MANILA, July 28 (Mabuhay) – President Benigno Aquino managed to weave in justification for the discredited Disbursement Acceleration Program early into his fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address on Monday.
He also began his report to the nation with yet another swipe at the past administration, citing the corruption, dismal economy, low investor confidence, poor job generation and a country mired in too much politics that greeted his ascension to his post, when he embarked on his “tuwid na daan” or straight path.
Aquino credited his administration’s accomplishments to the “good governance” be brought to what he described as a “house in shambles.”
Before he began his speech, Aquino was met with applause and loud cheers from the floor and gallery of the House of Representatives, although lawmakers of the Makabayan bloc walked out of the session hall just before he started.
Aquino admitted that the enormity of the job left him doubting “pero buo ang aking loob na paglingkuran ang taumbayan sa lahat ng panahon (but I was determined to serve the people at all times).”
His first mention of DAP came right after, when he said P1.6 billion from the program enabled the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to train 223,615 graduates, 66 percent, or 146,731, of whom are now employed with TESDA helping the rest find work.
Counting the gains from what he said was the P7,155 investment in each scholar, Aquino said one of them working in the BPO sector, where the average monthly wage is P18,000, would pay an income tax of P7,900, giving back the original investment with a slight profit in only a year
This, he said, “is good governance.”
Aquino credited the P12.8-billion used for constitutional cash transfer for reducing poverty, adding that, “now we try hard to ensure none of them goes below the poverty line again.”
He said that, over the past year, “with the support of all Filipinos,” “we’ve been able to repair” the country, which he likened to a decrepit house, and allow economic recovery to begin.
Over the past four years, the national budget has always been passed on time, he said, and there has been better management of funds, resulting in more services to people.
He also said his administration paid for the remaining P30-billion obligation left to re-capitalize the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Aquino said whoever succeeds him in 2016 would benefit from his administration’s accomplishments.
“Malalampasan pa ng susunod sa atin ang ating mga nagawa (dahil) mas matayog na ang kanilang pagmumulan (Whoever succeeds us will accomplish even more because they will be starting off from a high level),” he said.
He also declared the country’s economy “poised for takeoff,” citing the investment grade ratings from Moodys and Fitch S&P that he predicted would lure in more investors and deliver “faster benefits to people.”
Aquino lauded the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines led by William Hotchkiss for successfully working to have the European Union, the International Civil Aviation Organization and the US Federal Aviation Administration lift restrictions that had limited the destinations available to the country’s flag carriers.
He said with more flights available, “our local carriers can bring in more tourists in next few years.”
Aquino said the country’s hosting of the World Economic Forum on East Asia in May and its hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum next year signaled that, “no doubt, the Philippines is now open for business.”
He also thanked Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz and the labor and management sectors for restoring relative industrial peace, citing the reduction in strikes since 2010 to only an average of 10 a year and noted that, last year, of 150 strike and lockout notices, only one strike pushed through.
Aquino said spending on infrastructure had increased from P203 billion in 2011 to P304.3 billion this year with no new taxes except for the sin taxes.
He also credited Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson for instituting reforms, noting that bidders for public works projects are required to submit only five documents from the previous 20 while chances to extort from contractors have been drastically reduced, resulting in lower costs and faster implementation time.
Since 2010, he said, 12,184 kilometers of roads have been constructed or repaired, the equivalent of four roadways linking Laoag City in the Ilocos region to Zamboanga City in the south.
He also cited his administration’s private-public partnership, which has rolled out seven projects worth P62.6 billion, surpassing the six solicited projects of his predecessor and saying, “matindi ang kompetisyon ng mga nag-uunahang kumpanya para itayo ang kailangan nating imprastruktura (the competition is stiff among companies vying to build the infrastructure we need).”
Harping on the “tragedies” that visited the country last year, Aquino said the families displaced by the fighting in Zamboanga City between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front last year would be transferred to permanent housing by August, although he sought understanding as the government solves acquisition problems for the land on which it intends to build more than 7,000 housing units.
He also said he had already approved the rehabilitation plans submitted by the local governments of Tacloban City, Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Iloilo and Eastern Samar.
Aquino sought understanding for the delay in the submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress, saying it is important be thorough in reviewing the proposed law and ensuring it is “just and acceptable to all.”
Nevertheless, he said, “if we are able to enact the BBL into law before end of the year and a plebiscite (on the creation of the Bangsamoro entity) takes place next year, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority will be given a chance to prove our reforms were correct.” (MNS)