International Relations and Trade

Like a Thief in the Night

image of Michaelangelo's Last Judgement from freepublic.com

That is not how the government acted in seeking to put Mrs Gloria Arroyo behind bars. Rather than keep the former president guessing as to the date when formal charges against her would be laid, President Aquino announced back in September what the timetable for it would be. Here is how he phrased it,

We will start filing the cases before the end of this year and with a little cooperation from the judiciary, maybe we can put some of these people in jail next year.

This signalled to Mrs Arroyo that she had to make travel plans as soon as possible, which then forced Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to take it upon herself to place the congresswoman under a departure watch list to keep her in the country even before preliminary investigations were concluded. This according to one justice meant that De Lima was now “more powerful than the court which can only do the same “after the filing of the information and the issuance of an arrest warrant“.

With a little cooperation from the judiciary”: those words of P-Noy now seem ominously prescient of events as they unfolded because straight after thwarting an attempt by the former president to leave by disregarding an injunction from the high court on the watch list order, the government then turned to a joint panel between the Comelec and the DOJ set up to look into electoral fraud to file a case before a regional trial court against Mrs Arroyo. This timeline shows that within the space of a few hours upon receiving their case files which numbered several thick ring binders, a judge issued an arrest warrant.

Had this judge not been so “cooperative”, Mrs Arroyo might have successfully fled the scene since the Supreme Court had by then thrown out the government’s appeal to have its injunction on their watch list order lifted. And so despite the fact that it had foolishly forewarned the former president of its intended moves, the government somehow managed to keep her in the country long enough for an arrest warrant to be served.

In the process of doing so, however, the government may have committed a few grave mistakes. These might come back to haunt its case. Certainly if it is found that it acted inappropriately, the president needs to own up to it because it was he who set the wheels in motion that eventually landed the government in a whole heap of trouble. Particularly with respect to his campaign promise to uphold the rule of law, P-Noy will be ultimately responsible if it is determined that his government usurped judicial powers or acted in contempt of court.

At the moment, the president is assailing the Supreme Court for the speed in which it issued its injunction on the government’s watch list order as he spoke before his “home court” the Makati Business Club, saying

(O)ur lawyers all know that it takes the Supreme Court 10 days, normally, to attend to motions, and it decides to issue a TRO for Mrs. Arroyo in three, who can avoid wondering what she did to merit such speedy relief?

And yet the president doesn’t see the irony of his position because the government was quite happy to get a lower court judge to issue an arrest warrant on his adversary in a matter of hours, which was a far more difficult decision to make. Certainly, when it comes to fostering the rule of law, what this government has in mind is something quite different from the standard.

Like a thief in the night–that is how the Hacienda Luisita decision was handed down by the high court in the midst of all this. Oral arguments had been heard and the judgement of the court had been pending. No one knew the day or time when it would materialize. Suddenly either by coincidence or by design the justices rendered a unanimous vote in favour of the farm worker beneficiaries to have the Aquino-Cojuangco estate title transferred directly to them.

Having justified its bold and decisive actions against the court’s injunctions because of the ensuing confusion surrounding it, the government through its spokesman immediately informed the public that it would respect this particular decision as public support had been mounting in favour of it. The only caveat was for the determination of ‘just compensation’ for the president’s relatives and other issues that the court still has to settle.

The initial action by the Arroyo government to revoke the stock distribution option taken by the Cojuangcos in complying with the agrarian reform law was suspect according to US officials based on confidential diplomatic cables as a form of retaliation by Mrs Arroyo on the matriarch of the Cojuangco clan for supporting calls for her ouster back in 2005. What the Supreme Court ruling now does is open up the possibility for a counter-retaliatory move on the part of Mr Aquino against the Macapagal-Arroyo clans who also own sugar plantations.

This tantalizing opportunity could reverse the destructive pattern of competition by ruling elite factions to accumulate wealth through landholdings using the weak system of property rights in the country in order to consolidate power. Now in a bid to weaken each other, these same ruling elites might now work to dismantle each other’s landholdings. Given that one faction controls the executive and another holds the sympathies of the judiciary, this feud might actually produce something positive for the country.

Like a thief in the night—that is not how events overtook this government on the economic front. For one, the debt crisis in Europe was unravelling like a train wreck in slow motion for several years now. The seeds of this crisis were actually sown during the last one when governments pumped liquidity into their banking systems and engaged in stimulatory fiscal spending. It was only a matter of time before bond holders began to raise the cost of public debt.

The government had ample time to prepare the nation for this crisis, to bullet proof it by sustaining demand through public construction and investment. The early warning signs that its fiscal consolidation was going too far and actually dampening growth in demand were quite evident during the end of last year. The government had ample opportunity to correct its course and make the necessary adjustments. It may turn out in the end that a transition to a new government may have caused unnecessary disruptions to patron-client networks in the bureaucracy. Reconfiguring these networks took too much time.

Finance officials might have taken this as a welcome blessing as the slow spend rate allowed them to limit the fiscal deficit while sticking to the president’s no new taxes pledge. Meanwhile,with the fiscal space it had from fiscal consolidation, it cut tariffs on certain industries. It balanced this decision by removing power subsidies to exporters in special economic zones. These could threaten the growth of some industries and lead to the closure of others at a time when global demand for our exports is already weakening or restructuring as some economists have noted.

The biblical phrase “like a thief in the night” comes from the parable of the ten virgins found in the canonical gospels of the New Testament. It is also known as the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins. The five virgins who were prepared for the bride-groom came to his wedding feast, while the other five who weren’t were excluded. It has an eschatological message: to be prepared for the day of judgement. The final reckoning.

With the second coming of the Aquino dynasty, will the country be prepared to pass the test? Or will it simply slip into oblivion? The day of judgement is nearly at hand!

Whither the Philippines in 2020?

As America “pivots” towards Asia where the future economic centre of gravity of the world will be, how big or small a role will the Philippines play in this the Pacific Century?

Source of image: taiwandocuments.org

Jim O’Neill the man from Goldman Sachs responsible for the acronym BRICs (which stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China) in a forthcoming book feels all the more convinced as ever of the accuracy of his predictions ten years ago when he first coined it to describe the growth potential of emerging markets. His sense of vindication for what he now characterises as his “conservative” estimates comes from the fact that in his words,

The world economy has doubled in size since 2001, and a third of that growth has come from the BRICs. Their combined GDP increase was more than twice that of the United States and it was equivalent to the creation of another new Japan plus one Germany, or five United Kingdoms, in the space of a single decade.

At this rate, China will be on track to surpass the United States as the world’s biggest economy by 2027, according to O’Neill, beating the earlier estimate of 2035. Predicting when this will happen has become an interesting past-time of analysts of late, which is why The Economist whose own projections for a 2019 year of reckoning made available the following interactive chart where you can play around with the assumptions and do-it-yourself  by entering them in the assigned fields (see below).

As Secretary Clinton has put it

The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics. Stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas, the region spans two oceans — the Pacific and the Indian — that are increasingly linked by shipping and strategy. It boasts almost half the world’s population. It includes many of the key engines of the global economy, as well as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. It is home to several of our key allies and important emerging powers like China, India, and Indonesia.

In his address to the Australian parliament, President Obama welcomed the rise of a peaceful China stating that

Together, I believe we can address shared challenges, such as (nuclear) proliferation and maritime security, including cooperation in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, the United States will continue our effort to build a cooperative relationship with China.
…We will do this, even as we continue to speak candidly to Beijing about the importance of upholding international norms and respecting the universal human rights of the Chinese people.
A secure and peaceful Asia is the foundation for the second area in which America is leading again – and that’s advancing our shared prosperity.

A constant theme in that speech which effectively marked the “pivot point” to the East was America’s adherence to the rule of law to govern international relations in security and economic terms, as well as its championing of open democracies and free markets in the region. In both cases, Obama was at his professorial best when he promoted the concept of rules based trading in commerce and politics.

His speech writers could be said to channel F.A. Hayek the founder of contemporary libertarianism who said that, “Only the existence of common rules makes the peaceful existence of individuals in society possible.

This is consistent with America’s constitutional belief in universal principles. Prof Obama was also acting like Dr King, in that he was delivering a sermon. He may have seemed in Australia to be “preaching to the choir” but his real intended audience was not in Canberra, but Beijing. In Bali, he got to exchange a few constructive words with his Chinese counterpart. Much to the Philippine delegation’s dismay, the US defence posture in the region is not meant to intimidate the rising power of China into submission over the South China Sea issue.

Back home, President Aquino had another axe of sorts to grind with the placing of his predecessor Gloria Arroyo under hospital detention following her indictment for election fraud. This followed a week of controversy involving her attempted departure from the country to seek medical treatment following a Supreme Court decision to temporarily lift the Department of Justice’s hold departure order on her, a decision that was not accepted by the said department.

All of this puts into context, the question of where will the Philippines be in 2020? Will the Philippines be a prosperous democratic country governed by the rule of law? Or will it still be struggling to achieve this ideal that the US president spoke of so eloquently?

Today, the hot topic in Manila among political commentators is whether the action taken by the Aquino government to prevent Mrs Arroyo from leaving was in accordance with the rule of law. On the side of those who say yes is Randy David who believes what we have now is a “rule of justices” not a bona fide rule of law thanks to the lady at the centre of the controversy. On the side of naysayers is Solita Monsod who believes the speed with which the investigation was conducted points once again to the politicisation of the process. Both make reasoned arguments in support of their views.

The president convinced of the justness of his actions and mindful of his constituents exhorted his countrymen to “not waver.” He said that

We are all working for a new Philippines, one where there is equality, where whoever does wrong, whatever his status in life may be, is punished, a country where justice rules.

Whatever the position either camp holds in this debate, all will agree that prosecuting the Arroyos has been quite a messy undertaking, much like the way President Joseph Estrada was deposed from office. The legality of it will be questioned and the merits of it will be argued for years to come in the court of public opinion.

Incidentally, 2011 is also the tenth year since Estrada’s ouster. Back in 2001, Mr Estrada will argue, the country’s elites conspired to bring a sitting and democratically elected president down by extra-constitutional means. Today, it has been argued that one faction of the elite has manipulated the legal system to jail the head of another.

In all this time, has the country progressed towards becoming a stable more prosperous country? To the analysts, the country’s growth rate over the last ten years has proven their rosy forecasts right. They will say that we are on track both demographically and economically to be a force to reckon with by 2020 and beyond.

To the “insiders” the same old problems of social inequity still prevails. One set of rules still seems to apply to one class of people, and another applies to the rest. To the administration and its followers, the Arroyos have become totemic of this system. To them successfully prosecuting and sending her swiftly to jail would prove once and for all that only one system of justice prevails in the country.

To the realists, the application of justice over the course of the next ten years will largely depend on who sits in power. By 2020, a certain boxer-legislator who happened to be one of GMA’s strongest endorsers believes he will be a strong contender for the Palace in 2022. By then he would have tucked a few billion pesos under his belt and followed a path set before by the populist Erap Estrada.

Should the reforms espoused by the current seat warmers of Malacañang not take route in the next five years the political pendulum could swing the other way and a revival of patronage-based populism with a new face could rise to replace the torch-bearers of our current elite democracy.

Similarly, China could match the US pound-for-pound in their rivalry for regional dominance. The Beijing Consensus might by then trump the Washington version. A different model for prosperity might be in play making the need for establishing common rules seem rather (how shall we put it?…) academic.

Imagining True Independence

What would a truly independent Philippines look like?

In the week that the nation was celebrating the 113th anniversarry of its original declaration of independence from Spain, it was fending off rumors of impending incursions into its territory in the Spratlys by China. Having an up and coming naval power in the region press the boundaries of our sovereignty made us call upon our former Commonwealth partner in the US to come to our rescue with assurances of support.

To some, the fact that we had to seek foreign assistance to protect our domestic resources means that we are not truly free. This leads me to imagine what a truly independent Philippines would look like. I use the word ‘imagine’ in the Andersonian sense. Benedict Anderson, author of Imagined Communities would say that all post-colonial societies are mere fiction, inventions of their former colonial masters.

According to one definition of it, “independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory.” The concept of a sovereign state usually incorporates two things: an effective and independent government on the one hand and a defined territory on the other. Nations or states which are unable to fulfill these two requirements are generally recognized as failed states.

Based on these definitions, can the Philippines be seen as truly independent?

Aside from acquiring formal independence in the political sense, what other indicators would signal our independence in a de facto sense. It sounds like a sophomore’s essay writing assignment, but the president himself during his Independence Day addresses was ruminating out loud as to what this would mean for us today. He seemed to be offering up a few suggestions, to wit:

  • One was freedom from corruption. It was present and running rampant in 1898. In Cacique Democracy, Anderson described how the abuses of local bosses prevented the revolutionary taxes from reaching the central government of Aguinaldo. In 2010 a hundred and thirteen years later, one of the decendants of the original revolutionary leaders in the person of PNoy declared that the Philippines had become graft free. Strange imaginings, perhaps, but corruption does prevent the state from governing in the interests of its people.
  • Another ingredient for true independence dreamt up by PNoy was freedom from hunger and unemployment. In his speeches during the week, he spoke of the freedom from privation when he said that the problem facing his countrymen was what type of food to put on the table, rather than having something to eat or not. He also mentioned that overseas workers now had an option to come home to the Philippines because the booming call center industry permitted them to earn decent wages. Again, strange imaginings, it would seem, but deprivation of economic freedom does weaken a nation’s sovereignty.
  • Related to the second ingredient is energy independence or freedom from the high cost of foreign oil. During the week, PNoy announced the fifty percent renewable energy by 2030 target. Indeed the high cost of transportation and electricity along with food are the main causes of misery among much of the populace, which is probably the reason for his declining popularity. However, in the same week that he made this announcement, the palace also released a statement regarding the postponement if not outright cancellation of some port and rail projects just as the previous administration cancelled an airport contract for much the same reason.

Indeed each administration would like to draw a line in the sand to mark the end of the old era and the start of a new one. But what each administration finds out, whether it be the Aquino administration and the mothballing of Marcos’s nuclear plant, or Erap and Ramos’s indepenent power producers, or GMA and Ramos’s NAIA-3, or PNoy and GMA’s pet projects, cancellation of old contracts come at a price. This price is eventually borne by the taxpayers.

A fiscal strategy missing

The deeper question has to do with why the nation has to depend on overseas development assistance or ODA’s in the first place. These projects which often require us to purchase equipment from the donor country are little more than industrial policy disguised as foreign assistance. Indeed with the WTO restricting member countries from exercising independent industrial, trade or monetary policies, public sector procurement provides one of the remaining avenues for a nation to foster domestic import replacing industries.

The model I would put up is that of Marikina City under Bayani Fernando. The city’s engineering department under Mayor BF did not contract out its public works projects but produced everything in house, including its quaint looking portalets, traffic signs and street lights. While the city was not one of the richest, it raised revenues through property taxes which were justified by the city’s improvement of roadworks and schools. Fiscal independence was integral to its development.

Unfortunately, calls for a fiscal adjustment plan that would lead to greater fiscal independence seem to be falling on deaf ears as the administration continues to believe in its ability to attract private investors to supply public infrastructure. The idea is that a user pays principle trumps the socializing of public investment. The problem with that is that along with user pays, PPP’s also introduce the notion of a fair market return for the private investor.

It would be possible, under an alternative situation, for the government to fund the construction of public infrastructure projects and recover its investment by charging users without resorting to a private operator model. Under such a set-up, users would not have to pay as much, as the government would not require a fair market rate of return.

The social contract

The modern imagining of the concept of sovereignty comes from reflections on the relationship between individuals and their government. This led to an “intellectual device” known as the social contract. According to one definition, the “(s)ocial contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept corresponding duties to protect themselves and one another from violence and other kinds of harm.”

For the nation to maintain its territorial integrity, and protect its off-shore assets in the South China Sea from invasion, it will have to increase its military budget. Australia has already announced that it will increase its deployment of defence assets off its northern and western shores to secure its oil and gas reserves. The move comes while it also contemplates increased US military presence on its own bases. This is in anticipation of the rising influence of resource hungry China in the region.

For the government to provide security and basic social services to the people in a way that enables them to be productive citizens, it will have to become more efficient and competent in acquiting its resources. One of the things hindering the present government from doing what it intends appears to be its fear, some would say paranoia, that a lot of its spending goes to line the pockets of corrupt officials.

This distrust has created bottlenecks in the expenditure program which has hampered development spending of late. If as PNoy stated the Philippines has become graft free, it would be partly because his government in its first year has withheld spending from most of its line agencies with only the military and police agencies being spared.

Finally, and perhaps as a parting shot, let me say that if the nation is to be more mature, one would imagine there to be no need for petty partisan politics during national celebrations such as June the 12th. The use of folksy street parlance to settle personal political gripes denigrates the solemnity of the occasion. For me, the day when we as a people can mark such important dates in our history without our leaders resorting to snide remarks and bickering of this sort will be the day that our nation truly becomes free.

Back on-track

It took a visit to the “world’s capital” for the PNoy presidency to regain control of its agenda. Weeks before, a lone gunman on a bus with a score of tourists threatened to derail it a mere two months into its term. The firestorm of criticism during and after the incident immediately sucked the oxygen out of whatever positive “messaging” his befuddled communications group sought to craft about certain policies that were being rolled out at the time.

As he boarded his plane bound for the UN annual gathering of leaders in New York City, a few loose ends remained unresolved, put off until his return. These included a review of the internal investigation report authored principally by his earnest justice secretary which recommended the filing of charges against senior officials and a separate investigation into allegations of connivance with gambling syndicates within his camp.

PNoy’s management style and personnel selection, in particular the preponderance of Barkada, Inc among his inner circle of advisers and officials, were being called into question. A series of “Miscues and False Starts” was unmasking the shallow depth of experience the “rookie” team had. The shadow lines of authority being assigned to the inexperienced but trusted barkada (an innocuous term for cronies) was beginning to undermine the legitimacy and efficacy of the competent but mistrusted camp of “the professionals”. All this was taking place alongside the foreign relations gaffes with Hong Kong and Beijing.

It seemed that the ship of state rather than charting its own course was being driven by the elements, buffeted and tossed around at will by forces beyond its control–the confidence and goodwill that swelled during his inauguration had all but dissipated.

But within 48 hours of his landing, PNoy was regaining a little step in his stride by delivering his first foreign address before the UN, meeting with Barrack Obama on the sidelines of the 2nd ASEAN-US summit, and receiving the long promised aid worth $434-m from the State Department under Hillary Clinton through the Millenium Challenge Corporation. To top it all off, PNoy decided to walk down 6th Avenue to engage in a little “hotdog stand” diplomacy by treating his entourage and the media in tow to lunch.

In a photo-op fit for a VISA commercial ( as in “the cost of treating the crew to lunch, $54, seeing your former arch-nemesis shrink in shame, ‘priceless'”), PNoy endowed his presidency with newfound legitimacy through his frugal spending on what he regarded to be one of life’s little pleasures (he actually referred to it as an act of indulgence). As if to cast out the ghost of Mrs Arroyo’s Le Cirque days, PNoy signaled to the audience back home what he was all about.

This PR coup achieved something in the eyes of ordinary pinoys that formal addresses and staged events could not. It showed PNoy in his element as a simple, hard-working president. It will be this image, not the one he left back home that will be the new face of his administration.

As this was happening, the Philippine Stock Exchange doffed off any negative impressions created by the latest report of the Asian Corporate Governance Association which scored the country at the bottom of the heap. Not even perceptions of corruption, weak property rights and poor rule of law seem to deter investors under this current administration. Time will tell if this is just market exuberance but the PSE index has already risen by more than a third since the year began. And as he made his way back via the US west coast, the president collected a number of significant foreign investor commitments.

It appears that all it took for PNoy to regain his footing were a couple of days in Manhattan. With momentum restored, his ability to set the agenda should find renewed focus as he touches back down in Manila.

Image credit: Bump’s Guide

The 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Summit: What’s on the Menu in Manhattan?

The 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Summit: What’s on the Menu in Manhattan?
By Ernest Bower, Director, South East Asia Program-CSIS
ABS-CBN News

Summary

President Barack Obama will host 8 of the 10 leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—in New York City on Friday, September 24, at the second U.S.-ASEAN Summit. The meeting underlines renewed U.S. policy energy being invested in Southeast Asia. Headlines from the discussion will likely focus on three areas:

1. Security alignment—including restatement of a common position on the South China Sea;

2. Economic growth and trade—particularly ASEAN’s leaders are seeking an update from Obama on the health of the U.S. economy and a read on whether the mid-term U.S. congressional elections might be an inflection point after which the United States can return to a proactive posture on trade; and

3. Burma—specifically exploring how the United States and ASEAN can encourage Burma’s leaders to create political space in the November elections and beyond.

The fact that the meeting is taking place in September in the United States is important in that it institutionalizes renewed U.S. engagement in ASEAN ahead of key steps forward in creating new regional security and trade architecture in Asia.

On the other hand, the fact that the summit is taking place in New York, not Washington, and without the leader of ASEAN’s largest country and economy, Indonesia, underlines the fact that while the policy intent is clearly substantive engagement, there is still much work to be done to align the United States and ASEAN.

Despite the best intentions of the principals, the meeting will certainly be viewed through the prism of perceived increased tension between China and its Asian neighbors, particularly related to disputed maritime territories.

Q1: Who is meeting and what is the agenda?

A1: President Obama will host the summit over lunch at a hotel in New York City from 12 noon to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, September 24. Eight of the 10 ASEAN leaders are confirmed to join him, except for President Susilio Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and Prime Minister Thein Sein of Burma. The ASEAN secretary general, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, will also join the meeting. The only surprise is Yudhoyono’s absence, and that is significant (see below). The Burmese were not expected to send their head of state due to poor relations with the United States and the sanctions regime currently in place. Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono will be represented by Vice President Boediono, and Burma’s Prime Minister Thein Sein will be represented by Foreign Minister U Nyan Win. The leaders will be accompanied in most cases by their ministers of foreign affairs, ambassadors to the United States and/or the United Nations, and other senior officials.

Q2: Why isn’t President Yudhoyono attending, and what are the implications of his absence?

A2: President Yudhuyono notified the White House that he could not accept President Obama’s invitation to come to New York due to domestic issues in Jakarta. Insiders confirm that Yudhoyono decided he could not come to New York because of a confluence of issues—including the fact that Obama has had to postpone planned travel to Indonesia three times since taking office and the short notice given by the White House (not quite a month in advance of the meeting). Had the summit been held in Washington, D.C., and in early October, so Yudhoyono and the other ASEAN leaders could have come on either side of their long planned visit to Brussels for the Asia-Europe Summit, the Indonesian leader would probably have come.

Yudhoyono’s absence sends a strong signal that although the U.S.-ASEAN relationship is moving in the right direction, there is work still to be done to improve alignment. Indonesia is ASEAN’s largest country and has the largest economy, both more than twice the size of the next member. It is also ASEAN’s incoming chairman for 2011. It is likely that the United States and ASEAN will get back on track next year when Indonesia hosts the third U.S.-ASEAN Summit, and after President Obama finally is able to make his long-awaited visit to Indonesia. There are quiet plans for him to visit Jakarta during his Asia trip after U.S. mid-term elections in November. That trip would include India, Indonesia, Korea for the G-20 Summit, and Japan for the APEC Leaders Summit. In sum, Yudhoyono’s absence doesn’t fully diminish the importance of the meeting in New York on Friday, but it lays down the marker that the U.S.-ASEAN relationship is trending well, but remains a work in progress. (I explore the gap between U.S. policy intentions toward ASEAN and the realities of domestic politics revealed by Yudhoyono’s absence from New York on the CSIS Southeast Asia policy blog. Click here for the article.)

Q3: What is the on the security agenda and will the South China Sea be a focus?

A3: The United States and ASEAN are working with other countries, including Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and Russia, to create new regional security architecture in Asia. To this end, the United States and Russia will be invited to join the East Asia Summit (EAS) this October during its meeting in Hanoi. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will represent the United States at the meeting and accept the invitation. The United States will then ideally be represented by President Obama at the next EAS hosted by Indonesia in 2011 (it is likely that the U.S.-ASEAN Summit will be held in proximity). As part of its calculus in deciding to join the EAS, the United States recognized that it must strengthen its security and political ties with ASEAN and invest in supporting ASEAN’s self-defined goals to firm up its foundation through economic, political, and socioeconomic integration, as outlined in the ASEAN Charter. To this end, the United States has been moving to normalize military ties with Indonesia and to enhance military relations with Vietnam, as well as committing to join the ASEAN Defense Minister Meeting + 8 (which includes the same countries listed above who are/will be members of the EAS).

In this context, one of the existential challenges for Asia is to create structures and use diplomacy to encourage China’s peaceful rise as a major world power. The South China Sea represents a major challenge in this process. China has been very effective in its “charm offensive,” begun during the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, writing a script as an engaged and committed neighbor promising economic dynamism through expanded trade and investment and regional economic integration. However, China’s geopolitical interests are the other side of that coin. China’s definition of its “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea, in response to Secretary of State Clinton’s reiteration of long-standing U.S. goals for maritime dispute resolution and freedom of navigation in the area based on international law and a multilateral approach, has uncovered atavistic anxieties about China’s intentions among the Southeast Asian countries. Therefore, ASEAN has welcomed a strong U.S. voice on security concerns in the South China Sea, and this has come at a time—ahead of a Chinese political cycle that will identify the country’s next generation of leaders in 2012—of heightened nationalism in China.

Neither the United States nor ASEAN wants to provoke Chinese nationalists, but both recognize the importance of being firm and sustaining a commitment to a multilateral approach to dispute resolution. Therefore, it is likely that the summit in New York will result in a joint statement that addresses the issue by reiterating the intent and direction of Secretary Clinton’s remarks at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Hanoi with a focus on China.

Q4: How about economic growth and trade?

A4: ASEAN is concerned about the health and direction of the U.S. economy and hopes that President Obama can assure them that a recovery is underway and that he will be able to move the United States toward a more proactive posture on trade after the U.S. mid-term elections in November. These issues are fundamentally important to ASEAN because the United States is its largest overseas market (particularly when you consider the fact that many ASEAN exports go through China as part of a supply chain that ends up with products delivered to the United States), and because the United States remains one of the top and qualitatively most valuable sources of investment and technology for the region. ASEAN is collectively the most trade dependent formal grouping of nations in the world, with trade accounting for nearly 100 percent of aggregate gross domestic product. So if trade stagnates, ASEAN is the global canary in the coal mine and it suffers first and most significantly.

ASEAN will be watching the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement closely as the benchmark indicator for whether Obama will use the political chits necessary to kick-start trade and make the case to Americans that long-term recovery is dependent on U.S. engagement in ASEAN, Asia, and the world. ASEAN is the United States’ fourth-largest overseas market and one that promises high-level growth for the coming years. ASEAN wants to know if the mid-term elections will be an inflection point for the U.S. stance on global trade. (Read more on the disconnect between policy and politics on trade with ASEAN in cogitASIA )

Q5: What about Burma?

A5: With Burmese elections coming up on November 7, Burma is sure to be high on the summit agenda—at least for the Unites States. While ASEAN would prefer not to have to carry the weight of Burma’s cloistered and intransigent military junta, it recognizes that having made the commitment to bring Burma into its membership it must work with the United States and others to try to encourage the creation of political space there. The Obama administration deserves credit for its courage and foresight in espousing an engagement strategy toward Burma that allowed it to reengage with ASEAN and hold meetings such as this summit. While the engagement has not produced results in Burma, the United States has changed its paradigm with ASEAN. The administration can and likely will tighten sanctions on Burma by focusing on its leaders, their families, and companies they are associated with—measures outlined in the Lantos Act. ASEAN needs to do its part and increase its normative focus on Burma to pressure the regime to create more political openness so it can truly engage in the core elements of integration defined in the ASEAN Charter. If ASEAN begins to focus on Burma, pressure may increase on China and India to refocus their current mercantilist and military policies that enable the hard-line domestic political stance of the junta and to play a role as responsible stakeholders encouraging positive change in the country.

Q6: What next?

A6: ASEAN hopes that President Obama will announce his candidate as the first U.S. ambassador to ASEAN to be resident in Jakarta. A candidate’s name is reportedly pending review and due diligence, though it is not likely that name can be announced on Friday. Additionally, the United States and ASEAN are expecting to name an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) to provide guidance and leadership for the relationship. These names have also not been announced yet.

After the New York summit, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in visiting Hanoi for the EAS, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will visit Vietnam for the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting + 8. President Obama is planning to visit Indonesia in November as mentioned above.

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Ernest Bower is a senior adviser and director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

Aquino all set for international ‘debut’

Aquino all set for international ‘debut’
BY REGINA BENGCO
Malaya

PRESIDENT Aquino will make his international debut on Friday in New York at the US-Asean Leaders’ Meeting and the UN General Assembly.

The US-Asean Leaders’ Meeting is expected to result in the creation of an Asean-US Eminent Persons Group that will recommend the forging of a strategic partnership between Asean and the United States in the fields of political security, and economic and socio-cultural cooperation.

On Thursday (Manila time), Aquino received the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal, the highest honor conferred by the College of Mount Saint Vincent, the alma mater of his late mother, former president Corazon Aquino.

The award is named after the native New Yorker, saint and founder of the Sisters of Charity, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and is given to those with outstanding achievements, generosity of spirit and extraordinary self-sacrifice. President Corazon Aquino received the same award.

Aquino said he is a “living testimony to People Power: the redemptive power of prayer” that “toppled the dictatorship, frustrated those who would try to revive its ways, sustained democracy and now, serves as the bones and sinews of our great mandate for reform.”

He said Filipinos are now “working mightily to free themselves from slavery and poverty.” He said he is praying that Filipinos will remain free and prosperous long after his term.

At the US-Asean Leaders’ Meeting, one issue expected to be discussed is Asean’s dispute with China on some islands in the South China Sea. China has opposed the US’ intervention in the Spratlys dispute.

The Spratly islands are being claimed wholly or in part by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

US President Barack Obama, President Aquino and Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet are expected to hold a press conference after the meeting.

Vietnam chairs the Asean for this year while the Philippines is the coordinator of the US-Asean Leaders Meeting.

Aquino will also meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and address the United Nations General Assembly.

At the UNGA, Aquino is expected to call for international cooperation in addressing global issues. He will also discuss the Philippines’ commitment to fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals and reiterate the Philippines’ support for UN peacekeeping mission.

Aquino on Thursday (Manila time) met with officials of the Synergos Institute and key civil society leaders from around the world to exchange ideas on active citizenship and participatory governance, as well as the possibility of pursuing a tripartite partnership with government.

He also met with officials of the AES Corp. to discuss the possible expansion of the Masinloc power plant in Zambales.

He received World Bank president Robert Zoellick and discussed how the WB could help develop crucial sectors of the economy and Mindanao.

Aquino also talked business and trade opportunities with the RP-US Business Council during a dinner at the Benihana restaurant in New York City.

Aquino also had a separate meeting with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in New York (Wednesday in Manila) to get some insights on foreign relations.

Aquino said Kissinger’s expertise in foreign relations is something that he cannot ignore. Kissinger is a political scientist who advised US Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F.Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

He said Kissinger, a Harvard professor of government and foreign policy adviser for the Nixon and Ford administrations, could help guide his fledgling administration in its international relations.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, meanwhile, justified the governments hiring of a PR firm to “sell” the country. He said the firm Creab Gavin Anderson was paid $15,000 to help project a favorable image for the country in the foreign business media.

1st State of the Nation Address of His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III

2010 SONA President Benigno S. Aquino III

State of the Nation Address

of His Excellency

Benigno S. Aquino III

President of the Philippines

to the Congress of the Philippines

Session Hall of the House of Representatives

July 26, 2010

[Batasan Pambansa Complex, Quezon City]

PANIMULA

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte; Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; Vice President Jejomar Binay; Chief Justice Renato Corona; Former Presidents Fidel Valdez Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada; members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; distinguished members of the diplomatic corps; my fellow workers in government;

Mga minamahal kong kababayan:

Sa bawat sandali po ng pamamahala ay nahaharap tayo sa isang sangandaan.

Sa isang banda po ay ang pagpili para sa ikabubuti ng taumbayan. Ang pagtanaw sa interes ng nakakarami; ang pagkapit sa prinsipyo; at ang pagiging tapat sa sinumpaan nating tungkulin bilang lingkod-bayan. Ito po ang tuwid na daan.

Sa kabilang banda ay ang pag-una sa pansariling interes. Ang pagpapaalipin sa pulitikal na konsiderasyon, at pagsasakripisyo ng kapakanan ng taumbayan. Ito po ang baluktot na daan.

Matagal pong naligaw ang pamahalaan sa daang baluktot. Araw-araw po, lalong lumilinaw sa akin ang lawak ng problemang ating namana. Damang-dama ko ang bigat ng aking responsibilidad.

Sa unang tatlong linggo ng aming panunungkulan, marami po kaming natuklasan. Nais ko pong ipahayag sa inyo ang iilan lamang sa mga namana nating suliranin at ang ginagawa naming hakbang para lutasin ang mga ito.

Sulyap lamang po ito; hindi pa ito ang lahat ng problemang haharapin natin. Inilihim at sadyang iniligaw ang sambayanan sa totoong kalagayan ng ating bansa.

PROBLEMA SA BUDGET

Sa unang anim na buwan ng taon, mas malaki ang ginastos ng gobyerno kaysa sa pumasok na kita. Lalong lumaki ang deficit natin, na umakyat na sa 196.7 billion pesos. Sa target na kuleksyon, kinapos tayo ng 23.8 billion pesos; ang tinataya namang gastos, nalagpasan natin ng 45.1 billion pesos.

Ang budget po sa 2010 ay 1.54 trillion pesos.

Nasa isandaang bilyong piso o anim at kalahating porsyento na lang ng kabuuan ang malaya nating magagamit para sa nalalabing anim na buwan ng taong ito.

Halos isang porsyento na lang po ng kabuuang budget ang natitira para sa bawat buwan.

Saan naman po dinala ang pera?

CALAMITY FUND

Naglaan ng dalawang bilyong piso na Calamity Fund bilang paghahanda para sa mga kalamidad na hindi pa nangyayari. Napakaliit na nga po ng pondong ito, ngunit kapapasok pa lang natin sa panahon ng baha at bagyo, 1.4 billion pesos o sitenta porsyento na ang nagastos.

Sa kabuuan ng 108 million pesos para sa lalawigan ng Pampanga, 105 million pesos nito ay napunta sa iisang distrito lamang. Samantala, ang lalawigan ng Pangasinan na sinalanta ng Pepeng ay nakatanggap ng limang milyong piso lamang para sa pinsalang idinulot ng bagyong Cosme, na nangyari noong 2008 pa.

Ibinigay po ang pondo ng Pampanga sa buwan ng eleksyon, pitong buwan pagkatapos ng Ondoy at Pepeng. Paano kung bumagyo bukas? Inubos na ang pondo nito para sa bagyong nangyari noong isang taon pa. Pagbabayaran ng kinabukasan ang kasakiman ng nakaraan.

MWSS

Ganyan din po ang nangyari sa pondo ng MWSS. Kamakailan lamang, pumipila ang mga tao para lang makakuha ng tubig. Sa kabila nito, minabuti pa ng liderato ng MWSS na magbigay ng gantimpala sa sarili kahit hindi pa nababayaran ang pensyon ng mga retiradong empleyado.

Noong 2009, ang buong payroll ng MWSS ay 51.4 million pesos. Pero hindi lang naman po ito ang sahod nila; may mga additional allowances at benefits pa sila na aabot sa 160.1 million pesos. Sa madaling sabi, nakatanggap sila ng 211.5 million pesos noong nakaraang taon. Beinte-kuwatro porsyento lang nito ang normal na sahod, at sitenta’y sais porsyento ang dagdag.
Ang karaniwang manggagawa hanggang 13th month pay plus cash gift lang ang nakukuha. Sa MWSS, aabot sa katumbas ng mahigit sa tatlumpung buwan ang sahod kasama na ang lahat ng mga bonuses at allowances na nakuha nila.

Mas matindi po ang natuklasan natin sa pasahod ng kanilang Board of Trustees. Tingnan po natin ang mga allowances na tinatanggap nila:

Umupo ka lang sa Board of Trustees at Board Committee meeting, katorse mil na. Aabot ng nobenta’y otso mil ito kada buwan. May grocery incentive pa sila na otsenta mil kada taon.

Hindi lang iyon: may mid-year bonus, productivity bonus, anniversary bonus, year-end bonus, at Financial Assistance. May Christmas bonus na, may Additional Christmas Package pa. Kada isa sa mga ito, nobenta’y otso mil.

Sa suma total po, aabot ang lahat ng dalawa’t kalahating milyong piso kada taon sa bawat miyembro ng Board maliban sa pakotse, technical assistance, at pautang. Uulitin ko po. Lahat ng ito ay ibinibigay nila sa kanilang mga sarili habang hindi pa nababayaran ang mga pensyon ng kanilang mga retirees.

Pati po ang La Mesa Watershed ay hindi nila pinatawad. Para magkaroon ng tamang supply ng tubig, kailangang alagaan ang mga watershed. Sa watershed, puno ang kailangan. Pati po iyon na dapat puno ang nakatayo, tinayuan nila ng bahay para sa matataas na opisyal ng MWSS.

Hindi naman sila agad maaalis sa puwesto dahil kabilang sila sa mga Midnight Appointees ni dating Pangulong Arroyo. Iniimbestigahan na natin ang lahat nang ito. Kung mayroon pa silang kahit kaunting hiya na natitira – sana kusa na lang silang magbitiw sa puwesto.

ROAD USERS’ FUND

Pag-usapan naman po natin ang pondo para sa imprastruktura. Tumukoy ang DPWH ng dalawandaan apatnapu’t anim na priority safety projects na popondohan ng Motor Vehicle Users Charge. Mangangailangan po ito ng budget na 425 million pesos.
Ang pinondohan po, dalawampu’t walong proyekto lang. Kinalimutan po ang dalawandaan at labing walong proyekto at pinalitan ng pitumpung proyekto na wala naman sa plano. Ang hininging 425 million pesos, naging 480 million pesos pa, lumaki lalo dahil sa mga proyektong sa piling-piling mga benepisyaryo lang napunta.

Mga proyekto po itong walang saysay, hindi pinag-aralan at hindi pinaghandaan, kaya parang kabuteng sumusulpot.
Tapos na po ang panahon para dito. Sa administrasyon po natin, walang kota-kota, walang tongpats, ang pera ng taumbayan ay gagastusin para sa taumbayan lamang.

NEGOTIATED CONTRACTS

Meron pa po tayong natuklasan. Limang araw bago matapos ang termino ng nakaraang administrasyon, nagpautos silang maglabas ng 3.5 billion pesos para sa rehabilitasyon ng mga nasalanta nina Ondoy at Pepeng.

Walumpu’t anim na proyekto ang paglalaanan dapat nito na hindi na sana idadaan sa public bidding. Labingsiyam sa mga ito na nagkakahalaga ng 981 million pesos ang muntik nang makalusot. Hindi pa nailalabas ang Special Allotment Release Order ay pirmado na ang mga kontrata.

Buti na lang po ay natuklasan at pinigilan ito ni Secretary Rogelio Singson ng DPWH. Ngayon po ay dadaan na ang kabuuan ng 3.5 billion pesos sa tapat na bidding, at magagamit na ang pondo na ito sa pagbibigay ng lingap sa mga nawalan ng tahanan dahil kina Ondoy at Pepeng.

NAPOCOR

Pag-usapan naman natin ang nangyari sa NAPOCOR. Noong 2001 hanggang 2004, pinilit ng gobyerno ang NAPOCOR na magbenta ng kuryente nang palugi para hindi tumaas ang presyo. Tila ang dahilan: pinaghahandaan na nila ang eleksyon.
Dahil dito, noong 2004, sumagad ang pagkakabaon sa utang ng NAPOCOR. Napilitan ang pambansang gobyerno na sagutin ang dalawandaang bilyong pisong utang nito.

Ang inakala ng taumbayan na natipid nila sa kuryente ay binabayaran din natin mula sa kaban ng bayan. May gastos na tayo sa kuryente, binabayaran pa natin ang dagdag na pagkakautang ng gobyerno.

Kung naging matino ang pag-utang, sana’y nadagdagan ang ating kasiguruhan sa supply ng kuryente. Pero ang desisyon ay ibinatay sa maling pulitika, at hindi sa pangangailangan ng taumbayan. Ang taumbayan, matapos pinagsakripisyo ay lalo pang pinahirapan.

MRT

Ganito rin po ang nangyari sa MRT. Sinubukan na namang bilhin ang ating pagmamahal. Pinilit ang operator na panatilihing mababa ang pamasahe.

Hindi tuloy nagampanan ang garantiyang ibinigay sa operator na mababawi nila ang kanilang puhunan. Dahil dito, inutusan ang Landbank at Development Bank of the Philippines na bilhin ang MRT.

Ang pera ng taumbayan, ipinagpalit sa isang naluluging operasyon.

NFA

Dumako naman po tayo sa pondo ng NFA.

Noong 2004: 117,000 metric tons ang pagkukulang ng supply ng Pilipinas. Ang binili nila, 900,000 metric tons. Kahit ulitin mo pa ng mahigit pitong beses ang pagkukulang, sobra pa rin ang binili nila.

Noong 2007: 589,000 metric tons ang pagkukulang ng supply sa Pilipinas. Ang binili nila, 1.827 million metric tons. Kahit ulitin mo pa ng mahigit tatlong beses ang pagkukulang, sobra na naman ang binili nila.

Ang masakit nito, dahil sobra-sobra ang binibili nila taun-taon, nabubulok lang pala sa mga kamalig ang bigas, kagaya ng nangyari noong 2008.

Hindi po ba krimen ito, na hinahayaan nilang mabulok ang bigas, sa kabila ng apat na milyong Pilipinong hindi kumakain ng tatlong beses sa isang araw?

Ang resulta nito, umabot na sa 171.6 billion pesos ang utang ng NFA noong Mayo ng taong ito.

Ang tinapon na ito, halos puwede na sanang pondohan ang mga sumusunod:

Ang budget ng buong Hudikatura, na 12.7 billion pesos sa taong ito.

Ang Conditional Cash Transfers para sa susunod na taon, na nagkakahalaga ng 29.6 billion pesos.

Ang lahat ng classroom na kailangan ng ating bansa, na nagkakahalaga ng 130 billion pesos.

Kasuklam-suklam ang kalakarang ito. Pera na, naging bato pa.

ZERO BUDGET

Narinig po ninyo kung paano nilustay ang kaban ng bayan. Ang malinaw po sa ngayon: ang anumang pagbabago ay magmumula sa pagsiguro natin na magwawakas na ang pagiging maluho at pagwawaldas.

Kaya nga po mula ngayon: ititigil na natin ang paglulustay sa salapi ng bayan. Tatanggalin natin ang mga proyektong mali.
Ito po ang punto ng tinatawag nating zero-based approach sa ating budget. Ang naging kalakaran po, taun-taon ay inuulit lamang ang budget na puno ng tagas. Dadagdagan lang nang konti, puwede na.

Sa susunod na buwan ay maghahain tayo ng budget na kumikilala nang tama sa mga problema, at magtutuon din ng pansin sa tamang solusyon.

IMMEDIATE STEPS

TAX EVASION

Ilan lang ito sa mga natuklasan nating problema. Heto naman po ang ilang halimbawa ng mga hakbang na ginagawa natin.
Nandiyan po ang kaso ng isang may-ari ng sanglaan. Bumili siya ng sasakyang tinatayang nasa dalawampu’t anim na milyong piso ang halaga.

Kung kaya mong bumili ng Lamborghini, bakit hindi mo kayang magbayad ng buwis?

Nasampahan na po ito ng kaso. Sa pangunguna nina Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares at Customs Commissioner Lito Alvarez, bawat linggo po ay may bago tayong kasong isinasampa kontra sa mga smuggler at sa mga hindi nagbabayad ng tamang buwis.

EXTRALEGAL KILLINGS

Natukoy na rin po ang salarin sa mga kaso nina Francisco Baldomero, Jose Daguio at Miguel Belen, tatlo sa anim na insidente ng extralegal killings mula nang umupo tayo.

Singkuwenta porsyento po ng mga insidente ng extralegal killings ang patungo na sa kanilang resolusyon.

Ang natitira pong kalahati ay hindi natin tatantanan ang pag-usig hanggang makamit ang katarungan.

TRUTH COMMISSION

Pananagutin natin ang mga mamamatay-tao. Pananagutin din natin ang mga corrupt sa gobyerno.

Nagsimula nang mabuo ang ating Truth Commission, sa pangunguna ni dating Chief Justice Hilario Davide. Hahanapin natin ang katotohanan sa mga nangyari diumanong katiwalian noong nakaraang siyam na taon.

Sa loob ng linggong ito, pipirmahan ko ang kauna-unahang Executive Order na nagtatalaga sa pagbuo nitong Truth Commission.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS

Kung ang sagot sa kawalan ng katarungan ay pananagutan, ang sagot naman sa kakulangan natin sa pondo ay mga makabago at malikhaing paraan para tugunan ang mga pagkatagal-tagal nang problema.

Napakarami po ng ating pangangailangan: mula sa edukasyon, imprastruktura, pangkalusugan, pangangailangan ng militar at kapulisan, at marami pang iba. Hindi kakasya ang pondo para mapunan ang lahat ng ito.

Kahit gaano po kalaki ang kakulangan para mapunan ang mga listahan ng ating pangangailangan, ganado pa rin ako dahil marami nang nagpakita ng panibagong interes at kumpyansa sa Pilipinas.

Ito ang magiging solusyon: mga Public-Private Partnerships. Kahit wala pa pong pirmahang nangyayari dito, masasabi kong maganda ang magiging bunga ng maraming usapin ukol dito.

May mga nagpakita na po ng interes, gustong magtayo ng expressway na mula Maynila, tatahak ng Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, hanggang sa dulo ng Cagayan Valley nang hindi gugugol ang estado kahit na po piso.

Sa larangan ng ating Sandatahang Lakas:

Mayroon po tayong 36,000 nautical miles ng baybayin. Ang mayroon lamang tayo: tatlumpu’t dalawang barko. Itong mga barkong ito, panahon pa ni MacArthur.

May nagmungkahi sa atin, ito ang proposisyon: uupahan po nila ang headquarters ng Navy sa Roxas Boulevard at ang Naval Station sa Fort Bonifacio.

Sagot po nila ang paglipat ng Navy Headquarters sa Camp Aguinaldo. Agaran, bibigyan tayo ng isandaang milyong dolyar. At dagdag pa sa lahat nang iyan, magsusubi pa sila sa atin ng kita mula sa mga negosyong itatayo nila sa uupahan nilang lupa.
Sa madali pong sabi: Makukuha natin ang kailangan natin, hindi tatayo gagastos, kikita pa tayo.

Marami na pong nag-alok at nagmungkahi sa atin, mula lokal hanggang dayuhang negosyante, na magpuno ng iba’t ibang pangangailangan.

Mula sa mga public-private partnerships na ito, lalago ang ating ekonomiya, at bawat Pilipino makikinabang. Napakaraming sektor na matutulungan nito.

Maipapatayo na po ang imprastrukturang kailangan natin para palaguin ang turismo.

Sa agrikultura, makapagtatayo na tayo ng mga grains terminals, refrigeration facilities, maayos na road networks at post-harvest facilities.

Kung maisasaayos natin ang ating food supply chain sa tulong ng pribadong sektor, sa halip na mag-angkat tayo ay maari na sana tayong mangarap na mag-supply sa pandaigdigang merkado.

Kung maitatayo ang minumungkahi sa ating railway system, bababa ang presyo ng bilihin. Mas mura, mas mabilis, mas maginhawa, at makakaiwas pa sa kotong cops at mga kumokotong na rebelde ang mga bumibiyahe.

STREAMLINING PROCESSES

Paalala lang po: una sa ating plataporma ang paglikha ng mga trabaho, at nanggagaling ang trabaho sa paglago ng industriya. Lalago lamang ang industriya kung gagawin nating mas malinis, mas mabilis, at mas maginhawa ang proseso para sa mga gustong magnegosyo.

Pabibilisin natin ang proseso ng mga proyektong sumasailalim sa Build-Operate-Transfer. Sa tulong ng lahat ng sangay ng gobyerno at ng mga mamamayan, pabababain natin sa anim na buwan ang proseso na noon ay inaabot ng taon kung hindi dekada.

May mga hakbang na rin pong sinisimulan ang DTI, sa pamumuno ni Secretary Gregory Domingo:

Ang walang-katapusang pabalik-balik sa proseso ng pagrehistro ng pangalan ng kumpanya, na kada dalaw ay umaabot ng apat hanggang walong oras, ibababa na natin sa labinlimang minuto.

Ang dating listahan ng tatlumpu’t anim na dokumento, ibababa natin sa anim. Ang dating walong pahinang application form, ibababa natin sa isang pahina.

Nananawagan ako sa ating mga LGUs. Habang naghahanap tayo ng paraan para gawing mas mabilis ang pagbubukas ng mga negosyo, pag-aralan din sana nila ang kanilang mga proseso. Kailangan itong gawing mas mabilis, at kailangan itong itugma sa mga sinisumulan nating reporma.

Negosyante, sundalo, rebelde, at karaniwang Pilipino, lahat po makikinabang dito. Basta po hindi dehado ang Pilipino, papasukin po natin lahat iyan. Kailangan na po nating simulan ang pagtutulungan para makamit ito. Huwag nating pahirapan ang isa’t isa.

Parating na po ang panahon na hindi na natin kailangang mamili sa pagitan ng seguridad ng ating mamamayan o sa kinabukasan ng inyong mga anak.

FREEING UP FUNDS

EDUCATION

Oras na maipatupad ang public-private partnerships na ito, mapopondohan ang mga serbisyong panlipunan, alinsunod sa ating plataporma.

Magkakapondo na po para maipatupad ang mga plano natin sa edukasyon.

Mapapalawak natin ang basic education cycle mula sa napakaikling sampung taon tungo sa global standard na labindalawang taon.

Madadagdagan natin ang mga classroom. Mapopondohan natin ang service contracting sa ilalim ng GASTPE.

Pati ang conditional cash transfers, na magbabawas ng pabigat sa bulsa ng mga pamilya, madadagdan na rin ng pondo.

PHILHEALTH

Maipapatupad ang plano natin sa PhilHealth.

Una, tutukuyin natin ang tunay na bilang ng mga nangangailangan nito. Sa ngayon, hindi magkakatugma ang datos. Sabi ng PhilHealth sa isang bibig, walumpu’t pitong porsyento na raw ang merong coverage. Sa kabilang bibig naman, singkuwenta’y tres porsyento naman. Ayon naman sa National Statistics Office, tatlumpu’t walong porsyento ang may coverage.

Ngayon pa lang, kumikilos na si Secretary Dinky Soliman at ang DSWD upang ipatupad ang National Household Targetting System, na magtutukoy sa mga pamilyang higit na nagangailangan ng tulong. Tinatayang siyam na bilyon ang kailangan para mabigyan ng PhilHealth ang limang milyong pinakamaralitang pamilyang Pilipino.

LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

Napakaganda po ng hinaharap natin. Kasama na po natin ang pribadong sektor, at kasama na rin natin ang League of Provinces, sa pangunguna nina Governor Alfonso Umali kasama sina Governor L-Ray Villafuerte at Governor Icot Petilla. Handa na pong makipagtulungan para makibahagi sa pagtustos ng mga gastusin. Alam ko rin pong hindi magpapahuli ang League of Cities sa pangunguna ni Mayor Oscar Rodriguez.

Kung ang mga gobyernong lokal ay nakikiramay na sa ating mga adhikain, ang Kongreso namang pinanggalingan ko, siguro naman maasahan ko din.

Nagpakitang-gilas na po ang gabinete sa pagtukoy ng ating mga problema at sa paglulunsad ng mga solusyon sa loob lamang ng tatlong linggo.

Nang bagyo pong Basyang, ang sabi sa atin ng mga may prangkisa sa kuryente, apat na araw na walang kuryente. Dahil sa mabilis na pagkilos ni Secretary Rene Almendras at ng Department of Energy, naibalik ang kuryente sa halos lahat sa loob lamang ng beinte-kwatro oras.

Ito pong sinasabing kakulangan sa tubig sa Metro Manila, kinilusan agad ni Secretary Rogelio Singson at ng DPWH. Hindi na siya naghintay ng utos, kaya nabawasan ang perwisyo.

Nakita na rin natin ang gilas ng mga hinirang nating makatulong sa Gabinete. Makatuwiran naman po sigurong umasa na hindi na sila padadaanin sa butas ng karayom para makumpirma ng Commission on Appointments. Kung mangyayari po ito, marami pa sa mga mahuhusay na Pilipino ang maeengganyong magsilbi sa gobyerno.

Sa lalong madaling panahon po, uupo na tayo sa LEDAC at pag-uusapan ang mga mahahalagang batas na kailangan nating ipasa. Makakaasa kayo na mananatiling bukas ang aking isipan, at ang ating ugnayan ay mananatiling tapat.

Isinusulong po natin ang Fiscal Responsibility Bill, kung saan hindi tayo magpapasa ng batas na mangangailangan ng pondo kung hindi pa natukoy ang panggagalingan nito. May 104.1 billion pesos tayong kailangan para pondohan ang mga batas na naipasa na, ngunit hindi maipatupad.

Kailangan din nating isaayos ang mga insentibong piskal na ibinigay noong nakaraan. Ngayong naghihigpit tayo ng sinturon, kailangang balikan kung alin sa mga ito ang dapat manatili at kung ano ang dapat nang itigil.

Huwag po tayong pumayag na magkaroon ng isa pang NBN-ZTE. Sa lokal man o dayuhan manggagaling ang pondo, dapat dumaan ito sa tamang proseso. Hinihingi ko po ang tulong ninyo upang amiyendahan ang ating Procurement Law.

Ayon po sa Saligang Batas, tungkulin ng estado ang siguruhing walang lamangan sa merkado. Bawal ang monopolya, bawal ang mga cartel na sasakal sa kumpetisyon. Kailangan po natin ng isang Anti-Trust Law na magbibigay-buhay sa mga prinsipyong ito. Ito ang magbibigay ng pagkakataon sa mga Small- at Medium-scale Enterprises na makilahok at tumulong sa paglago ng ating ekonomiya.

Ipasa na po natin ang National Land Use Bill.

Una rin pong naging batas ng Commonwealth ang National Defense Act, na ipinasa noon pang 1935. Kailangan nang palitan ito ng batas na tutugon sa pangangailangan ng pambansang seguridad sa kasalukuyan.

Nakikiusap po akong isulong ang Whistleblower’s Bill upang patuloy nang iwaksi ang kultura ng takot at pananahimik.

Palalakasin pa lalo ang Witness Protection Program. Alalahanin po natin na noong taong 2009 hanggang 2010, may nahatulan sa 95% ng mga kaso kung saan may witness na sumailalim sa programang ito.

Kailangang repasuhin ang ating mga batas. Nanawagan po akong umpisahan na ang rekodipikasyon ng ating mga batas, upang siguruhing magkakatugma sila at hindi salu-salungat.

PEACE PROCESS

Ito pong mga batas na ito ang batayan ng kaayusan, ngunit ang pundasyon ng lahat ng ginagawa natin ay ang prinsipyong wala tayong mararating kung walang kapayapaan at katahimikan.

Dalawa ang hinaharap nating suliranin sa usapin ng kapayapaan: ang situwasyon sa Mindanao, at ang patuloy na pag-aaklas ng CPP-NPA-NDF.

Tungkol sa situwasyon sa Mindanao: Hindi po nagbabago ang ating pananaw. Mararating lamang ang kapayapaan at katahimikan kung mag-uusap ang lahat ng apektado: Moro, Lumad, at Kristiyano. Inatasan na natin si Dean Marvic Leonen na mangasiwa sa ginagawa nating pakikipag-usap sa MILF.

Iiwasan natin ang mga pagkakamaling nangyari sa nakaraang administrasyon, kung saan binulaga na lang ang mga mamamayan ng Mindanao. Hindi tayo puwedeng magbulag-bulagan sa mga dudang may kulay ng pulitika ang proseso, at hindi ang kapakanan ng taumbayan ang tanging interes.

Kinikilala natin ang mga hakbang na ginagawa ng MILF sa pamamagitan ng pagdidisplina sa kanilang hanay. Inaasahan natin na muling magsisimula ang negosasyon pagkatapos ng Ramadan.

Tungkol naman po sa CPP-NPA-NDF: handa na ba kayong maglaan ng kongkretong mungkahi, sa halip na pawang batikos lamang?

Kung kapayapaan din ang hangad ninyo, handa po kami sa malawakang tigil-putukan. Mag-usap tayo.

Mahirap magsimula ang usapan habang mayroon pang amoy ng pulbura sa hangin. Nananawagan ako: huwag po natin hayaang masayang ang napakagandang pagkakataong ito upang magtipon sa ilalim ng iisang adhikain.

Kapayapaan at katahimikan po ang pundasyon ng kaunlaran. Habang nagpapatuloy ang barilan, patuloy din ang pagkakagapos natin sa kahirapan.

PANAWAGAN

Dapat din po nating mabatid: ito ay panahon ng sakripisyo. At ang sakripisyong ito ay magiging puhunan para sa ating kinabukasan. Kaakibat ng ating mga karapatan at kalayaan ay ang tungkulin natin sa kapwa at sa bayan.

Inaasahan ko po ang ating mga kaibigan sa media, lalo na sa radyo at sa print, sa mga nagbablock-time, at sa community newspapers, kayo na po mismo ang magbantay sa inyong hanay.

Mabigyang-buhay sana ang mga batayang prinsipyo ng inyong bokasyon: ang magbigay-linaw sa mahahalagang isyu; ang maging patas at makatotohanan, at ang itaas ang antas ng pampublikong diskurso.

Tungkulin po ng bawat Pilipino na tutukan ang mga pinunong tayo rin naman ang nagluklok sa puwesto. Humakbang mula sa pakikialam tungo sa pakikilahok. Dahil ang nakikialam, walang-hanggan ang reklamo. Ang nakikilahok, nakikibahagi sa solusyon.

Napakatagal na pong namamayani ang pananaw na ang susi sa asenso ay ang intindihin ang sarili kaysa intindihin ang kapwa. Malinaw po sa akin: paano tayo aasenso habang nilalamangan ang kapwa?

Ang hindi nabigyan ng pagkakataong mag-aral, paanong makakakuha ng trabaho? Kung walang trabaho, paanong magiging konsumer? Paanong mag-iimpok sa bangko?

Ngunit kung babaliktarin natin ang pananaw—kung iisipin nating “Dadagdagan ko ang kakayahan ng aking kapwa”—magbubunga po ito, at ang lahat ay magkakaroon ng pagkakataon.

Maganda na po ang nasimulan natin. At mas lalong maganda po ang mararating natin. Ngunit huwag nating kalimutan na mayroong mga nagnanasang hindi tayo magtagumpay. Dahil kapag hindi tayo nagtagumpay, makakabalik na naman sila sa kapangyarihan, at sa pagsasamantala sa taumbayan.

Akin pong paniwala na Diyos at taumbayan ang nagdala sa ating kinalalagyan ngayon. Habang nakatutok tayo sa kapakanan ng ating kapwa, bendisyon at patnubay ay tiyak na maaasahan natin sa Poong Maykapal. At kapag nanalig tayo na ang kasangga natin ay ang Diyos, mayroon ba tayong hindi kakayanin?

Ang mandato nating nakuha sa huling eleksyon ay patunay na umaasa pa rin ang Pilipino sa pagbabago. Iba na talaga ang situwasyon. Puwede na muling mangarap. Tayo nang tumungo sa katuparan ng ating mga pinangarap.
Maraming salamat po.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION:

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte; Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; Vice President Jejomar Binay, Chief Justice Renato Corona, Former Presidents Fidel Valdez Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada; Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; distinguished members of the diplomatic corps;

My beloved countrymen:

Our administration is facing a forked road. On one direction, decisions are made to protect the welfare of our people; to look after the interest of the majority; to have a firm grip on principles; and to be faithful to the public servant’s sworn oath to serve the country honestly.

This is the straight path.

On the other side, personal interest is the priority, and where one becomes a slave to political considerations to the detriment of our nation.

This is the crooked path.

For a long time, our country lost its way in the crooked path. As days go by (since I became President), the massive scope of the problems we have inherited becomes much clearer. I could almost feel the weight of my responsibilities.

In the first three weeks of our administration, we discovered many things, and I will report to you some of the problems we have uncovered, and the steps we are taking to solve them.

This report is merely a glimpse of our situation. It is not the entire picture of the crises we are facing. The reality was hidden from our people, who seem to have been deliberately obfuscated on the real state of our nation.

In the first six years of this year, government expenditure exceeded our revenues. Our deficit further increased to PhP196.7 billion. Our collection targets, which lack PhP23.8 billion, were not fully met, while we went beyond our spending by PhP45.1 billion.

Our budget for 2010 is PhP1.54 trillion. Of this, only PhP100 billion – or 6.5% of the total budget – can be used for the remaining six months of the current year. Roughly 1% of the total budget is left for each of the remaining month.

Where did the funds go?

A calamity fund worth PhP2 billion was reserved in preparation for anticipated calamities. Of this already miniscule amount, at a time when the rainy season has yet to set in, PhP1.4 billion or 70% was already spent.

The entire province of Pampanga received PhP108 million. Of this, PhP105 million went to only one district. On the other hand, the province of Pangasinan, which was severely affected by Typhoon Pepeng, received a mere PhP5 million, which had to be used to fix damages inflicted not even by Pepeng, but by a previous typhoon, Cosme.

The funds were released on election month, which was seven months after the typhoon. What will happen if a typhoon arrives tomorrow? The fund has been used up to repair damage from typhoons that hit us last year. Our future will pay for the greed of yesterday.

This is also what happened to the funds of the MWSS. Just recently, people lined up for water while the leadership of the MWSS rewarded itself even though the pensions of retired employees remain unpaid.

The entire payroll of the MWSS amounts to 51.4 million pesos annually.

But this isn’t the full extent of what they receive: they receive additional allowances and benefits amounting to 81.1 million pesos.

In short, they receive 211.5 million pesos annually. Twenty four percent of this is for normal salaries, and sixty six percent is added on.

The average worker receives up to 13th month pay plus a cash gift. In the MWSS, they receive the equivalent of over thirty months pay if you include all their additional bonuses and allowances.

What we discovered in the case of the salaries of their board of trustees is even more shocking. Let’s take a look at the allowances they receive:

Attending board of trustees and board committee meetings, and you get fourteen thousands pesos. This totals ninety eight thousand pesos a month. They also get an annual grocery incentive of eighty thousand pesos.

And that’s not all. They get a mid-year bonus, productivity bonus, anniversary bonus, year-end bonus, and financial assistance.

They not only get a Christmas bonus, but an additional Christmas package as well. Each of these amounts to eighty thousand pesos. All in all, each member of the board receives two and a half million pesos a year exclusive of car service, technical assistance, and loans. Let me repeat. They award themselves all of these while being in arrears for the pensions of their retired employees.

Even the La Mesa watershed wasn’t spared. In order to ensure an adequate supply of water, we need to protect our watersheds.

In watersheds, trees are needed. Where there should be trees, they built homes for the top officials of the MWSS.

We cannot remove them from their positions quickly because they are among the midnight appointees of former president Arroyo. We are investigating all of these things. But if they have any shame left, they should voluntarily relinquish their positions.

Now let’s discuss funds for infrastructure. The DPWH identified two hundred forty six priority safety projects to be funded by the motor vehicle user’s charge. This needs a budget of 425 million pesos. What they ended up funding were only 28 projects. They disregarded 218 projects and replaced these with seventy projects that weren’t in the plans. The 425 million pesos originally asked for became 480 million pesos, increasing because of projects allocated for a favored few.

These projects make no sense: unstudied and unprepared for, sprouting like mushrooms.

The era of such projects is at an end. Under our administration, there will be no quotas, there will be no overpricing, the funds of the people will be spent for the people.

There’s more. Five days before the term of the previous administration ended, they ordered 3.5 billion pesos to be released for the rehabilitation of those affected by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. This was supposed to fund eighty-nine projects. But nineteen of these projects amounting to 981 million pesos didn’t go through public bidding. Special Allotment Release Orders hadn’t even been released and yet the contracts were already signed. It’s a good thing Secretary Rogelio Singson spotted and stopped them.

Instead, they will all go through the proper bidding, and the funds will be used to provide relief to those who lost their homes due to typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

Let’s discuss what happened in Napocor. From 2001 to 2004, the government forced Napocor to sell electricity at a loss to prevent increases in electricity rates. The real motivation for this is that they were preparing for the election.

As a result, in 2004, NAPOCOR slumped deeply in debt. The government was obligated to shoulder the 200 billion pesos it owed.

What the public thought they saved from electricity, we are now paying for using public coffers. Not only are we paying for the cost of electricity; we are also paying for the interest arising from the debt.

If the money we borrowed was used properly, then there would be added assurance that constant supply of electricity is available. However, this decision was based on bad politics, not on the true needs of the people.

The people, after having to sacrifice, suffered even more.

This is also what happened to the MRT. The government tried again to buy the people’s love. The operator was forced to keep the rates low.

In effect, the guarantee given to the operator that he will still be able to recoup his investment was not fulfilled. Because of this, Landbank and the Development Bank of the Philippines were ordered to purchase the MRT.

The money of the people was used in exchange for an operation that was losing money.

Let us now move on to the funds of the National Food Authority (NFA).

In 2004: 117,000 metric tons (of rice) was the shortage in the supply of the Philippines. What they (the government) bought were 900,000 metric tons.

Even if you multiply for more than seven times the amount of shortage, they still bought more than what was needed.

In 2007: 589,000 metric tons was the shortage in the supply of the Philippines. What they bought were 1.827 million metric tons. Even if you multiply for more than three times the amount of shortage, they again bought more than what was needed.

What hurts is, because they keep purchasing more than what they need year after year, the excess rice that had to be stored in warehouses ended up rotting, just like what happened in 2008.

Is this not a crime, letting rice rot, despite the fact that there are 4 million Filipinos who do not eat three times a day?

The result is NFA’s current debt of 177 billion pesos.

This money that was wasted could have funded the following:

– The budget of the entire judiciary, which is at 12.7 billion pesos this year.
– The Conditional Cash Transfers for the following year, which cost 29.6 billion pesos.
– All the classrooms that our country needs, which cost 130 billion pesos.

This way of doing things is revolting. Money was there only to be wasted. You have heard how the public coffers were squandered. This is what is clear to me now: change can only come from our determination to stamp out this extravagance and profligacy.

That is why starting now: we will stop the wasteful use of government funds. We will eradicate projects that are wrong.

This is the point of what we call the zero-based approach in our budget.

What used to be the norm was every year, the budget merely gets re-enacted without plugging the holes.

Next month we will be submitting a budget that accurately identifies the problem and gives much attention on the right solution.
Those that I have mentioned were only some of the problems we have discovered. Here now are examples of the steps we are undertaking to solve them.

There is a case of one pawnshop owner. He purchased a vehicle at an estimated cost of 26 million pesos.

If he can afford to buy a Lamborghini, why can’t he pay his taxes?

A case has already been filed against him. Through the leadership of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, Customs Commissioner Lito Alvarez, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, every week we have new cases filed against smugglers and against those who do not pay the right taxes.

We have also already identified the suspects of the cases of Francisco Baldomero, Jose Daguio and Miguel Belen, 3 of the 6 incidents of extralegal killings since we assumed the Presidency.

Fifty percent (50%) of these incidents of extralegal killings are now on their way to being resolved.

We will not stop the pursuit of the remaining half of these killings until justice has been achieved.

We will hold murderers accountable. We will also hold those who are corrupt that work in government accountable for their actions.

We have begun forming our Truth Commission, through the leadership of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide. We will search for the truth on the alleged wrongdoing committed in the last nine years.

This week, I will sign the first ever Executive Order on the formation of this Truth Commission.

If the answer to justice is accountability, the answer to the dearth in funds is a new and creative approach to our long-standing problems.

We have so many needs: from education, infrastructure, health, military, police and more. Our funds will not be enough to meet them.

No matter how massive the deficit is that may keep us from paying for this list of needs, I am heartened because many have already expressed renewed interest and confidence in the Philippines.

Our solution: public-private partnerships. Although no contract has been signed yet, I can say that ongoing talks with interested investors will yield fruitful outcomes.

There are some who have already shown interest and want to build an expressway from Manila that will pass through Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, until the end of Cagayan Valley, without the government having to spend a single peso.

On national defense:

We have 36,000 nautical miles of shoreline, but we only have 32 boats.

These boats are as old as the time of (US General Douglas) MacArthur.

Some had this proposition: they will rent the Navy headquarters on Roxas Boulevard and the Naval Station in Fort Bonifacio.

They will take care of the funding necessary to transfer the Navy Headquarters to Camp Aguinaldo. Immediately, we will be given 100 million dollars. Furthermore, they will give us a portion of their profits from their businesses that would occupy the land they will rent.

In short, we will meet our needs without spending, and we will also earn.

There have already been many proposals from local to foreign investors to provide for our various needs.

From these public-private partnerships, our economy will grow and every Filipino will be the beneficiary. There are so many sectors that could benefit from this.

We will be able to construct the needed infrastructure in order to help tourism grow.

In agriculture, we will be able to have access to grains terminals, refrigeration facilities, orderly road networks and post-harvest facilities.

If we can fix out food supply chain with the help of the private sector, instead of importing, we will hopefully be able to supply for the needs of the global market.

The prices of commodities will go down if we are able to make this efficient railway system a reality. It will be cheaper and faster, and it will be easier for travelers to avoid crooked cops and rebels.

A reminder to all: creating jobs is foremost on our agenda, and the creation of jobs will come from the growth of our industries. Growth will only be possible if we streamline processes to make them predictable, reliable and efficient for those who want to invest.

We make sure that the Build-Operate-and-Transfer projects will undergo quick and efficient processes. With the help of all government agencies concerned and the people, a process that used to take as short as a year and as long as a decade will now only take six months.

The Department of Trade and Industry has already taken steps to effect this change, under the leadership of Secretary Gregory Domingo:

The never-ending horror story of registering business names, which used to take a minimum of four to eight hours depending on the day, will be cut down drastically to fifteen minutes.

What used to be a check list of thirty-six documents will be shortened to a list of six, and the old eight-page application form will be whittled down to one page.

I call on our local government units to review its own procedures. While we look for more ways to streamline our processes to make business start-ups easier, I hope the LGUs can also find ways to implement reforms that will be consistent with the ones we have already started.

All will certainly benefit from this streamlining — be it businessmen, soldiers, rebels and ordinary Filipinos. As long as the interests of Filipinos will not be jeopardized, we will explore all available avenues to make this a reality. We must start now, and we should all help achieve this and not stand in each other’s way.

The time when we will no longer be made to choose between our people’s security and the future of our children is upon us now.

Once we implement these public-private partnerships, we will be able to fund public service in accordance with our platform.

This will enable us to fund our plans for education.

We will be able to expand our basic education cycle from seven years to the global standard of twelve years.

We can build more classrooms, and we will fund service contracting under the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education Program (GASTPE).

Conditional cash transfers that aim to lessen the burden of education on parents will also be funded if this partnership becomes a reality.

Our plans for improving PhilHealth can now be within reach.

First, we will identify the correct number of Filipinos who sorely need PhilHealth coverage, as current data is conflicting on this matter. On one hand, PhilHealth says that eighty-seven percent (87%) of Filipinos are covered, then lowers the number to only fifty-three percent (53%). On the other hand, the National Statistics Office says that only thirty-eight percent (38%) of Filipinos are covered by Philhealth.

Even as we speak, Secretary Dinky Soliman and the Department of Social Welfare and Development are moving to implement the National Household Targeting System that will identify the families that most urgently need assistance. An estimated 9 billion pesos is needed in order to provide coverage for five million poor Filipinos.

Our country is beginning to see better days ahead. The private sector, the League of Provinces headed by Governor Alfonso Umali, together with Governors L-Ray Villafuerte and Icot Petilla, are now ready to do their share when it comes to shouldering the financial burden. I know that the League of Cities under the leadership of Mayor Oscar Rodriguez will not be far behind.

If the local governments share in our goals, I know that I can surely count on Congress, the institution where I began public service, to push for our agenda for change.

Our Cabinet has already showed it skill by identifying not just problems but also proposing solutions in a matter of three weeks.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Basyang, we were told by those in the power sector that we would be without electricity for four days. The quick action of Secretary Rene Almendras and the Department of Energy resulted in the restoration of power to almost all those affected within twenty-four hours.

The so-called water shortage in Metro Manila was quickly attended to by Secretary Rogelio Singson and the Department of Public Works and Highways. Secretary Singson did it without prodding, which alleviated the suffering of those affected.

We also witnessed the competence and initiative of those we appointed to be part of our Cabinet. It is but just that they not be forced to go through the eye of a needle to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.

Should this happen, competent Filipinos will be encouraged to help our country by becoming public servants.

In the soonest possible time, we will convene the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) to discuss the important bills that need to be addressed. Rest assured that I will keep an open mind and treat you honorably.

We will push for the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, which will limit spending bills only for appropriations that have identified a source of funding. We need 104.1 billion pesos to fund those laws already passed but whose implementation remains pending because of lack of funds.

We will re-evaluate fiscal incentives given in the past. Now that we are tightening our purse strings, we need to identify those incentives that will remain and those that need to be done away with.

We will not allow another NBN-ZTE scandal to happen again. Whether from local or foreign sources, all proposed contracts must undergo the scrutiny of correct procedures. I now ask for your help with amending our Procurement Law.

According to our Constitution, it is the government’s duty to ensure that the market is fair for all. No monopolies, no cartels that kill competition. We need an Anti-Trust Law that will give life to these principles, to afford Small- and Medium-Scale Enterprises the opportunity to participate in the growth of our economy.

Let us pass into law the National Land Use Bill.

It was in 1935, during the Commonwealth, that the National Defense Act was passed. There is a need to amend for a new law that is more responsive to the current needs of national security.

I appeal to our legislators to pass the Whistleblower’s Bill to eradicate the prevalent culture of fear and silence that has hounded our system.

We will strengthen the Witness Protection Program. We must remember that from 2009 to 2010 alone, cases which involved the participation of witnesses under the program resulted in a ninety-five percent conviction.

There is a need to review our laws. I call on our lawmakers to begin a re-codification of our laws to ensure harmony in legislation and eliminate contradictions.

These laws serve as the basis of order in our land, but the foundation of all rests on the principle that we cannot grow without peace and order.

We face two obstacles on our road to peace: the situation in Mindanao and the continued revolt of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Our view has not changed when it comes to the situation in Mindanao. We will only achieve lasting peace if all stakeholders engage in an honest dialogue: may they be Moro, Lumad, or Christian. We have asked Dean Marvic Leonen to head our efforts to talk to the MILF.

We will learn from the mistakes of the past administration, that suddenly announced an agreement reached without consultations from all concerned. We are not blind to the fact that it was done with political motivation, and that the interest behind it was not that of the people.

We recognize the efforts of the MILF to discipline those within its ranks. We are hopeful that the negotiations will begin after Ramadan.

To the CPP-NPA-NDF: are you prepared to put forth concrete solutions rather than pure criticism and finger-pointing?

If it is peace you truly desire, then we are ready for an immediate cease-fire. Let us go back to the table and begin talking again.

It is difficult to begin discussions in earnest if the smell of gun powder still hangs in the air. I call on everyone concerned not to waste a good opportunity to rally behind our common aspiration for peace.

Our foundation for growth is peace. We will continue to be shackled by poverty if the crossfire persists.

We must understand that now is a time for sacrifice. It is this sacrifice that will pave the way for a better future. With our freedom comes our responsibility to do good unto our fellows and to our country.

To our friends in media, especially those in radio and print, to the block-timers and those in our community newspapers, I trust that you will take up the cudgels to police your own ranks.

May you give new meaning to the principles of your vocation: to provide clarity to pressing issues; to be fair and truthful in your reporting, and to raise the level of public discourse.

It is every Filipino’s duty to closely watch the leaders that you have elected. I encourage everyone to take a step towards participation rather than fault-finding. The former takes part in finding a solution; from the latter, never-ending complaints.

We have always known that the key to growth is putting the interest of others beyond one’s own. One thing is clear: how do we move forward if we keep putting others down?

How will those without education secure quality jobs? How will the unemployed become consumers? How will they save money for their future needs?

If we change all this, if we prioritize enabling others, we will open a world of opportunities not just for ourselves but for those who direly need it.

We have already begun the process of change, and we are now able to dream of better things for our country. Let us not forget that there are those who wish us to fail, so that they will once again reclaim power to do as they please at the expense of our people.

My firm belief is that our fate is in the hands of God and our people. While we focus on uplifting the lives of our fellow men, I have an unshakeable faith that Almighty God will give us His blessings and support. If we remain firm in our belief that God is on our side, is there anything impossible for us to achieve?

The mandate we received last May 10 is testament to the fact that the Filipino continues to hope for true change. The situation is not what it was before; we can all dream again. Let us all become one in achieving a fulfilment of our hopes and aspirations for our country.

Maraming Salamat Po!

Transcript of BSAIII's answers at Youth 2010: Bumoto Para sa Pagbabago

Transcript of Sen. Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino’s answers at Youth 2010: Bumoto Para sa Pagbabago, ANC Presidential Youth Forum, January 29, 2010, De La Salle University-Manila

Transcript of Answers at the DLSU Youth Forum

Question from Ingga Bianca Sobreikerri of St. Scholastica’s College

Ingga Bianca Sobreikerri: Senator, kayo po ba ay sang-ayon sa Reproductive Health Bill at paano po ninyo ilulunsad at ipaliliwanag sa ating mga kababayan ang ganitong batas gayong ang inyong pamilya ay kilala bilang maka-Diyos?

Senator Noynoy Aquino: Ang posisyon po namin ay tinatawag na responsible parenthood, ang statistics po namin ay ganito, ang sabi po kanina ng isa nating katunggali wala po tayong population problem. I think we will all agree that if you at one parameter for instance education, there is a problem in classrooms anywhere from 20 to 40 thousand, we are not already able to meet the needs of the people who are already here and that responsible parenthood basically says each parent should be reminded, ipaalala natin sa bawat magulang may dinala kayong anak sa mundong ito, mayroon kayong obligasyon na paaralin, pakainin, may tirahan na maayos, damitan at iba pa.

Hindi po puwdeng bahala na kung ano ang mangyari dun sa anak, yun lang po ang minumungkahi namin. Ngayon po, ano ang solusyon po diyan? Mayroon po tayong educational campaign na ipapaalala po itong mga responsibilidad na ito, yung paghuhubog ng konsensiya at yung values po, iniimbitahan po natin ang bawat isang simbahan na maki-lahok at ibahagi yung kanilang mga pagtu-turo para maliwanagan yung paghuhubog ng konsensiya, nasa atin pong Saligang Batas na mayroon pong separation of Church and State, tayo ay isang demokratikong bansa, hindi po marapat na ang gobyerno po natin ay magdi-dikta sa sinoman kung ilan ang anak na dapat nilang dalhin sa mundo, kung paano nila pa-planuhin ang kanilang pamilya, pero mayroon pong obligasyon nandiyan po sa Saligang Batas na ang gobyerno, ipaalala sa bawat isa na mayroon po tayong tungkulin sa pamilya na nagiging “nuclear family” o susi sa lahat ng pagre-resolba sa lahat ng ating problema.

Huling paalala lang po, noong EDSA po, mayroon tayong humigit kumulang 50 milyon katao,ngayon po ay nasa 93 hanggang 97 ang tinatayang mga mamamayang Pilipino. Geometric ang progression sa population at kung tayo ay parang walang nakikita, walang sasabihin at walang naririnig, siguro po yung mga bata na hindi na nagkakaroon pagkakatong matunghayan ay lalong hindi magkakaroon ng pagkakataon kung tayo’y patuloy na mananahimik.

Questions from a panel of De La Salle University-Manila students

Panel member: Sa pagpasa ng batas ukol sa contractual employment sa mga kumpanya, paano po ninyo ire-resolba ang mga issue ng security of tenure o employment sa ating bansa?

Senator Noynoy Aquino: Yun nga po ang problema, contractualization does not have security of tenure that there will be mutually exclusive, ang tanong nga po dito, mayroong kontrang isyu po dun yung comparative advantage natin versus other countries, labor lang po for the most part ang ating dear value added, tapos we’re pricing ourselves out of the market, yung aming plataporma, stresses education and education enhances the skills, the skills and job potentials that will open up because of an enhance and more skill full labor force hopefully will ensure the tenure and potentials for having meaningfull and dignified jobs here in the country and as well as abroad.

Gusto kong sugpuin ang “contractualization” at the same time ayoko namang patayin yung mga negosyo na kakaunti na lamang nandiyan na ang dami na nga pong lumikas sa ating bansa, wala naman ho talagang makikita sa solution sa extreme positions, saan ba yung happy compromise dito? Natutugunan yung kapakanan ng mga manggagawa, natutugunan din naman yung pangangailangan ng mga negosyo para maka-compete sa global market, huwag po nating kalimutan malapit na po tayong ma-obliga under various treaties na magbukas ng ating mga pinto sa dayuhang mga kalakal at mga produkto, so kailangan na po tayong maka-laban sa ating domestic market at mangyayari po yan, kung talagang naka-focus, yung isa po saking mga panukalang batas yung kung paano ibalik yung konspeto ng bawat kompanya na ang pananawa dapat ay hindi kayo o kami kapag nagtutugunan at nag-uusap ang management at labor pero bumalik tayo dun sa tayo, kompanya natin ito, paano natin palalaguin ito? Ang mga minungkahi natin dito ay yung productivity incentive.

Panel member: Sinabi po ninyo sa inyong palatastas na hindi po kayo magnanakaw, pero paano naman po ang ibang opisyal? Ang taong ko po, mayroon na po kayong nagawang kongkretong mga paraan bilang isang mambabatas para siguraduhing mahuli at mapanagutan ng mga ahensiya o mga opisyal na napatunayang nagnakaw sa kaban ng bayan o naging kasama sa katiwalian?

Senator Noynoy Aquino: Salamat sa tanong mo, palagay ko naman hindi ka absent nung nandoon tayo sa mga ZTE hearing, nandoon tayo kasama sa impeachment, nagtatanong tama ba yung paratang dun sa hello Garci, among other things, kasama ako sa impeachment for that matter, sinubukan narin nating iwasto yung sistema, doon sa AFP, DND budget, pagka-tagal tagal, 1974 pa po, hindi po subject to public bidding yung kanilang paggugol ng budget na yun, isang taon po ay umabot ng P1.8 billion ang tinatayang savings is between 5 to 10 percent, we could have saved a hundred and 80 million and devoted it to something else. Pero ang dulo po nun, I think I have proposed an amendment accepted to GAA for something like 9 or 10 budget seasons already kaya lang pinapalusutan at ginagawaan ng paraan para magkaroon ng failure of bidding, ang dami pa po nating ginawa, na hindi lang tayo naging interesadong itaas yung sarili nating bangko dahil tumutugon lang po ako sa ipangako ko na paglilikungkuran ang taong bayan, hindi ko na kailangan pang ipagmalakihan pa kung ano iyong ating nagawa.

Questions from Ted Failon, host of the forum

Ted Failon: Mayroon bang nagawa si Pangulong Arroyo na dapat niyang panagutan pagkatapos ng kanyang term?

Senator Noynoy Aquino: Sa akin po pananaw, YES. Ang problema po dito….

Ted Failon: Kung YES sa paano pong paraan?

Senator Noynoy Aquino: Dapat po magkaroon tayo ng closure sa lahat ng issues, ang issue nga po dito yung kulang ng transparency, mayroon po tayo for instance yung fertilizer scam na kalian naimbestigahan, 4 years after the crime was committed, kailangang may katiyakan sa kaparusahan, kung tao po ay hindi mamamansin dito sa mga issues na walang closure, para narin nating sinabi na ituloy natin itong sistema na mali sa atin pong palagay. Paano natin hahabulin yan? Nandiyan po ang ating mga korte, nandiyan po yung ating mga investigative arms, pero may obligasyon din naman tayo na protektahan ang karapatan ng lahat, dahil sabi nga po ng aking ama, yung pagtatanggol sa karapatan lalo ng kalaban mo ang talagang batayan kung talagang may demokrasya o wala, yun po ang hahabulin natin. Pangako ko po ay closure on all of the issues, kailangan pong magkaroon ng resolution kung sino ang may kasalanan ay kailangang may tiyak na kaparusahan.

Ted Failon: Ginoong Aquino, ano po kaya ang pinakamabigat na isyu na dapat nyang panagutan?

Senator Noynoy Aquino: Napakahaba po ng listahan, baka kulangin po tayo.

Ted Failon: Isa lang po.

Senator Noynoy Aquino: I think she has destroyed a lot of institutions that we have replied upon to have a vibrant and functional democracy. Ang dami na hong nagkwestiyon. Pati simbahan kinukwestyon. Pati ang ating mga korte nakukwestiyon. Dulo po nito, may gagawing kasalanan, sasabihing sagot pulitika lamang at parati hong nabibinbin na malaman natin ang katotohanan. Tuloy yung dapat mali ay tila sa ating pananaw ay naging sistema na. Naging syang palakad at kalakal po sa ating bansa na talagang nagpapahirap sa ating mga kababayan.

Closing statement

Senator Noynoy Aquino: Magandang hapon ho sa lahat. Ako’y nagpapasalamat sa pagkakataong ito. Palagay ko po ang pinuno, klaro ang mga posisyon sa lahat po ng isyu. Mahirap po sundan kung pabago-bago o naliligaw paminsan-minsan at bumabaliktad ang kanyang mga desisyon. Sa katanungang mayroon bang kasalanan si G. Arroyo, dapat mayroon tayong paninindigan. Tama o mali ikaw ang mag didikta sa buong gobyerno kung uusigin o hindi. Pag tayo po ay sasagot na nakakakaba ng konti, bakit ang unang papasok sa ating kaisipan ay hindi ko idedepensa ang sagot ng isang katunggali. Bakit ho depensa kaagad kung gayong nasa oposisyon sya? Kailangan ho suriin natin kung ano ang pinanggalingan natin, dahil sinasabi ng lahat, marami ang mali sa kasalukuyang sistema. Tayo ho ba ay nagpanatili sa sistemang yun o tinututulan natin yung mali? Pakitingnan po ang aming mga record. Maraming salamat sa lahat.

[Archived from the official campaign web site of President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III]

BSAIII action plan on the economy

Economy: Walang Maiiwan!

Action Plan on the Economy

Underlying all the problems and weaknesses of the country and the economy is corruption and the weakening of our democratic institutions. We will restore trust in government by emphasizing good governance and anti-corruption to increase investment, regain people’s trust to pay proper taxes and ensure that the people’s money is well spent.

  • We will uphold the people’s right to information on matters of public concern and vigorously support the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill in Congress
  • We will ensure transparency and citizen’s participation in crafting and implementing laws, rules and regulations and in monitoring the programs, projects and transactions of government
  • We will put into place a “zero-based” budgeting system to enhance transparency and improve efficiency.
  • Budget allocations for the different agencies of government will be shaped by their performance and their compliance with the reports of the Commission on Audit (COA)
  • Qualification standards, especially on eligibility, will be strictly followed, and at least half of the positions of Undersecretaries and Assistant Secretaries will be filled by honest and competent career civil servants to ensure continuity and sustainability of effective policies and programs
  • Performances of government agencies and civil servants will be evaluated rationally and systematically through an effective and measurable performance management system to be approved by the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

We will have broad based and inclusive economic growth through increased incomes by generating quality jobs and attracting more investments.

  • We will have a government that is not corrupt and is business-friendly, thus lowering the cost of doing business and production in the country.
  • We will reduce red tape, reducing the number of processes required to do business in the country.
  • We will improve infrastructure in transportation and housing, which will generate jobs and also support investments.
  • We will directly target industries with the greatest potential for growth and where the Philippines has a competitive advantage, industries that have already been identified by domestic and foreign business groups and include agribusiness, business process outsourcing, creative industries, infrastructure, manufacturing and logistics, socially responsible mining and tourism and retirement.
  • In the immediate short term, we will take care of the most vulnerable and marginalized sectors of society through programs such as conditional cash transfers dedicated, among others, to keeping healthy young children in school.
  • We will promote entrepreneurship that provides employment, helping small and medium firms with access to credit and diffusion of technologies and skills.
  • We will focus investment expenditure in the very urgent need to invest in education (especially in early childhood education) and in health.
  • We will promote technical/vocational schools to strengthen the labor supply and better match the needs of enterprises.

A clean government will facilitate macroeconomic stability, reigning in the record level deficits of the current administration, and bringing down the debt-to-GDP ratio.

  • We will plug revenue leakages by having competent and trustworthy tax collectors, broadening the tax base.
  • We will instruct DBM to lead an internal government review of all its costs and present a plan to reduce government overhead within six months.
  • We will review policies and programs to enhance productivity and modernize the agricultural sector.

[Archived from the official campaign web site of President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III]

BSAIII action plan on job generation

Job Generation

Action Plan on Job Generation

We will increase investments to provide quality jobs for Filipinos by lowering the costs of doing business in our country.

  • We will level the playing field for businesses. We will encourage free and fair competition in a level playing field that stresses that one need not be a crony in order to be successful in this country. We will make our bidding and procurement policies and processes more transparent, and punish those who seek to circumvent procurement laws through collusion and other illegal means.
  • We will have easier, streamlined business procedures. We will transform our systems to foster service to the public. We will streamline the approval process, not only for setting up new businesses but also in the regular day-to-day transactions with government, such as the payment of taxes. We will do this on a national as well as the local level.

We will strategically target assistance to small and medium enterprises, and key industries where we have a competitive advantage to maximize our potential for job generation.

  • We will support small and medium enterprises. SMEs are the main generators of jobs in the country. But they lack access to credit and finance. They also need access to markets and to technology so that they can connect to the global economy. An Aquino government will not only encourage microfinance and small business loans, which was a cause supported by former President Corazon Aquino, but will also harness the remittances of our overseas workers by creating financial instruments that can attract remittances and be channeled to the rural sector. For market and technology access, we will encourage the private sector to link up with local firms, using information exchange, by giving the private sector the appropriate incentives.
  • We will directly target industries with the greatest potential for growth and where the Philippines has a competitive advantage, industries that have already been identified by domestic and foreign business groups and include agribusiness, business process outsourcing, creative industries, infrastructure, manufacturing and logistics, socially-responsible mining and tourism and retirement.

We will invest in our country’s top resource, our human resource, to make us more competitive and employable.

  • We will overhaul basic education by having universal pre-schooling and strengthening our basic education system to a 12-year cycle. For students who want to work after high school, we will strengthen technical-vocational education to provide them with needed skills.
  • We will solve the labor-mismatch problem by promoting better coordination between employers, academia and government, including through strengthening both public (e.g. Public Employment Service Offices -PESO) and private sector labor market information and exchange institutions, especially at the local levels.

[Archived from the official campaign web site of President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III]