Aquino gives Sona preview to visitorsBy Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
In what could be a preview of his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 23, President Benigno Aquino III on Friday highlighted before a group of foreign visitors the key achievements of his two-year-old administration—“inclusive growth” and increased social spending to make sure that “no one is left behind.”
Wise spending has led to strengthened health care, education and social services, the President told participants of the 7th North American Ambassadors, Consuls-General and Tourism Directors Tour, who paid a courtesy call to him in Malacañang on Friday.
The economic growth of 6.4 percent posted in the first quarter “surpassed the expectations of most, if not all, analysts,” Mr. Aquino said.
More importantly, this growth has been felt broadly through the economy, and not just by a select few, he claimed.
He cited as an example the falling unemployment rate and self-rated hunger for the whole country, as shown in a recent survey.
According to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey for the second quarter of 2012, the unemployment rate went down to 26.6 percent in May, the equivalent of 10.9 million unemployed adults. This was significantly lower than the 34.4 percent unemployment rate recorded in March, or 13.8 million unemployed.
Self-rated hunger for the whole country, from the same survey, went down to 18.4 percent in May, compared to 23.8 percent in March, the SWS said.
The President also boasted of the increased spending for social services, to the tune of P567.9 billion, or around 31 percent of the entire 2012 budget.
“We are indeed making sure that no one is left behind, and we will be hard at work over the next few years to accomplish this goal. I am very pleased to share that the good news doesn’t stop there,” said Mr. Aquino.
He talked about putting a lot of work into improving the country’s infrastructure in support of tourism, including airports and seaports.
The Department of Public Works and Highways has allocated P9.4 billion in 2011 and 2012 to construct, rehabilitate and improve roads leading to all of our tourist destinations.
Mr. Aquino said the public works efforts were complemented by the Department of Transportation and Communications, which has focused its attention on upgrading primary and secondary airports, as well as enhancing air traffic control systems.
Mr. Aquino underscored his commitment to boost the country’s tourism, saying his administration had made good progress in the tourism sector to revitalize the country’s socioeconomic growth.
The President cited increased tourist arrivals, though still small compared to those of the Philippines’ neighbors.
He reported that in the first five months of 2012 alone, the country saw the arrival of more than 1.8 million tourists, more than half of the yearly average of three million arrivals in the years before he took office.
He explained that his administration was paying particular attention to tourism because with it, “we can successfully pursue our agenda of inclusive growth, given the multiplier effect on jobs and the amount of money it brings into our country.”