POSTSCRIPT / July 22, 2007 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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SONA is promises versus performance

REPORT CARD: By its name alone, the State of the Nation Address of President Gloria Arroyo tomorrow must be a report on the true situation of the Republic.

The SONA is not, or should not be, an occasion for regaling Filipinos with extravagant promises of some bright future.

President Arroyo outlined in her SONA last year specific plans and projects against which her performance the past year should now be measured. Did she deliver?

We dug up last year’s SONA and excerpted some specific and significant portions. Although shortened for lack of space, our listing can be used to rate President Arroyo’s performance in the past year.

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CHECKLIST: The President said in her SONA in July 2006 (text edited for brevity):

We can fund the Medium-Term Public Investment Program. Sumusulong na ang ating plano na may tatlong yugto. Una, ang makaahon sa mga dekada ng utang at kapos ng pondo. Ikalawa, ang pagbabalik sa taumbayan ang mas malaking kita ng pamahalaan: upang makapagpundar ng kalinga sa kalusugan, edukasyon at trabaho.

Phase Three: to invest in the natural advantages and natural resources of each section so that when harnessed together, the major economic regions are larger than the sum of its parts.

We will enhance the competitive advantage of the natural “super regions”: the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle, the Metro Luzon Urban Beltway, Central Philippines, Mindanao, and the Cyber Corridor.

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AGRIBUSINESS: In North Luzon, we will prioritize agribusiness investments. The agricultural and fisheries potential of the Cordilleras, Ilocandia and Cagayan Valley can feed Luzon.

We have rehabilitated the Baguio to Mount Data leg of the highway, and the rest of Halsema will follow. We will upgrade the Bagabag airport and build a new one in Lallo, Cagayan, to connect to Cordillera by upgrading the Tabuk-Tuguegarao road.

Post-harvest support will continue, like the cold chain set up in 2004 for La Trinidad, Benguet. If Ifugao was able to cut its poverty in half in the first three years of our administration, from 56 to 28 percent, the other provinces can do the same.

We will expand the San Roque Multipurpose Dam with the Agno River Project. There are also the international airport in Poro, La Union, and the two airports in Batanes.

Ilocos Sur will have a seaport in Salomague while the Cagayan Zone Authority will upgrade Port Irene. To save dollars, windmills in Batanes and Ilocos Norte turn megawinds into megawatts.

The Metro Luzon Urban Beltway, spanning most of Central Luzon, Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Mindoro and Marinduque, produces more than half of the country’s GDP.

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WORLD-CLASS: To be world-class we invest in five comprehensive strategies for global competitiveness:

1. Make food plentiful and affordable to keep our labor cost globally competitive.

2. Reduce the cost of electricity to make our factories regionally competitive.

3. Modernize infrastructure at least cost to efficiently transport goods and people.

4. Mobilize, upgrade and disseminate knowledge and technologies for productivity.

5. Reduce red tape in all agencies to cut business costs.

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CHEAP POWER: The most prohibitive red tape is in our outmoded Constitution. We need Constitutional change to bring our rules of investment into the new millennium.

The new public bidding process has been shortened to 45 days for infrastructure, and 26 days for supplies. Even before this, Metro Manila firms paying bribes for public contracts declined from 57 percent in 2003 to 46.

To lower power costs we have introduced the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market. Let’s give it a chance to work. We would like big power consumers like electronics, our number one exports, to avail themselves of lower power rates.

The Subic-Clark corridor, on its way to becoming an international logistics center, will be my legacy to my cabalen. We jumpstarted it with giant investments in the Subic Seaport, the Clark Airport, and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

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BELTWAY: To bring the beltway to the west we will connect the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Road to Dingalan Port through Nueva Ecija, and the Marikina- Infanta Road to the port of Real.

We will have a continuous highway from Clark to Metro Manila to Batangas Port.

Pagdurugtungin natin ang MRT at LRT mula Monumento hanggang North EDSA. We will construct the Northrail to Clark and the Southrail to Lucena and on to Bicol, and upgrade the link between them. We will also extend the LRT to Bacoor.

Kapos sa tubig ang mga taga-West Zone ng Kamaynilaan. We are setting up a 300-million-liters-per-day pumping station for Muntinlupa, Las Pinas and Paranaque.

We will build a roll-on-roll- off port system to link Lucena, Quezon, to Boac, Marinduque, like the Batangas-Mindoro RORO.

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TOURISM, IT: In the harshest possible terms I condemn political killings. We together stopped judicial executions with the abolition of the death penalty. We urge witnesses to come forward. Together we will stop extrajudicial executions.

Central Philippines has the competitive edge in tourism in its natural wonders and the hospitality of its people. The area sweeps across Palawan and Romblon, the Visayas and Bicol, plus the northern Mindanao islands of Camiguin, Siargao and Dapitan. Topbilled by Boracay, Cebu, Bohol and Palawan, it attracts more than half of the foreign tourists to the Philippines.

Mindanao’s number one export, coconuts, has been growing for the last three years at 10 percent a year. The coconut farmers deserve a portion of the peace dividend. Things are coming together for Mindanao, a prelude to eventual federalism.

The Cyber Corridor will boost telecommunications, technology and education. The corridor runs through the super regions, from Baguio to Cebu to Davao. The cities of Davao, Tagum and Samal Island Garden operate electronic government accounting systems.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 22, 2007)

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