PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Thursday was annoyed by some Cabinet members coming in late for a meeting of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board in Malacanang.
Palace sources said the President was annoyed when only a few members of the Cabinet, who are concurrent members of the Neda Board, made it to the meeting on time. The meeting was scheduled at 1 p.m. and Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. cut short his regular news briefing so he could attend.
A Manila Times source, who was inside the meeting room, said Aquino kept on looking at the clock. “Let’s give them the last two minutes and then shut the door,” he said.
Other Palace sources said the President was livid over reports that the economy slowed in the first quarter of the year and for that the Neda meeting was very important to him.
After his “last two minutes,” he called the meeting to order and began with the usual prayer.
Among those who did not arrive on time was Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who has been taking heavy criticism over his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam and the poor showing of the agriculture sector, which contributed a paltry amount to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“The meeting is usually attended by all Cabinet secretaries but they started the meeting incomplete,” the source said.
In his briefing, Coloma said the President will convene and preside over the Neda meeting to discuss with heads of various agencies their projects in different parts of the country: Department of Public Works and Highways (road and interchange projects in National Capital Region or Metro Manila, Region I and Region IV-A), Local Water Utilities Administration (water district development project), Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (Angat Water Transmission Improvement Project), Department of Transportation and Communications (Light Rail Transit Line 2 Operations and Maintenance Project), National Irrigation Administration (Umayam River Irrigation Project) and Department of Health (government hospital modernization)
“We note the report of the Neda that the Philippine economy as measured by the [GDP] grew by 5.7 percent despite the natural calamities that hit the country during the last quarter of 2013. This figure shows a 0.8 percent decrease from the 6.5 percent growth recorded in the fourth quarter of 2013. The country’s performance is the third highest in Asia, next to China’s 7.4 percent and Malaysia’s 6.2 percent,” the President said.
According to Neda, the country remains on track to reach its full-year growth target of between 6.5 percent and 7.5 percent as the government speeds up rehabilitation, construction and recovery projects that will rebuild assets, restore supply chains and strengthen capacity-building, especially for people and communities affected by Typhoon Yolanda, Coloma explained.
“In order to boost economic growth, the government will continue to implement the strategies in the updated Philippine Development Plan. To further boost employment, the Department of Labor and Employment will focus on implementing job-creation facilitation programs targeted at businesses that are expanding operations,” he said.
Coloma added that the government will focus on increasing investments in these priority sectors that Neda believes can provide jobs necessary for inclusive growth, especially in the marginalized sectors.