AS President Benigno Aquino 3rd entered his “last two minutes” in office, he can say that bringing back the smile to each Filipino here and abroad was among his administration’s achievements.
Upon his return from a two-week European and US trip in September, the President declared that the “sweetest” fruit of his tour was “to see Filipinos abroad smile upon hearing the good news about the Philippines.”
“This is how the President distilled the fruits of his recent Europe-US trip. It may well be a summary integration of what he regards as the most significant accomplishments of his administration thus far,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told The Manila Times.
According to him, this positive outlook is the result of another major accomplishment of the administration—transforming cynicism to hope. The people, Coloma said, have deviated from the old attitude of helplessness.
“We have experienced a transition from cynicism into hope and we are now accomplishing many things that were once deemed impossible,” he explained.
Coloma said the people recognized that Philippine society has transformed under the leadership of Aquino, whose Tuwid na Daan (straight path) policy has taken root in all government agencies, including the executive’s co-equal bodies.
The Palace official noted the opening up of new opportunities as an outcome of good governance, the fast pace of economic growth and the dawning of long-term peace in Mindanao are proof that Philippine society has been transformed.
“All that we have achieved thus far by choosing to tread the righteous path serves as building blocks for greater progress and if we continue to work together, we can reap more fruitful outcomes,” he pointed out.
Coloma said all these feats were reported by the President in detail in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July. Aquino also ticked off his administration’s achievements during his recent trip to Europe and the US.
“Isipin nga po ninyo ang pinanggalingan ng ating bansa: Mula sa puntong ni hindi man lang natin makayang mangarap, ngayon, isa-isa nang natutupad ang ating mga pangarap. Ang dating imposible, hindi lang nagawang posible; nagiging karaniwan na. Kung nagawa nating makarating sa kalagayan natin ngayon mula sa punto ng kawalang pag-asa, ano pa kaya ang maaari nating marating, ngayong mas mataas at mas mabuti na ang ating kinatatayuan? Tumuloy lang po tayo sa landas na ating tinatahak, at tiyak po, maaabot natin ang pinakamatatayog nating adhikain para sa Pilipinas,” Aquino told the media upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on September 25.
Perhaps the greatest feat of the administration for the past year alone was boosting the economy that led to the unprecedented gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 7.2 percent in 2013.
In the second quarter of this year, the 6.4 percent GDP growth was one of the highest in the region. According to government economic managers, 2.5 million Filipinos were lifted above the poverty line in the first semester of 2013.
“We continue to make massive investments in the people and for the people, not only to ensure that more Filipinos surpass the poverty line, but also to ensure that those who have crossed the poverty line, will never fall below it again,” Coloma quoted the President as saying in a recent gathering abroad.
Aquino he explained that these were due to “rational, results-driven approach to budgeting” that has vastly reduced waste and corruption while freeing up funds.
To boost the economy, the President said the government has more than doubled spending on infrastructure, expanded social services, and halved the deficit.
Another feather in the government’s cap, Coloma said, is the fact that the Philippines has received positive credit ratings 20 times, with Fitch, Standard & Poor’s, and Moody’s, ranking the country investment-grade for the first time in history.
These upgrades, he noted, came at a time when ratings agencies were more conservative in their evaluations because they have come under greater scrutiny after the global economic crisis.
The upgrades, explained Coloma, allowed the Philippines to retire old debt, obtain better terms for new debt, and demonstrate to the world that the country is a safe place in which to do business.
He cited several speeches of the President where the latter boasted of several of his major accomplishments, including the impeachment of the Chief Justice Renato Corona, which “signaled the institution of public accountability and transparency.’
“Infrastructure costs less, and there is far more of it, built with better quality: 12,184 kilometers of roads have been constructed, rehabilitated, or improved under our watch so far. By cutting red tape and minimizing, if not eliminating, opportunities for collusion, the Public Works Department has saved over P27.79 billion, which can then be used to implement the next phases of these projects. Today, the government is multiplying the benefits that each peso can bring to the Filipino people,” said the President in one of those speeches.
Besides having helped boost the economy and improving people’s lives, Coloma said the government takes credit for infusing huge investments in social protection through the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program that breaks the vicious cycle of inadequate resources for a constantly growing population and initiates a virtuous cycle of an educated population that is trained and primed for employment and career opportunities.
Another important fact that should not be missed is that taxes have not been raised, except for those on products society discourages such as alcohol and tobacco.
Also, the government’s peace-seeking efforts have borne fruit as shown by the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in April. Once passed into law, the Bangsamoro measure will clear the way for the holding of a plebiscite and the establishment of a Bangsamoro political entity by June 2016.
Earlier this year, the government took the peaceful and diplomatic path to the resolution of conflicts over maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) by submitting for arbitral resolution its claims under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The European Union backed the country’s position and called on Beijing to respond to calls for a diplomatic and peaceful resolution of the disputes.