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President Aquino’s 5th SONA Highlights

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MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno S. Aquino III just delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, which lasted for about one and a half hours. Here are the highlight’s of his second-to-the-last SONA speech:

1. “Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan, hindi makararating sa paroroonan.” Before, the Philippines was referred to as the ‘Sick Man of Asia,’ but the government was able to take on the straight path

2. As the father of the nation, the president has to take into consideration all interests and points of view of every one with a clear main goal: to bring back the government to its mandate: to serve the people at all times.

3. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s Training-for-Work Scholarship Program produced 223,615 graduates, 66 percent of which or 146,731 are already working. The program was funded P1.6 billion by the Disbursement Acceleration Program, with the government investing P7,155 per scholar.

4. The government launched the Expanded Conditional Cash Transfer Program in June 2014 with a budget of P12.3 billion.

5. According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the 27.9 percent poverty rate in the first half of 2012 went down to 24.9 percent in the same period in 2013- equivalent to 2.5 million Filipinos who have been lifted out of poverty.

6. Over the past few years, with the help of every Filipino who cared for the well-being of his fellowmen, the government has been acquiring the tools and materials we need. One of these tools is a budget focused solely on the needs of the citizenry— a budget passed on-time four years in a row. These tools include the laws that have accelerated the bringing of benefits the people.

7. Tax collections have been strengthened from P1.094 trillion in collections in 2010 to P1.536 trillion in 2013.

8. The government was able to recapitalize the Central Bank of the Philippines with P40 billion added to the P10 billion funded by the Ramos administration.

9. If the people choose the right leaders, succeeding administrations will be able to surpass what the current government has done because the administration has greatly reduced the number of problems remaining, giving them a stronger foundation from which to begin.

10. The Philippines was upgraded to investment grade status by Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard and Poor’s—the three major credit ratings agencies in the world. Because the Philippines is now investment grade, government will be able to borrow funds for programs and projects at lower interest rates, more businesses will be attracted to invest in our country, and Filipinos will be able to feel the benefits of our economic resurgence more quickly.

11. Forty-two percent of total investments in the Philippine Economic Zone Authority came in during the four years of the Aquino Administration. The remaining 58 percent took 15 years for past administrations to accumulate.

12. In 2013, the International Civil Aviation Organization lifted the significant safety concerns it had previously issued for the Philippines. This was followed, in the same year, by the European Union lifting the ban on Philippine Airlines, allowing it to fly once again to Europe—which means that Filipinos will be able to fly directly from Manila to London.

13. The United States Federal Aviation Administration upgraded the Philippines back to Category 1. Because of this upgrade, it is likely that there will also be an increase in routes going to the United States. The increase in flights of our local airlines to the United States and participating countries in the European Union is a big help to both tourism and business.

14. Through the continued cooperation of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and our local carriers, the country will be able to attract more businessmen and tourists in the coming years. This is a win for all those in the tourism sector; this is a win for the Filipino people.

15. In May, when we successfully hosted the World Economic Forum on East Asia, the Philippines showed the world just what we were capable of. And with the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit the Philippines will be hosting next year, we will be able to inform even more people of our progress, and the opportunities that this has opened up for all.

16. According to the National Concilation and Mediation Board, since 2010, the number of strikes per year has been limited to less than 10. This is the positive result of the Department of Labor and Employment’s Single entry Approach through which filed labor cases go through a 30-day conciliation-mediation period. The good news: out of 115 notices of strike and lockout in 2013, only one pushed through. This is the lowest number of strikes in the history of the Department of Labor and Employment.

17. The budget for infrastructure has more than doubled from the P200.3 billion in 2011 to P404.3 billion in 2014. THe government did this without adding any new taxes, apart from the Sin Tax Reform, which is focused on health, while we maintained our allowable deficit, and with our debt-to-GDP ratio continually declining.

18. Under the leadership of Secretary Rogelio Singson of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH): Neither kickbacks nor overpricing is condoned. The loopholes in the old system were plugged, the agency’s processes were streamlined. A simple example would be the removal of Letters of Intent from the bidding process.

19. In the past, these bred a culture of collusion— knowing who was bidding on the same project only created a space for collusion. Another example: The requisite documents from bidders were trimmed to five, from

20. Processes are faster, and there are now fewer opportunities for the unscrupulous to ask for bribes. This allowed the Department to save P28 billion and allowed them to accelerate the implementation of the next projects. The roads that the DPWH has laid out, fixed, widened, or constructed have amounted to a total of 12,184 kilometers. From December 2011 to June 2014, the government has awarded and signed off on seven public-private partnership (PPP) projects, with a total value of P62.6 billion.

21. In the past, the Philippines could not entice investors; then, the government had to roll out incentives like commercial development rights, subsidies, and other guarantees for profit just to attract bidders. Now, the situation has reversed. Companies are now in close competition, trying to outdo each other; they are ready and willing to pay for the privilege to build the infrastructure we need. For example, with the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Passenger Terminal Building, the government has a premium that amounts to more than P14 billion; with the NAIA Expressway Project Phase 2, the government received a premium of P11 billion.

22. Because of the TPLEX, the journey from Tarlac to Rosales in Pangasinan has become easier. According to the proponents of the project, the segment of the road that reaches Urdaneta will be completed before the year ends. And by next year, the TPLEX will have extended to the end of Rosario, La Union.

23. The Aluling Bridge, which was conceived in 1978, is finally open to the public. Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3, part of the Metro Manila Expressway project from the 1970s, was launched this January. Those who traverse Osmeña Highway can attest to how speedily its columns are being constructed. The Ternate-Nasugbu Road, the plans for which started to be laid out in 1994, is now 100 percent complete. The Basilan Circumferential Road, which has been under construction since 2000, will soon be completed.

24. According to some studies, there may be a shortage of water in Metro Manila by 2021. We will not wait for a drought: The solutions that experts have studied assiduously, we have already approved—the Kaliwa Dam Project in Quezon, and the repair of the lines of Angat Dam. These solutions are significantly better than sourcing water from underground aquifers, which are more easily penetrated by saltwater. On top of this, if we were to rely solely on aquifers, then we would only hasten the sinking of land—which would contribute to flooding.

25. Together with the dams for Metro Manila and its outlying cities, we are providing support to those in the provinces. We have also approved the Water District Development Sector Project, under the Local Water Utilities Administration.

26. The biggest PPP- the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike- ll yield numerous benefits. First: flooding in nearby areas will lessen. Today, when water levels of the Laguna Lake reach 12.5 meters, surrounding communities will be flooded. The solution: a dike with a height of more than 15 meters. Second: the water of Laguna Lake will be cleaner. Third: Less traffic. An expressway will be built on top of the dike, which will extend from Los Baños to Taguig. When the C-6 road that will connect to San Jose Del Monte is completed, we will have another route that will allow us to travel through Metro Manila without passing through EDSA.

27. The NEDA Board has approved the Laoag City Bypass Link Road Project; the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit Project; and the LRT Line 1 South Extension and Line 2 East Extension. For those from Palawan: Apart from the projects for the Puerto Princesa Airport, there is also the Busuanga Airport to look forward to. The government has likewise given the go signal for the construction of phase one of the modern Clark Green City in Capas, Tarlac, that will serve as a center for commerce and industry, not only of Central Luzon, but also of the entire country. At the end of the day, our vision for Clark Green City is that it becomes even bigger than the Bonifacio Global City. Formerly isolated places will now become areas teeming with opportunity.

28. Through good governance, we have been regaining the trust of the market, of the world, and of our own people, in government.

29. In September of 2013, lawless elements attacked Zamboanga; our countrymen who had been living peaceful lives there were used as human shields, their homes were burned down. This crisis tested the caliber of our uniformed services. Urban combat is considered the most complex kind of combat; in spite of this, our troops were able to save 195 of the 197 Filipinos caught in the conflict.

30. By this coming August, affected families in the Zamboanga siege can begin to move into permanent housing units in Martha Drive Subdivision. The government also aims to complete the construction of 7,176 housing units in other areas by June of next year. To the 1,661 families that wish to build back or repair their own homes, 30,000 pesos worth of Home Materials Assistance is now being distributed.

31. We have set aside P3.5 billion for the rehabilitation of infrastructure, the purchasing of lots, the construction of permanent houses, and other types of assistance for Zamboanga. P2.57 billion from this fund has already been released to the National Housing Authority and DPWH.

32. Just one week after the earthquake, electricity was restored in Tagbilaran and in all the municipalities of Bohol. Now, each of the 25 critical roads and bridges destroyed by the earthquake are passable. 3.583 billion pesos has already been released for the rehabilitation of Bohol and Cebu. Part of this is the P2.49 billion that the Department of Interior and Local Government provided to the local government for the reconstruction of markets, civic centers, bridges, water systems, municipal halls and other government facilities.

33. Before the end of 2013, Yolanda made landfall. It was the strongest typhoon in history, affecting 1.47 million families and 44 out of our 81 provinces. The government cleared the airport, which is why, within 24 hours after the storm, three C130s were able to bring in aid. On that same day, the government also able to set up a communications hub to hasten the flow of information. On the second day, the Department of Health’s Rapid Health Assessment teams arrived, as well as additional soldiers, policemen, and BFP personnel from other provinces. Likewise, workers from the Department of Social Welfare and Development lead relief operations— in the distribution centers in Eastern Visayas or in repacking centers all around the country.

In a span of two days, the Leyte water district resumed operations; on the third day, the first gas station opened. The main roads were immediately cleared. By November 22, two weeks after the storm, the 1 millionth food pack was distributed to the victims; the government had cleared 35,162 cubic meters of debris from these roads through which the relief will be transported; and 3,426 kilometers of National Roads had already been cleared and were passable. At present, the government is repairing the 108.8 kilometers of destroyed roads, bridges, approaches, and landslide prone areas. By Christmas Day of 2013, all municipalities affected by the calamity had been electrified.

34. Given the Filipino people’s readiness to render assistance to the best of our abilities— a characteristic embodied by overseas Filipino workers, peacekeepers, and all our other countrymen abroad— when the world saw that we were in need, they saw fit to come to our aid. Today, we express once more our gratitude to all of you, and to all the Filipinos who have offered their prayers and their support, whether here, or in other parts of the world.

35. The government has implemented livelihood interventions, to ensure that those of our countrymen who survived the typhoon could recover at the soonest possible time. This July, 221,897 jobs were created after we turned over boats, fishing and farming equipment, seeds, and livestock to our countrymen. This includes those Filipinos to whom we paid salaries for participating in the cash for work program.

36. According to international standards, whenever a calamity of this scale takes place, it normally takes a country one year before it transitions from relief to rehabilitation. However, in just a span of eight months, the United Nations declared the Philippines to be in the rehabilitation state. In fact, Mr. Yuri Afanasiev of the United Nations Development Program said, “We have never seen a recovery happen so quickly. And many of us have been in many different disasters.”

37. There are still many houses that need to be constructed; many more of our countrymen need to be assisted in getting back on their own two feet; the work to build back better for all those affected by Yolanda continues.This is why this July, the Local Government Unit (LGU) Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan for Cebu, Iloilo, Eastern Samar, Leyte, and Tacloban City was submitted and signed.

38. The government is strengthening the capabilities of our LGUs, who are the frontliners in times of disasters, through a modern and comprehensive forecasting system. Through the DREAM-LiDAR project under Project NOAH, we can more efficiently pinpoint areas that are prone to flooding. Nineteen out of 20 targeted river systems have already been mapped, to determine which areas immediately suffer from the effects of torrential rain. Because we can more efficiently determine when and where typhoons will affect us, today, we are able to give our LGUs sufficient warning—and thus give them ample time to prepare, and to evacuate their constituents.

39. The government has acquired brand new assets, including eight Sokol Combat Utility Helicopters, three AgustaWestland-109 helicopters, and the first landing craft utility ship built right here in the country: the BRP Tagbanua. Four refurbished UH-1 helicopters and two navy cutters have also arrived. This past May, the government also inaugurated the Naval Forces West’s state-of-the-art Command Center in Palawan. Next year, two out of the 12 FA-50 lead-in fighter jets procured will arrive in the country, with the rest to be delivered in 2017. We are also targeting the acquisition of an additional eight Bell combat utility helicopters, two anti-submarine helicopters, 10 more AgustaWestland-109 helicopters, two light-lift aircraft, three medium-lift aircrafts, radar systems, all of which are brand new. These, along with other new equipment, will boost the capacity of our Armed Forces. The government is also expecting the delivery of 17 additional refurbished UH-1 helicopters by September of this year.

40. In the next few months, the total number of rifles that will be in the hands of our soldiers will be 50,629 units. On top of this, through a correct and transparent procurement process and the honest management of funds, the government was able to save more than P1.2 billion to be used in purchasing more rifles.

41. The government is continuing the pursuit of enemies of the state and lawless elements for the crimes they have committed. For example: apprehending the chairman and secretary general of the New People’s Army (NPA) in March. Normality and order are now returning to the 31 provinces previously troubled by the NPA.

42. The image of the police has changed. Proof of this are the 30 policemen, led by Inspector Charity Galvez, who repelled an estimated 250 NPA members who stormed their precinct in 2011.

43. This past June, there has been a succession of high-profile killings. We have already arrested some of those involved in the murders of Mayor Ernesto Balolong and businessman Richard King, and are currently following a strong lead in the murder case of race car driver Ferdinand Pastor.

44. Since June 16 of this year, the government implemented Operation Lambat in the National Capital Region. After tripling the number of checkpoints and conducting various operations, the police were able to confiscate 862 vehicles and 29 firearms. The police have served 587 warrants of arrest, which resulted in the arrest of 410 suspects. The government has also reinstated Oplan Katok, to ensure that the licensing of guns is limited to responsible owners. Policemen knocked on 28,714 doors for
this operation. Before Operation Lambat, from January to the second week of June, the rate of murder and homicide cases in Metro Manila reached up to 31 cases a week. During the five weeks of Operation Lambat, murder and homicide cases decreased to only 22 cases per week. This is a 29 percent decrease, equivalent to nine murders prevented per week.

45. The government created a new agency to look into the processes at the Bureau of Customs, with an eye toward making them more efficient. The president appointed a new commissioner, five new deputy commissioners, as well as 40 trustworthy individuals to implement reforms. The govermnent ensured that employees were recalled to their original positions— putting a stop to guards who acted like cashiers, or warehousemen who acted as examiners.

46. From January to April of 2014, Customs’ cash collections increased by 22 percent, compared to the same period last year. Their collections total in the first four months of the year: P117 billion.

47. “All I can say to those who continue with their selfish, illegal practices: I already know that you are impervious to both fear and shame. I will leave you to your conscience—if you feel any remorse for your fellowmen who have become addicted to the illegal drugs you have helped to smuggle in, or for the farmers who are being deprived of fair profit from doing honest work. As far as I am concerned: After we have gathered enough evidence against you, the Bilibid Prison is your next destination.”

48. In 2015, after 102 years, the Cadastral Survey for agrarian reform will finally be completed. the executive branch will once again submit to Congress a bill extending the filing of Notices of Coverage.

49. After a lengthy period of conflict and derailed negotiations, we were able to put trust back to the table. Proof of this: This past March, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed.

50. In the budget for 2015, P5.17 billion of the overall budget for DPWH has been allocated for infrastructure in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

51. The executive branch is currently forging the proposal for the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

52. From April 2013 to April 2014, around 1.65 million jobs were created.

53. The inherited backlog in books, chairs, and classrooms: erased; while the government is working to fulfill the new needs brought about by the implementation of K to 12. 54. The 1:1 police-to-pistol ratio has already reached.

55. The modernization of the Armed Forces is currently ongoing.

56. A just and lasting peace in Mindanao is already advancing.

57. Growth of the economy is progressing continuously.

58. The country’s ambitions are now being fulfilled one by one: universal healthcare, classrooms, jobs, harbors, roads, airports, security and peace. In addition to the national integrity restored is the world’s recognition of a new Philippines. The nation’s coffers, which come from the sweat of citizens, are being spent only for their benefit.

59. The government is doing everything in its power to ensure that the growing energy demand in the country is met.

60. The government aims to have planned solutions for energy problems that will not arise until next year. Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla was asked to coordinate with the Joint Congressional Power Commission, the Energy Regulatory Commission, members of industry, and consumers in order to increase capacity to respond to this problem.

61. In response to rice hoarders, the government will import more rice, supply it to the markets, reduce the prices and keep them at a reasonable level, and ultimately drive those who took advantage of the Filipino people into financial ruin. Last November, the government imported 500,000 metric tons of rice to supplement decreased supply due to the typhoons that battered the country, and all of this had arrived by March of this year. This February, the National Food Authority (NFA) Council approved the importation of an additional 800,000 metric tons, in fulfillment of the buffer stocking requirement, and as of this July, 360,750 of this amount had arrived. This July as well, the government approved the immediate importation of 500,000 metric tons of rice through open bidding. The NFA also has the standby authority to import an additional 500,000 metric tons to prepare for the effects of calamities on harvests and rice prices. When the additional rice we have imported arrives in the country, hoarders will be forced to sell the rice that they have stockpiled in their warehouses.

62. Apart from investigating those who have allegedly hoarded NFA rice, authorities are also probing all those in concerned agencies who may have conspired with these hoarders.

63. We are ensuring that rice farming remains a viable and attractive livelihood. We are providing our farmers with modern equipment to ensure the efficiency of planting and harvest. From 2011 to May 2014, we have already turned over 4,628 units of production machinery, 11,362 units of post-production machinery, and 105 rice mills to a number of farmers’ associations. This has allowed us to lessen waste in what our farmers are able to harvest. On top of this: we are also enhancing irrigation systems, constructing farm-to-market roads, and implementing training programs to ensure that they make the maximum profit.

64. We are proposing the passage of a supplemental budget for 2014, so that the implementation of our programs and projects need not be compromised.

65. We are calling on the cooperation of Congress for the passage of a Joint Resolution that will bring clarity to the definitions and ideas still being debated upon, and to the other issues that only you in the legislature—as the authors of our laws—can shed light on.

67. On the first working day after the SONA, we will submit to Congress the proposed P2.606 trillion National Budget of 2015.

68. For those who turned public service into a business: if we are able to fix our systems, they lose the opportunity to subvert these systems for their own gain. It is only natural that they oppose us. On the other hand, for those who have no other goal than to overthrow government: They can only recruit members when agreat number of people are suffering and losing faith in the system. This is why, with a reformed system that has ended the people’s suffering, the number of potential recruits has dwindled, which explains why their group is getting smaller and smaller. It is only natural that they oppose us. The noisiest and loudest of those who oppose us are not in favor of the transformation of our country, precisely because they manipulated and benefited from the old and broken systems.

69. The entire Filipino people who are now reaping the benefits of the straight path. They oppose the farmers in Iloilo, who have hoped for efficient irrigation systems for more than fifty years, and today are witnessing the construction of the Jalaur Multi-purpose River Project. They oppose the countless students who no longer have to study in overcrowded classrooms. They oppose the Filipinos who have found jobs because of training received from TESDA; the Filipinos who have been safely evacuated before typhoons strike because PAGASA is now more efficient; they oppose the informal settlers who have been removed from danger because of housing resettlement programs; they oppose the poor who can receive treatment from public hospitals free of charge; they oppose the soldiers who, because their equipment has been modernized, can now protect our nation with greater confidence; they oppose the Moros and indigenous peoples who, today, see a just and lasting peace on the horizon.

70. Those of us who are ready to fulfill our part in achieving positive transformation are, without doubt, stronger. We will triumph because we are in the right. We dared to dream, we began pursuing those dreams, we worked hard, we gained the momentum, and today, the Filipino people are moving even faster along the straight path to lasting and inclusive growth. Our fatigue and sacrifices will be all the more worthwhile if you are able to continue what we started together.

71. In 2016, you will be choosing new leaders of our country. What I can tell you is this: if you wish continue and even accelerate the transformation of society, there can only be one basis for choosing my successor: Who will, without a shred of doubt, continue the transformation we are achieving?

72. We are forging a system of fairness; where, as long as you follow the rules, you can get to where you want to go; where true competition leads to opportunity and widespread progress; where each and every person can take control of their own destinies.

73. To my Bosses: You gave me an opportunity to lead our efforts to transform society. If I had said “no” when you asked me to take on this challenge, then I could just as well have said that I would help prolong your suffering. I cannot do that in good conscience. If I had turned my back on the opportunity, then I might as well have turned my back on my father and mother, and all the sacrifices they made for all of us; that will not happen. On our journey along the straight path, you have always chosen what is right and just; you have been true to your promise, and I have been true to all of you.

74. As long as your faith remains strong—as long as we continue serving as each other’s strength—we will continue proving that “the Filipino is worth dying for,” “the Filipino is worth living for,” and if I might add: “The Filipino is worth fighting for.”

75. When that day comes, and my second life comes to an end, will I be able to say things will be ok? I will tell you this, straight in eye: after everything we’ve achieved, I can say that I am content.

76. There are people like Cardinal Chito Tagle, Ka Eduardo Manalo, Brother Eddie Villanueva, Father Catalino Arevalo, and Father Jett Villarin, Bishop Jonel Milan, Sister Agnes Guillen, and Mae Salvatierra. These are individuals from the religious sector, who will continue what we’ve started.

77. There is Aris Alip of CARD, who will do his part through microfinance. There is an Alice Murphy and her urban poor associates who will truly continue to take care of our informal settlers.

78. There are our soldiers and police officers, who try every day to do what is right—just like our new Chief of Staff, our Service Commanders, our soldiers in the Light Reaction Battalion, and the JSOG.

79. There are, of course, my fellow politicians. Is there any doubt that Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Belmonte will lead us along the right path?

80. It has also been my privilege to work with and interact with a certain governor, Alfredo Maranon of Negros Occidental: He is not a party mate, but I think I am part of his fan club because of his good governance in Negros.

81. There are up and coming young politicians. Or at least they’re younger than I am—I don’t want to seem too much like an old politico by referring to my colleagues as young. These are the likes of Mayor Jed Mabilog and Mayor Len Alonte

82. There is also those in the cultural sector— such as Noel Cabangon and Ogie Alcasid-—who are not self-centered.

83. To my Bosses: You are behind the transformation we are enjoying. You are the key to continuing all the positive changes we have achieved. I fully believe that, whether I am here or not, the Filipino is headed towards the rightful destination.

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