Aquino: Let’s continue to stand arm-in-armBy Maila Ager, Matikas Santos
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Monday urged Filipinos to help him continue with the task of transforming the Philippines as he discussed a long list of achievements on his third year as chief executive.
In his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered before the joint session of the 16th Congress, Aquino dwelled on the political changes and economic gains that took place under his administration and paid tribute to public servants who had shown outstanding work.
“Once, I was told: Noynoy, just begin the change. So we did, and we can all see how far we have come. Now, my countrymen, let us continue to stand arm-in-arm,” Aquino said.
“Together, let us foster, accelerate, and expand the transformation of society. I am Noynoy Aquino, and I proudly say to the world: I am a Filipino. How wonderful to be a Filipino today,” he said.
Among those public servants who drew praises from Aquino were Education Secretary Armand Luistro, Police Offier 3 Edlyn Arbo, who fought an armed thief, PO3 Felipe Moncatar for putting in jail several criminals.
The President also used his SONA to rebuke erring government agencies.
He strongly castigated shameless public servants who he described as “makapal ang mukha (thick faced)” public servants.
Aquino zeroed in on the agencies that “do not want to change their ways” like the Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Customs and the National Irrigation Administration.
He said he would never grow tired instituting reforms until the dignity of public service is restored, but he admitted his patience has “run out” for erring officials and employees in government who he vowed to pursue and hold accountable.
“For those employees who refuse to turn their backs on the culture of wang-wang: my patience has run out,” Aquino said in Filipino during his fourth State of the Nation Address.
“You were given three years to demonstrate your readiness to change; now, I shall pursue all of you and hold you accountable. No hard feelings,” he said.
The gains of the administration that Aquino reported to the people, include:
- Better infrastructure, specifically road projects. He said that roads that were left to decay in the past are now truly benefiting the people, citing the Ternate-Nasugbu Road connecting Cavite, Batangas, and Metro Manila.
- More jobs. Aquino said under the electronics and semiconductor program, the percentage of employed graduates reached 85 percent.
- Poverty alleviation. Aquino said his objective to expand the reach of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program has been achieved. “The 700,000 household beneficiaries we found upon coming into office in 2010 have now grown to almost 4 million households in the three years of our administration,” he said.
- Education. Aquino said his administration has finally erased the backlog it inherited in books and chairs, adding that if Education Secretary Armin Luistro continues to demonstrate true grit, “even the backlog we inherited in classrooms will also be erased.” He more the administration now has the ability to prepare for the additional needs that the implementation of the K to 12 program will require.
Agriculture. Citing records from NFA, Aquino said in 2010, the country imported more than 2 million metric tons of rice. In 2011, this fell to 855,000 metric tons. In 2012: 500,000 metric tons. “And now in 2013: the maximum we will import, including the private sector, will be the minimum access volume of 350,000 metric tons,” he said. This includes “the 187,000 metric tons of reserve buffer stock in case typhoons arrive one after the other; in all likelihood, even the private sector will no longer have to import rice because we are still on track to becoming self-sufficient in rice.”