Promises, promises: Hits, misses
(Last of two parts)
One of the strongest thrusts of the administration has been its anticorruption campaign. But the campaign has been seen in some quarters as slowing down the economy.
Here are more pluses and minuses of the Aquino administration.
PLUS. In May, Local Water Utilities Administration Chair Prospero Pichay was suspended for six months by the Office of the Ombudsman over a grave misconduct case filed against him and other officials by LWUA employees.
The case stemmed from allegations of improper and disadvantageous investment by LWUA of P780 million in the bankrupt Express Savings Bank of Cabuyao, Laguna, in 2009. Pichay was dismissed. Last week, the Bureau of Internal Revenue filed a P32.7-million tax evasion case against him.
PLUS/MINUS. The Department of Budget and Management showed a cautious spending mood in the first quarter of the year. Disbursements in the first quarter reached P349.3 billion, P82 billion or 19-percent lower than programmed.
PLUS. The government stopped and then renegotiated and rebid 19 overpriced contracts of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) amounting to P1 billion, saving taxpayers P300 million.
The DPWH put on hold many infrastructure projects until they finish reassessing road conditions and reviewing infrastructure cost assumptions.
PLUS. In October, the Department of Education (DepEd) announced the administration’s K+12 program (or K+6+4+2, kindergarten plus six years of elementary school, four years of junior high school and two years of senior high school).
The preparation for this overhaul of the educational system will take time, officials said, and it wouldn’t happen until the end of the Aquino administration in 2016.
The administration had stressed that its vision is for the long term—to lay the foundation for sustained good governance and development.
PLUS. Universal kindergarten was implemented in all public schools starting this school year of 2011. The universal public kindergarten program for 5-year-olds will give new entrants to the basic education system proper preparation for the rigors of schooling, according to the DepEd.
MINUS. Teachers’ groups expressed concern over the contractualization of at least 10,000 new kindergarten teachers this year to handle the expected rise in preschool enrollment.
PLUS. The administration allocated the “largest slice” (P237 billion) of the P1.816-trillion national budget for 2012 to the education sector
PLUS. The government allotted more funds to the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, under which the government gives out monthly money and food subsidies to selected poorest families.
From the one million families assisted last year, Mr. Aquino said the government had increased the number of target beneficiaries to 2.3 million by the end of 2011. The CCT program was allocated a budget of P21 billion this year.
PLUS. The government released P435.6 million for the monthly stipend of some 140,000 indigent senior citizens, one of the benefits stipulated by the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.
PLUS. The Department of Energy launched its “Pantawid Pasada” program, which gives fuel subsidy cards to public transport workers to help them cope with increasing fuel costs.
Each card contains P1,050 worth of “load,” which drivers can claim in accredited Pantawid Pasada gasoline stations. The government will release a total of 220,000 subsidy cards nationwide and spend P450 million for the subsidy.
At least P300 million of this amount was earmarked for PUJ drivers and operators. (Mr. Aquino said P12 billion had been provided for the Pantawid Pasada program.)
PLUS. Mr. Aquino said some 21,800 families of policemen and soldiers would have decent homes before the year ends. On July 15, he presented 4,000 low-cost houses to soldiers and policemen.
Forty-nine percent (9.8 million families) rated themselves poor, down from 51 percent in March, according to the Social Weather Station (SWS) second quarter survey in June. It said 15.1 percent (3 million families) claimed to have gone hungry at least once in the past three months, and 36 percent (7.2 million families) considered themselves “food-poor.”
All of the figures were lower from the figures posted in March.
Still the economy
PLUS. The government’s revenue collections hit P581.5 billion for the first five months of the year. The Bureau of Internal Revenue collected P391.09 billion from January to May, a growth of 13.66 percent compared to the same period last year.
The Bureau of Customs, on the other hand, collected P106.89 billion for the first five months of 2011, while the Bureau of the Treasury collected P48.47 billion for the same period. Collections from other offices were recorded at P35.04 billion.
PLUS. While the government registered a fiscal deficit of P9.5 billion from January to May this year, this figure was still significantly lower than the P152.567-billion deficit posted in the same period last year.
The fiscal deficit for the month of May alone was at P9.6 billion. The previous month, the government posted a P26-billion surplus—the highest recorded for the past 25 years or more.
PLUS. The three major credit rating agencies have given the government credit rating upgrades.
Although the country was not yet of investment grade, the improvements were significant enough to warrant at least P23 billion less in interest payments of the national debt.
Standard & Poor’s lifted the Philippines’ credit rating it assigned from BB- to BB in November last year; Moody’s Investors Service raised the country’s credit rating outlook from “stable” to “positive,” in January this year; the Japan Credit Rating Agency Ltd. revised its outlook on the Philippines’ credit rating from “stable” to “positive” in April; while Fitch Ratings upgraded the country’s credit rating to just a notch below investment grade, from BB to BB+ in June.
MINUS. According to an SWS survey conducted from March 4 to 7, adult unemployment rose to 27.2 percent, or an estimated 11.3 million, from 23.5 percent (9.9 million) just four months before.
PLUS. The Philippines was removed from the human trafficking watch list released by the US state department on June 27. The Philippines was elevated to Tier 2, which refers to countries that do not fully meet international standards on human trafficking but are making efforts to do so.
PLUS. The government and communist leaders held landmark peace talks in Oslo, Norway, in February. Following the first round of the long-stalled negotiations, the government and the communists issued the Oslo Joint Statement commitment to try and sign a “comprehensive agreement” to end hostilities by June next year.
The government also resumed stalled talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in February.
MINUS. Four journalists have been murdered this year, bringing to six the number of media workers killed under the Aquino administration. On June 30, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said President Aquino had failed to deliver on his campaign pledge to end a “culture of impunity” which has spurred the killings.
The London-based Amnesty International said that with his lackluster record in protecting human rights after a year in office, the President should set up a special body that will handle cases of extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture.
The HRW said Mr Aquino had done little to fulfill his campaign promise to bring justice to victims of rights violations, and to dismantle private armies.
PLUS/MINUS. The first batch of contracts for the administration’s much heralded cornerstone policy, the public-private partnerships, was a package for 10 airports, tollway and rail-lines. These were to be awarded this month, according to the timetable announced last year.
But there are no contracts yet in place. These have to be screened, reviewed, retooled, and rescinded, if necessary.
“We don’t fast-track through questionable backdoor deals. If you rush, you will pay for it down the road,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima says.
The Aquino administration’s hopefully controversy-free infrastructure ventures may turn out to be its lasting legacy, Purisima says, in that it would serve as a model of implementation and as a foundation to build on for future administrations. Inquirer editorial team; research compiled by Eliza Victoria and Kate Pedroso, Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives , Bureau of Treasury, Gov.ph
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