President Aquino, delivering his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) before a joint session of Congress on Monday, asserted that the Philippine economy is “truly taking off” with barely two years left in his six-year term.
But Mr. Aquino, as expected, used the occasion to defend anew his administration’s controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), deftly weaving in various DAP-funded projects and its other benefit programs undertaken by his administration.
The President listed, among others, DAP-funded scholarship programs of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, additional capital for the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the conditional cash-transfer program to keep indigent pupils in schools and aviation-industry upgrades.
President Aquino also touted multibillion-peso infrastructure projects undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways, as he went on record saying these and other infrastructure programs were partly bankrolled by DAP funds, drawn from midyear savings of various Executive departments and agencies that the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in a 13-0 decision on July 1.
At the outset, Mr. Aquino acknowledged the need for his administration to address concerns aired by competing interests but he ended his over one-and-a-half-hour Sona without endorsing a list of priority legislative measures that senators, congressmen and business groups were expecting him to submit to guide lawmakers when they buckle down to work upon the resumption of regular sessions starting this week.
Expounding on his projection of an economic take-off, Aquino cited among others the Philippine air-transport industry’s upgrade to Category 1, enabling local carriers to bring in tourists from Europe and the United States. He added that improved cooperation between local civil aviation authorities and the local carriers “will further improve business prospects in the air transport industry.”
Aquino also voiced confidence that the Philippines’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference Forum next year will affirm that the country is now “open for business.” He said the sharp drop in incidents of labor unrest, with only one of over 100 notices of impending strikes pushing through, indicates a much improved investment climate.
“We still need to firm up structures to boost the business climate,” Aquino said, speaking in Filipino, noting that one major incentive provided by his administration is that no new taxes have been imposed by Congress, apart from the “sin” taxes on cigarettes and alcoholic drinks.
Aquino also boasted a “much improved” road-infrastructure network to facilitate movement of goods and services, as well as foreign and local visitors to various tourist sites all over the country.
“We would like to thank our ‘bosses’ for helping us attain all these achievements,” President Aquino said, crediting the Filipino people for supporting the programs of his administration.At the same time, Aquino confirmed the awaited delivery of additional air- force assets that will help the Armed Forces boost its border-patrol capabilities amid increasing incidents of Chinese encroachments in the West Philippine Sea.
He added that the government was also working to acquire additional firearms, including high-powered rifles and ammunition, to help authorities combat criminality and insurgency.
Written by: Butch Fernandez