QUEZON CITY— President Benigno S. Aquino III said his administration will continue pursuing good governance reforms imperative to transform the Philippines from developing into First World country.
“Nakikita po ninyo, kung hindi tayo maaantala, kung magtutuloy ang Daang Matuwid, sa loob lang ng isang henerasyon, first world na tayo. Kung magpapatuloy ang mga repormang bukal ng paglago ng ekonomiya, paglaon, ang tinitingala nating mga bansa, makakapantay na natin, kundi man malalampasan,” the President said during his sixth and last State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA).
In the same SONA delivered before the joint session of Congress, Mr. Aquino blamed again former President now Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for much of his problems and ills in the country, drawing flak from many sectors.
Aquino thanked Congress for the passage of legislation that allowed sweeping reforms to be put in place, such as the Competition Law; the sin tax reform and amendments to the Cabotage law; and the reproductive health law.
He thanked Congress for all the “substantive bills” they passed, underscoring how a responsible Congress can truly go a long way in helping push reform and progress.
He spent over 20 minutes thanking all those who helped and inspired him, starting with God and his parents, then his Cabinet members past and present; the security officers; his sisters and their families; and even his stylist and housekeeper Yoly. The camera caught her seated in the gallery, eyes misting. Only Vice President Jejomar Binay, now a critic of the administration, was not mentioned by the President.
He also thanked all those who helped and volunteered in dealing with the spate of disasters; and the children who “clung to me and showed me they trusted me,” giving him hope to continue despite the challenges and the brickbats.
He said the next election will be a referendum of Daang Matuwid as the cameras focused on Vice President Binay, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Sen. Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares, all presumptive candidates for president in 2016. All three were seen beaming widely at his remarks.
He said he can face anyone and say he did his best following his best lights and judgment, then quoted Timothy 4: 7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
President Aquino stressed that the Philippines is now the “Asia’s Rising Tiger”, “Asia’s Rising Star”, and “Asia’s Bright Spot” considering its rapidly expanding economy and improving global competitiveness rankings.
The Chief Executive cited the result of a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey indicating that eight of 10 Filipinos believed that the Philippines would become one of the developed countries in the world in the future.
The Chief Executive said the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) averaged 6.2 percent from 2010 to 2014, the highest economic growth posted in 40 years.
President Aquino said a 6.8-percent GDP this year will enable the country achieve the highest six-year average growth in almost six decades.
“Siyempre po, ang pag-angat ng ekonomiya, may katumbas na pag-angat ng kakayahan ng gobyernong kumalinga at magbigay-lakas sa mamamayan upang masagad ang mga bumubukas na pagkakataon,” the President.
The country’s GDP slowed down to 5.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015 from last year’s 5.6 percent due to weak government spending and lower exports.
Government economic planners target a seven to eight percent GDP growth this year.
The President said the upcoming 2016 national elections would be a gauge of his “Daang Matuwid” platform even as he urged Filipinos to make his reforms a “way of life” that will ultimately pave the way for the Philippines into becoming a first world country in the next generation.
“The next polls would be a referendum on ‘Daang Matuwid’. The people will decide if the reforms we instituted would become permanent or just see it as just a stroke of luck and a temporary recovery from a long history of failures,” Aquino said..
He stressed that the seeds to recovery have already been sown by his administration and it would be folly to cut the tree when the fruits are ready to be reaped.
“I enjoined all Filipinos to join me in making our anti-corruption efforts a way of life. If you say yes, I will always be there beside you up to my last breath,” the President said.
But despite the achievements in the past five years, President Aquino asked for the understanding of his “bosses” – the Filipino people – for the controversies that hounded his administration.
“Never once did I think of myself as ‘perfect.’ There were times when we were let down by those we trusted to perform well in their appointed jobs. For these, I ask for your understanding,” he said.
The President said that despite the perceived shortcomings, he never shirked from his responsibilities and acted on what he thinks was best for the situation depending on the given knowledge and know-how present at the time.
Quoting from the bible, President Aquino said: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
“I will leave it to history to judge me,” Aquino said.
The President said that the Philippines is in the dawn of better things to come that is borne out of the transformation brought by “Daang Matuwid.”
“We are just beginning to reap the fruits of our freedom from corruption. We are now challenged by history to sustain this transformation for the next generations,” he said.
Aquino pushed the passage of four important measures, including the Anti-Dynasty Bill, in the remainder of the third regular session of the 16th Congress.
The President said he originally opposed the crafting of law that will prevent an individual from running in the election due to his family name.
”But I’m also thinking: There is also something wrong in giving opportunity for a corrupt family or individual to stay in power forever. It is time to pass an Anti-Dynasty Law,” the President said, drawing the longest and loudest applause from the audience.
President Aquino also pushed for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as well as the Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives which is seen to attract investments and more jobs to sustain long-term growth and Unified Uniformed Personnel Pension Reform Bill.
Meanwhile, Senate committee on local government chairman Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. has promised to release his committee report on the BBL on August 3.
President Aquino also appealed to the critics of the BBL to recommend a better solution to achieve lasting peace in the troubled parts of Mindanao.
”If they have no alternative, you only guarantee that change cannot be achieved. How many lives have to be lost before we realize that we have an obligation to change the wrong status quo in Muslim Mindanao?,” the President said.
The President’s appeal for BBL passage was supported by a video showing the beneficiaries of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro program — a concrete, socio economic initiative aimed to uplift the health, education and livelihood conditions of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) communities.