President Aquino vows to intensify poverty reduction program
President Benigno S. Aquino III has vowed to intensify his administration’s poverty reduction program to lift the remaining 24.9 percent of the population out of poverty, especially with the implementation of the expanded conditional cash transfer (CCT) program this month.
Poverty reduction was among the key issues discussed by President Aquino in his fifth State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on Monday, delivered before millions of Filipinos nationwide.
The President said that the P12.3-billion expanded CCT program aims to cover beneficiaries and help their children, aged up to 18 years old, complete their secondary education to give them better job opportunities.
Poverty incidence in the country has decreased by at least three percentage points in the past two years, according to the National Economic Development Authority, from 27.9 percent during the first quarter of 2012 to 24.9 percent in the same period of 2013.
President Aquino attributed this drop to the CCT program, which is implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, saying that his government will continue investing on its people through this particular measure.
“Ang three percentage points pong ito ay katumbas ng halos 2.5 milyon na Pilipinong nakaalpas na sa poverty line. Totoo namang dapat pagtuunan ng masusing pansin ang pinakamahihirap sa lipunan pero hindi tayo titigil diyan. Ngayong nadagdagan ang kakayahan natin, sinisikap nating hindi na manumbalik sa ilalim ng poverty line ang lahat ng nakaalpas na,” President Aquino said.
He said that a sound fiscal management carried out by his administration, beginning with the timely submission of the national budget that only focuses on the needs of the people every year, also helped the government achieve this goal.
The CCT, otherwise known as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, currently operates in 79 provinces, covering 1,484 municipalities and 143 cities in all 17 regions nationwide. It has 4,090,667 registered households nationwide as of last June 25. PND (hdc)
President Aquino cites Central Bank recapitalization, investment grades as major economic achievements
President Benigno S. Aquino III cited the completion of the P50-billion recapitalization of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), as well as investment grades received by the country from three international credit rating agencies as two of his administration’s major achievements in the economic front.
In his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Aquino said his government has managed to come up with the P40 billion needed by the central bank for its recapitalization program in three years, which two presidents before him had failed to deliver.
He attributed this achievement to an increase in tax collection from P1.094 trillion in 2010 to P1.536 trillion in 2013, enabling the government to address the obligations it had inherited from previous administrations.
The P50-billion recapitalization program is stated under the New Central Bank Act of 1993, but only P10 billion was obtained by the BSP during President Fidel V. Ramos’ time in 1996, shortly after the law was signed.
The Aquino administration paid the remaining P40 billion in three tranches: P10 billion in 2011, P20 billion in 2012, and another P10 billion in 2013 to help the central bank support the economy, especially after the Philippines achieved its investment grade status last year.
Three of the world’s trusted debt watchers -- Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s -- all gave the Philippines an investment grade rating in 2013, with the latter even raising it a notch higher last May, a move that could help the country attract more investors to further boost the economy.
“Ang hatid po nito, dahil nga investment grade na tayo, mas murang mahihiram ng gobyerno ang pondo para sa mga programa at proyekto. Mas maraming maaakit na mamuhunan sa ating bansa at mas mabilis nanmga atatamasa ng mga Pilipino ang benepisyo,” President Aquino said.
The President also noted that in four years, his administration has generated 42 percent of the total investments gained by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) since its establishment in 1995.
He said he is confident that before he steps down from office, his administration would top or at least equal the 58 percent his predecessors had put up for more than 15 years.
“Kay Director General Lilia de Lima, salamat sa nagawa mo na, at gagawin pa, sa pagkamit ng tagumpay na ito. Talagang pa-take off na ang ating ekonomiya at bansa at inaabot na natin ang mas matatayog pang mithiin,” he said, commending the efforts rendered by the PEZA chief. PND (hdc)
President Aquino issues warning against rice hoarders
Assuring the public that the government is addressing food security, the President Benigno Aquino III warned rice hoarders that their scheme will be foiled.
The President issued this warning when he deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the House of Representatives in Batasan, Quezon City on Monday.
“Mukhang totoo nga po ang mga ulat: May ilang mga halang ang bitukang mga hoarder na itinatago lang ang bigas, para kapag tumaas ang presyo, ibebenta nila ang stock para kumita nang di-makatuwiran,” he said.
“Hindi puwede ito. Kung sa tingin nila wais sila, mas mahusay ang ginagawang diskarte ng inyong gobyerno. Ang agarang solusyon: mag-import pa ng bigas, i-supply sa merkado, pababain ang presyo, at panatilihin ito sa risonableng antas para malugi ang mga nagsasamantala sa mga Pilipino,” the President added.
The Chief Executive said the government has started importing 500,000 metric ton of rice.
“Sa mga hoarder na ito: Kung gusto ninyong makipagmatigasan, sige lang, subukan ninyo ang estado. Tandaan lang ninyo: Anim na buwan lang ang itatagal bago mabulok ang stock sa mga warehouse ninyo. Siguradong malulugi kayo kapag nalunod na ang merkado sa dagdag na bigas,” warned the President.
For the rice shortage, the President Aquino said that the government has imported from abroad enough to sustain the demand of the market.
“Kumikilos kayo kontra sa mga Pilipino; kami naman, isinusulong ang interes ng bawat Pilipino. Tingnan natin kung sino ang mananalo,” the President said. PND (ag)
President Aquino highlights his accomplishments in fifth State of the Nation Address
President Benigno S. Aquino III delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday, underscoring his administration’s accomplishments in recent years, particularly in social services, infrastructure, economy, and public-private partnership.
President Aquino began his speech by recalling the problems he had inherited from the past administration and how such challenges are being addressed at present.
He stressed how the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) helped scholars of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) under its training-for work scholarship program by augmenting its budget with P1.6 billion.
He showed an audio-visual presentation of two TESDA scholars whose lives were changed by the program. Former jeepney barker, Marc Escora, related how the program helped him land a job in the BPO industry. Jonalyn Navarosa also recalled how the program aided her to become successful in the field of automotive service.
President Aquino said the program produced 223,615 graduates, 66 percent or 146,731 of whom have already found jobs. TESDA is helping the rest find employment.
“This is good governance: the right intentions, practices and results. Everyone wins,” he said.
The President further tackled social services, citing the Expanded Conditional Cash Transfer program, which started last June with a P12.3-billion fund.
He noted the record drop in the country's poverty incidence from 27.9 percent in the first semester of 2012 to 24.9 percent in same period of 2013, which translates to 2.5 million Filipinos currently above the poverty line.
He then mentioned the country’s economic gains through intensified tax collection efforts, with tax collections increasing from P1.094 trillion in 2010 to P1.536 trillion in 2013.
“Under a fair system, the resurgence of our economy began. We were able to save because of prudent fiscal management,” he said.
With prudent fiscal management, he said the government was able to pay P40 billion in debt.
“We worked hard to accumulate the funds the government has today, which is why we will not tolerate wasting it,” he further said.
He also noted the investment grade status the country obtained from Moody’s, Fitch Group and Standard & Poor's.
Wearing a white barong with a yellow ribbon pin, President Aquino arrived at the Batasan Complex at about 3:25 p.m. He was welcomed by Senate President Franklin Drilon and House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.
The President’s sisters, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, Pinky Aquino-Abellada, Viel Aquino-Dee and Kris Aquino, were present, wearing gowns with yellow embellishments, showing their support for their brother.
Several members of the Aquino Cabinet arrived together namely Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, National Economic Development Authority Chief Arsenio Balisacan, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, and Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje,
Also present were Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, TESDA Director General Joel Villanueva, Agriculture Secretary Virgilio Delos Reyes, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, DOST Secretary Mario Montejo, CHED Secretary Patricia Licuanan, DOTC Secretary Emilio Abaya, Education Secretary Br. Armin Luistro, DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas, DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario Rehabilitation and Recovery Secretary Ping Lacson, Chairman of the Committees on Agriculture and Social Justice in the Senate Francis Pangilinan, Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Abad and Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
All Cabinet members were wearing yellow ribbons, showing solidarity amid criticisms against the administration involving the DAP, which the Supreme Court declared partially unconstitutional.
Vice President Jejomar Binay was also present as well as former President Fidel V. Ramos.
The President’s fifth State of the Nation Address was attended by about 2,000 guests, composed of members of the 16th Congress, Supreme Court justices, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Cabinet secretaries, other national government officials, and invited guests.
The President’s address lasted 1 hour and 31 minutes, drawing applause 86 times. PND (jb)
President Aquino: The Filipino is worth fighting for
“The Filipino is worth fighting for!”
President Benigno S. Aquino III added this line to the slogan of his father, the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., when he delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on Monday.
The President made the remark towards the end of his speech when he was thanking the Filipino people for giving him the chance to lead them.
“Ang transpormasyong tinatamasa natin ngayon, ay magagawa nating permanente sa gabay ng Panginoon. Hangga't buo ang ating pananalig at tiwala, at hangga't nagsisilbi tayong lakas ng isa’t isa, patuloy nating mapapatunayan na the Filipino is worth dying for, the Filipino is worth living for, at idadagdag ko naman po: The Filipino is definitely worth fighting for,” he said.
Ninoy Aquino uttered his famous last words, “The Filipino is worth dying for,” before he was gunned down in 1983 during the regime of former president Ferdinand Marcos.
President Aquino said that now, he knows the reason why he survived the ambush during the presidency of his mother, the late Corazon C. Aquino.
“Alam po ni Vice President na noong 1987, nagkasama kami, may kudeta, na-ambush po tayo doon, at tapos noon ay pangalawang buhay ko na po ito… Kuntento na po ako dahil panatag ang kalooban ko na kung ako po’y mawala na dito, marami po ang magpapatuloy ng ating tinahak; baka iyon lang po talaga ang papel ko, na umpisahan ito,” said President Aquino.
He then expressed his gratitude to the members of his Cabinet and religious leaders.
In an interview after the SONA, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. confirmed that during the last part of the address, the President spoke impromptu.
“He was talking to me, he was talking to every Filipino,” said Coloma. PND (ag)
President Aquino reports on reconstruction efforts in disaster-hit areas
President Benigno S. Aquino III said the government has started rebuilding efforts in areas devastated by disasters and conflict last year.
In his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday, the President said he signed this month the Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan for the provinces of Cebu, Iloilo, Samar, Eastern Samar, Leyte, and Tacloban City, which were devastated by Typhoon Yolanda in November last year.
The plan, which passed the stringent assessment of the Cabinet cluster, will help the typhoon victims begin new lives, he said.
"Nabuo po ang planong ito sa maigting na pagsisikap ni Secretary Ping Lacson, na inatasan nga nating tumutok sa mga hamong iniwan ni Yolanda. Umaasa po ako sa pakikiisa ng Kongreso, dahil malaking halaga ang kailangan, upang tuluyan nang maibangon ang ating mga kababayan," he said.
The Chief Executive also thanked the countries that assisted the Philippines in its rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the super typhoon.
Typhoon Yolanda, recorded as the strongest typhoon in history, affected 1.4 million Filipino families in 44 provinces in the country. Eastern Visayas was the most severely hit.
While the government rehabilitates typhoon-affected areas in the Visayas, he said it is also focusing on the welfare of communities devastated by the Zamboanga siege in September last year.
The government is already carrying out the Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Reconstruction, the President said, adding that this August, families affected by the conflict will start occupying permanent shelters built by the government in Martha Drive Subdivision.
The government aims to complete a total of 7,176 houses in different locations by June next year, the President reported, apologizing for the delays because of concerns in finding relocations sites.
"Tinitiyak din nating ang mga tahanang ito ay sumasang-ayon sa pangangailangan ng kanilang relihiyon at kultura, kaya't hindi pangkaraniwan ang mga ito," he noted.
For the 1,661 families who want to reconstruct their own homes, the government has released P30,000 for each of them under the Home Materials Assistance program, the President said.
The government has allotted P3.5 billion to fix infrastructure, buy land, and build permanent shelters in Zamboanga City. Of that amount, he said that P2.5 billion was released to the National Housing Authority and the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Aside from addressing the problems in the Visayas and Zamboanga City, the government has already reconstructed major infrastructure destroyed by a powerful quake in Bohol and Cebu, he said.
Some 25 bridges destroyed by the quake have been rebuilt and are already functional, the President said, noting that the government had released P3.583 billion to rehabilitate Bohol and Cebu.
"Kasama na rito ang P2.49 billion na ipinagkaloob ng Department of Interior and Local Government sa lokal na gobyerno, para sa pagpapagawa ng mga palengke, civic centers, tulay, water systems, munisipyo at iba pang istrukturang pampamahalaan," he said. PND (as)
Increased flights, aviation safety upgrades bode well for tourism industry, economy: President Aquino
Aviation safety upgrades and an increased number of direct flights by local carriers to other countries are signs of better things to come for the country’s tourism industry, President Benigno S. Aquino III said during his fifth State of the Nation Address, delivered on Monday at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) lifted its "significant safety concern" tag on the Philippines last year, and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (USFAA) has upgraded the country’s status back to Category 1, allowing more flights to US territories.
The European Union (EU) has also relaxed its restrictions on the country’s local carriers, the President said, paving the way for the Philippine Airlines to launch its direct flight to London after 15 years, which may be followed soon by Cebu Pacific.
President Aquino said these developments mean more opportunities for tourists and businessmen, especially those in Europe and the US, to visit the country and add vigor to its already improving economy.
“Dumarating sa atin ang mga ulat na sa dami ng mga gustong bumisitang negosyante at turista sa ating bansa, dumarating ang mga panahong kulang na ang mga biyahe papunta rito. Magandang balita nga po ang mga upgrade: dadami ang mga biyahe kaya matutugunan ang suliraning ito,” he said.
President Aquino thanked Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) director general William Hotchkiss and the men behind local carriers for these achievements.
“Sa patuloy na pagtutulungan ng CAAP at ng ating mga local carriers, pihadong mas marami pa tayong maaakit na turista at negosyante sa mga susunod na taon. Panalo ang mga umaasa sa sektor ng turismo, panalo ang sambayanang Pilipino. Mabuting pamamahala po ang ugat ng mga tagumpay na ito,” he said.
With the Philippines’ successful hosting of the recently concluded World Economic Forum on East Asia last May, President Aquino said he has never been more excited to announce even greater business opportunities for investors in the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, to be hosted also by Manila next year.
“Ihahayag natin sa gaganaping APEC Summit dito sa susunod na taon ang kaunlarang nakakamit natin at ang pagkakataong hatid nito para sa lahat. Wala pong duda, more open for business na nga po ang Pilipinas,” he said. PND (hdc)