Aquino cites gains in State of Nation Address
The hunger rate in the country is down by 5 percent, investment confidence is stronger, and other gains have been made in the fight against graft, said President Benigno Aquino III in his address to the nation yesterday.
He said his campaign against “utak wang wang” or a mind-set of abuse and entitlement has yielded results in his first year of office.
Aquino spoke before a joint session of Congress where he used the car siren or “wang wang” as a symbol of change.
He also announced the appointment of former Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as the new Ombudsman to ensure “we will have an honest-to-goodness anti-corruption office.”
One of Aquino’s colorful examples of wrongdoing uncovered during his term was that “P1 billion” was spent on coffee by the past management of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), which controls state-run casinos.
“At one hundred pesos per cup, that would be ten million cups of coffee over the last several years. Where did all that coffee go? Who drank it? Perhaps we can find the people who consumed all that coffee and ask if they have been able to sleep in the last few years,” he said.
Aquino no longer called for the passage of the Reproductive Health bill, choosing to speak with gratitude to Catholic clergy leaders for efforts to keep a “dialogue” on the thorny issue.
“I thank the priests and bishops who have continued to dialogue with us, like Cardinals Rosales and (Cebu’s Ricardo) Vidal. Cardinal Rosales and I may not be the closest of friends, but I believe that he did all that he could to reduce the tensions between the church and the government. The election of Archbishop Jose Palma, defender of human rights and of the environment, as head of the CBCP only bolsters my confidence that the state and the clergy will be able to engage each other in a positive manner.”
On the economy, Aquino said the upgrading of the Philippines low credit ratings by Moody’s, Standard and Poors, Fitch, and Japan Credit Ratings Agency showed the Philippine’s prudent use of funds.
This has saved taxpayers P23 billion in the first four months this year, he said.
Surveys of self-rated hunger show a drop from 20.5 percent last March to 15.1 percent in June, he said.
He said unemployment also went down 0.8 percent in April from a high of 8 percent in 2010. But he noted that 50,000 jobs remain unfilled every month because the skills of graduates produced each year don’t match the industries’ requirements.
The President also cited as an accomplishment that the Philippines was removed from the United States’ Tier 2 Watchlist for Trafficking in Persons Report.
Aquino said he would continue to hold accountable public officials who have betrayed the people.
“Some of my critics say that I take this campaign against corruption personally. It’s true: doing what’s right is personal. Making people accountable—whoever they may be—is personal. It should be personal for all of us, because we have all been victimized by corruption,” he said.
On foreign relations, President Aquino warned China the Philippines was ready to defend its Spratly Islands claims by acquiring more weapons and would elevate the territorial feuds to a U.N. tribunal.
“We do not wish to increase tensions with anyone, but we must let the world know that we are ready to protect what is ours,” Aquino said, drawing loud applause.
Aquino did not name China in his speech but clearly referred to it in laying a clear claim to the South China Sea feature called Recto Bank, also known as the Reed Bank, where the Philippines alleges China has intruded.
“There was a time when we couldn’t appropriately respond to threats in our own backyard,” Aquino said. “Now, our message to the world is clear: What is ours is ours; setting foot on Recto Bank is no different from setting foot on Recto Avenue.”
Aquino also reported in his SONA:
– Rice harvest has increased by 15.6 percent.
The country now only needs to import 660,000 metric tons of rice.
More than a thousand houses have been allotted for policemen and soldiers
– A Hamilton Class Cutter ship will soon arrive to augment the country’s ports security
– The National Housing Authority is readying lots in Visayas and Mindanao where housing units will be built
The government has distributed 4,000 Certificates of Entitlement to Lot Allocation to policemen and soldiers. /inquirer
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