PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd pledged to dedicate his administration’s “last two minutes” to winning the fight against corruption and further improving the economy in the face of anticipated challenges and opponents who are determined to see his defeat.
In lining up government’s feats in 2013, Aquino’s New Year’s message also dealt on his continued campaign against misuse of public funds such as in the case of the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
“Like in the game of basketball, we are entering our last two minutes. In the remaining chapter in our term, we will waste no time. Each Filipino’s significant contribution will ensure our victory in achieving progress,” the President said.
He highlighted his administration’s all-out campaign against corruption which, he claimed, led to remarkable economic growth. He said the country improved 29 notches in the Transparency International Corruption Index this year from 134th place in 2010 to 105th.
“Justice is also within reach against those who are being prosecuted for abusing PDAF. We continuously lay out mechanisms to ensure that the people’s money are spent for the people alone,” Aquino stressed.
Through “good governance,” he said the Philippines achieved the highest recorded gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Southeast Asia. For the first time, he added, the country won investment grade status from three renowned credit ratings agencies, which meant lower interest rates for loans that entice investors to come in.
“As one nation with a collective goal, we showed our resolve this year in the face of overlapping challenges. We really had several victories in 2013,” Aquino pointed out.
The President noted that like in a basketball game, there would be a lot of hurdles and “barricades” in his remaining years in office.
“We know that the remnants of the old system would not just give up. As we come near victory, they will become more desperate in their attempt to derail our agenda,” Aquino further said.
“Let us always side with what is right and what is good for our fellowmen. Let’s side with reason, truthfulness and accountability. Grab each opportunity for the good of the majority. It is only us who will set our own limitations. Open our mind and welcome reasonable suggestions to widen and prolong the reforms we make,” he added.
Aquino also talked about the government’s peace efforts in Mindanao with the historic synchronized national and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao elections.
He cited the signing of the annex on power sharing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has paved the way for the election of new Bangsamoro leaders in 2016.
Turning to job generation, Aquino reported that under the Training for Work Scholarship Program of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), 576,748 have already graduated. Based on data from the Budget department, he said that 62.4 percent of the graduates were able to find a job, a far cry from the 28.5 percent who got jobs from 2006 to 2008.
In the field of information technology and business processes outsourcing (BPO), the employment rate of Tesda graduates was 71 percent.
“With the cooperation of [the department of Labor and Employment, Tesda, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education]and the private sector, we solved the jobs and skills mismatch that is why it is no longer surprising why we have a lower unemployment rate this year,” Aquino said.
“We also know that there are more calamities that will test our mettle as a nation,” he added.