“Humaharap po ako sa inyo bilang mukha ng isang gobyernong kayo ang boss at kayo pa rin ang lakas. Inuulat ko lamang ang mga pagbabagong ginawa ninyong possible.” – Benigno Aquino III, 23 July 2012
Yes, that is a Star Wars reference. The third SONA of the Noynoy Aquino administration may not have been about the Star Wars saga, but it did inspire a new hope, to believe that the impossible may be achieved. Check out some highlights of the SONA for this year:
The Martial Law Baby
Martial law, according to P-Noy, was implemented by a tyrant who abused his power. Today, this abuse of power came in the form of absurd government bonuses to undeserving officials, overpriced equipment, and excessive contracts to government-funded projects. He sought the understanding of the people, but acknowledged the nation’s perseverance through these challenges. He aims for a government that is with the Filipino people.
A Sick Man Cured
Once dubbed as “The Sick Man of Asia,” the Philippines is now economically back on its feet. The country in fact marked the second-highest GDP growth, second only to China in Asia, exceeding expectations. International publications are recognizing the possibility of the Philippines being the next “Tiger Economy.” Hopefully the local media recognizes this as well.
Pangtawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program
The Pangtawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program aims to give money directly to families who are most in need. The beneficiaries will be determined by the National Household Targeting Program, and the long-term impact would translate to more check-ups, better treatments, and lower absence rate for the less fortunate.
PhilHealth is gaining more beneficiaries by the year. The poorest households that are members of this government agency are now enjoying a no-pay benefit to ensure proper treatment. P-Noy cited the RNHeals program, which deploys nurses and midwives to places in need, as directed by the National Household Targeting Program and the National Anti-Poverty Commission. Underemployed and unemployed nurses will be given a chance to perform their duties, while the poor are given proper healthcare.
P-Noy cited confidence in Bro. Armin Luisitro of the Department of Education and his ability to make his vision for the education sector into a reality. He aims to address the shortage of seats as well as a 1:1 ratio of textbook to student by the end of 2012. He drew the largest applause in his speech when he hinted on the RH Bill, saying that Responsible Parenthood is the solution for the problem of overpopulation of students. He also proposed a budget increase for State-run Universities and Colleges, provided that the SUC Reform Roadmap by CHED is implemented to ensure quality of education from the said schools are excellent.
The TESDA Transformation
During the previous administration of TESDA, vouchers were given by the authorities, but no funds were allocated for the budget. With the leadership of new TESDA chief Joel Villanueva, more than 400,000 people have been trained. Certified specialists through the TESDA program are now also earning above-minimum monthly wage.
The BPO Industry
The focus lies on the generation of more jobs, and the unemployment rate going down from 8% in 2010 to 7.2% in 2011 to a mere 6.9% this year. He cited that the drastic increase of employment by the BPO industry over the past decade has given positive results to other areas. The generated need and increase in purchasing power has given opportunities for employment in transport, food stalls, and other retail areas.
The Infrastructure Plan
Visions of new airports and upgrade of current airports are being realized before the end of his term, with Sec. Mar Roxas aiming to solve all issues concerning the NAIA 3. Among other things noted: two elevated NLEX-SLEX connectors by 2015, new quality provincial bus terminals in Taguig, Quezon City and Paranaque, and a proposed LRT Line 1 Cavite extension for commuters. While people are complaining about traffic due to the increased number of projects by the DPWH, he noted that before the end of his term, all national roads will be fixed completely.
It’s More Fun in the Philippines
With the improved infrastructure in place, the country is ready for more tourists. The increase in tourism over the past two years is already more than the previous 9 years before P-Noy’s administration. Sec. Mon Jimenez has laid out more plans for Philippine tourism, and the Filipino initiative in voting for the Puerto Princesa Underground River as one of the New Seven Wonders of the world is now taking place.
Here’s to recognizing Sec. Alcala for developing the agriculture sector. The commendable increase of coco water and coco coir export was put on notice, and regarding the issue of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, P-Noy promised that by the end of his term, all lands under the said program shall be dispersed.
WORDS BY VOLTAIRE LOZADA