” he stressed, speaking in Filipino, is affirmed by many people, and cited as example the wheelchair-bound Nino Aguirre who crawled up to 4th floor of an election precinct to vote.
Harping on his vow to ensure inclusive growth, Mr. Aquino said the strategy is to maximize opportunities for all, especially the needy. Helping people cannot be done by chance or by making them wait for the benefits of growth to trickle down.
He said opportunity is but a seedling that must be nourished in order to fulfil its promise, and cited some examples: the over half a million TESDA-DOLE scholars whose percentage rate for landing jobs has since soared—from a mere 28.5 percent according to a study done by DBM in 2006-08, that the percentage of those landing jobs is now as high as 70.9 percent in IT-related jobs; and 85% in electronics and semiconductors, as examples.
He said the government aims, in the next half of his term, to pursue the following in order to fulfil the promise of true human progress:
- Expand the number of housing beneficiaries
- Expand the conditional cash transfer in order to include families with children up to 18 years old, in order to encourage them to keep their children in school up to the high school levels.
- Fill even more the classroom gaps, and continue to raise more funds for education through good governance reforms, such as the P28 savings (from P58 to 30) per textbook attained under Education Secretary Armin Luistro.
- Continue to reduce the need for rice importation, which has steadily declined from 2-million mt in 2010, to 500,000 mt last year; and 350,000 mt in 2013.
- Launch a massive intercropping program for the coconut farming sector, which has a big potential to grow if other crops like, for instance, cacao and bananas, are planted in between coconut planting seasons.
- Provide more infrastructure like modern ports, roads and cold storage facilities to boost the fisheries sector, considering the fisheries sector are among the poorest.
- Further expand the coverage of Philhealth, the State’s health insurance program that has since 2010 expanded from 62- to 81-percent coverage and offered more services; it is now targeting more informal sector and IPs
- Continue to invest in state health sector, on top of the P33 billion poured into 4,518 hospitals, rural health units and barangay health stations nationwide
- Finish hazard mapping of perilous sites; continue deploying more tools-- automated water measuring stations and rain gauges; also Doppler radars, tsunami detectors and alerting sirens--for better assessment of risks, and training people to handle them, under Project NOAH.
- Also for disaster prevention and mitigation, work with LGUs to complete the transfer of informal settlers; and charge building owners who built structures on waterways.
- Complete the P6.2-billion flood prevention program for Metro Manila, including completion next year of the Blumentritt interceptor catchment area.
- Complete key infrastructure projects like the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road and three integrated public transport terminals.
The President was still delivering his SONA as of posting time.