MANILA, Philippines—Long and exhaustive, but short on road maps.
That’s how big business groups described President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday.
Officials of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) and Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) said in telephone interviews they had expected a concrete set of action plans that would enable the country to achieve target growths.
Philexport president Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis noted that the address was really more of a “report of what has been happening.”
“Nothing much new in the speech, so I wished there’d be more of road maps on infrastructure and timetables. I was also hoping to hear more on small and medium enterprises,” Ortiz-Luis explained.
“I was also hoping that there would be a mention of mining as well. But I’m happy that the President talked about tourism. Then again, it’s just a report of accomplishments and not a plan,” he said. “It’s especially crucial that President Aquino mention a more specific timetable because we’re already halfway through his administration.”
Very positive things
PCCI president Miguel B. Varela said it was “very good to hear very positive things in the country and the opportunities that have opened.”
“You can see the leader’s determination to work hard to achieve further growth. He certainly put things in proper perspective,” Varela said. “He has mentioned his push for legislative initiatives like the rationalization of incentives, which is important.”
Varela, however, noted that there had been no mention of specific actions and activities, which he said should be defined to attain growth targets.
“I believe the President sounded the need for faster and better results, knowing the few remaining years in office. Overall, I am satisfied with the speech. I just hope the rest of government, especially the judiciary and legislature, follow his lead,” Varela said.
But he pointed out that while in some areas the President was specific, such as infrastructure, in other areas, he was less so.
“On trade and industry, plans and road maps were not given. I would have wanted a statement on how the Philippines would be competitive given the challenges of the Asean Economic Community in 2015,” he said.
Message loud and clear
MAP president Melito S. Salazar Jr. noted the Sona was an “exhausting speech.”
“But the message was loud and clear—gains made because of good governance, less than good performance means departure of officials concerned, determination to demand better performance or else, infrastructure improved and more for the future,” he said.
“I would have wanted the President to identify areas where the public could do their share. A call for national discipline and following rules and regulations, especially traffic laws, would have been good,” Salazar said.
Rhicke Jennings, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, said in an e-mail: “We would have liked to see more discussion of the priorities listed in the business groups’ June 19 letter to President Aquino. The Philippines still has very far to travel on its journey to sustained and inclusive growth and much still remains to be accomplished by this administration.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the Sona was a “comprehensive manual” on how to achieve inclusive growth.
“It is a manual brimming with details, from income-increasing intercropping schemes to refrigerating lapu-lapu, from the number of houses to be built to where flood control projects will be constructed, from entitlements to be reformed to laws to be passed,” Recto said.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda welcomed two major priority projects in Albay cited by Aquino: the P3.4-billion Bicol International Airport in Daraga town and the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital with the capability to undertake open-heart surgery.
Salceda said the Sona was a reflection of a “transformative governance” marked by innovation, creativity, out-of-box and commonsensical solutions in addressing both long-term problems and everyday issues.
“The Aquino administration engages the participation of the common tao (higher SSS premiums and higher LRT/MRT fares) as well as the transformation of public institutions through fiscal discipline,” noted Salceda, a former presidential economic adviser.
In Baguio City, Bishop Carlito Cenzon said: “The majority of the people, particularly the poor, do not feel the ‘trickle-down effect.’ If there’s anything, there’s only Pantawid, but that is only a short-term solution to address the needs of the poor.”
12 million unemployed
In Isabela, Randy Felix Malayao, a convener of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said the President’s rosy economic picture had been refuted by the think tank Ibon, which put at 12 million, the number of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos.
The family of slain Palawan journalist Gerry Ortega welcomed the reference to the ongoing murder trial. “We hope his remarks on the Reyes brothers’ escape will spark renewed police efforts to flush out the suspects from their hiding place,” the victim’s widow, Patria Gloria, said in a text message.—With reports from Norman Bordadora in Manila; Mar S. Arguelles, Jofel Joyce Lancion, Redempto Anda and Delfin Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon; Desiree Caluza and Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon; and Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon
Originally posted at 9:23 p.m. | July 22, 2013