Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not Accepting The Status Quo, Transforming Our Country

 My barber and I had the privilege of attending very recently the Filipino community gathering with President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino.
Souvenir from PNoy
PNoy who spoke in Tagalog and English, gave a brief State of the Nation Address (SONA) to the Fil-Am community by letting numbers deliver the message to a responsive audience.

He started by reporting the good news - budget surplus for the month of August was P9 billion. Then the downside - his administration failed to reach the Program Budget Deficit target because it “underspent”. Kulang daw ang gastos. “Kailangan daw gumastos para lumago ang ekonomiya.” We need to spend more to grow our economy.

Unemployment rate in the Philippines was 8% when he took over. Now, it is 7.2%.

I could feel the envy of President Barack Obama!

On Education: 66,000 classrooms for children were lacking; of the children that go to school, only 50% finish high school, and worse, only 14% finish college.

In the first year, the PNoy Administration built 11,000 additional classrooms and 45,000 more will be built in 2012. Most of the uneducated are below the poverty line, so he allocated about P23 billion a year under the Conditional Cash Transfer Program to assist these families in sending their children to school. Beneficiaries were 2.3 million so far. The number is expected to reach 4.6 million by 2015.

Increased funding for these programs as well as budget surpluses are also due to the cancellation of certain projects that are sources of rampant corruption. He cited as an example the project of dredging Laguna de Bay to increase the water of the lake. It was going to be dredging from one portion of the lake and transferring to another portion of the lake. 

The government would save P80.7 billion. This could almost quadruple the number of beneficiaries who are below the poverty line under the Conditional Cash Transfer Program.

He also mentioned the case of the police officers who spent 1/3 of their household income for housing, 1/3 for food, and 1/3 for health and medicine, education, clothing, etc. To assist them in their needs, the government has a special housing program for them which has already built 4,000 homes, and expect to build 21,000 more this year. This would substantially reduce the housing expense for each police family from P4,000-5000/month to a measly mortgage of P200 monthly.

We also gathered separately, that the number of government officials and employees found guilty and imprisoned for corruption went up from 38 in 2009 to 2053 in 2010. That’s a 5,300% increase. The wheels of justice are moving a little faster.

PNoy came to Washington, D.C. and New York to attend the launching of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) of which he is a powerful member of the International Steering Committee. Meeting with the Filipino-American communities to render even a brief report is consistent with the elements of OGP, which are Transparency, Accountability, and Participation of, by and for the people.

PNoy claimed to have been surprised by the enormous problems confronting him and the country when he took over. According to him, surprising even more were the challenges and the opportunities in offering solutions to them.

In an appeal to the community, he said he could not do it alone. Neither could his Cabinet members do it alone. He wanted all of us to do it with him.

“We are not accepting the status quo. We will transform our country,” he ended.

Cory and Ninoy must be proud! He makes us proud!

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