Noy: Path cleared, we can now move forward
SONA PREVIEW: Deadline dictates that I write my Postscript on the State of the National Address of President Noynoy Aquino even before he delivers it. To complicate matters, strict measures have been imposed to prevent a leak of the SONA text.
To second guess the meat of what the President is likely to report, we fall back on what Cabinet members have done in the past year, which we assume will be mentioned in the SONA.
For more on the accomplishments, we also cull from the latest Malacañang compilation of what it calls the Good News.
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MASTER PLAN: What looks like a master plan is contained in Executive Order 43 creating five Cabinet clusters to deal with the major areas of concern:
• Transparent, accountable and participatory governance.
• Poverty reduction and empowerment of the poor and vulnerable.
• Rapid, inclusive and sustained economic growth.
• Just and lasting peace and the rule of law.
• Integrity of the environment and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Information Secretary Sonny Coloma said all the plans in the five result areas are contained in the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, also the basis for the annual national budget. These key result areas correspond to the five Cabinet clusters under EO 43.
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THE ECONOMY: Under the economic development cluster, headed by Secretary Cesar Purisima, the main thrusts are efficient tax collection, improved infrastructure, doing business in the Philippines made easy, improved health and education, and reduced poverty.
In a recent forum called Pilipinas Natin, Purisima evaluated the success of the government’s economic agenda by citing the four debt rating upgrades earned by the country in one year, unprecedented in Philippine history.
The upgrades recognized the country’s improving its fiscal situation with more taxes being collected and government funds being spent prudently. One more rating upgrade and our credit rating will reach investment grade.
Economist and Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, forum co-host, said the country has saved P18 billion in interest payments from the rating upgrades because the higher the rating, the lower interest we pay for our debts. The savings can finance the Conditional Cash Transfer, earlier allotted P2.1 billion, and other programs.
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INVESTMENTS: Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, a member of the economic cluster, said the mandate of his department is to encourage investments to create jobs and to protect the consumers.
He said the combined investment approvals by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and the Board of Investments from January to May this year has quadrupled compared to the same period last year, from P60 billion to P259 billion.
NEDA Secretary General Cayetano Paderanga, in the same forum, said among the sectors the government is helping grow are business process outsourcing, tourism and agro-industrial processing.
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GOOD NEWS: The Malacañang Press Office said in its Good News report: “In only a year, the new administration has cleaned house, eliminated waste, and put in place the foundations for a more prosperous, peaceful, and progressive future.
“Whether it is maintaining fiscal discipline, allowing P12 billion in savings to fund socio-economic services not included in the 2011 budget, or addressing the energy needs of the Visayas by increasing generation capacity by 610 megawatts and establishing a Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, the shortcomings of the past are being addressed with political will.
“All these and more are with a view to putting in place policies and programs that will lead to inclusive growth for the future. In addition, a green future for transportation is closer to becoming reality with the adoption of the National Electric Vehicle Strategy.
“Another example of this combination of thrift, focused spending, and reforms, is the reduction of rice imports by 80 percent: from 2.02 million metric tons in 2009-2010 to 386,243 million MT for 2010-2011; and the building of 1,814 km of farm-to-market roads.”
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MANAGEMENT: Good News continues. “Deft management of expenses and fiscal prudence, as a result of the Aquino government’s Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) approach, has resulted in savings used to fund projects not included in the General Appropriations Act of 2011.
“The Department of Budget and Management said the ZBB enables the government to identify and terminate programs that no longer deliver intended outcomes. The savings generated were transferred to programs that are performing well and priority programs in education and health.
“With prudent management of public funds, the government has been able to provide P12 billion in funding for other key social and economic services that were not included in the 2011 National Budget.”
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SAVINGS: The P12 billion in savings went to:
• P2 billion to the National Power Corp. to address the fuel requirements of its Small Power Utilities Group to avert the fuel shortage in off-grid islands across the country.
• P450 million for the government’s fuel subsidy for public utility jeepneys and tricycles to offset the impact of rising fuel prices.
• P850 million for the salaries of 10,000 registered nurses hired and deployed to poor rural communities.
• P4.2 billion to build 20,000 houses for the military and the police.
• P727 million to cover the transport costs of 86 rail carriages donated by the Japanese government to the Philippine National Railways Corp. and to rehabilitate the PNR line from Manila to Naga City.
• P423 million for the acquisition of the US Hamilton class cutter, which will help strengthen the perimeter security in the Malampaya area.
• P2.8 billion to cover the implementation of the third tranche of the Salary Standardization III (SSL 3) for government employees.
• P99.92 million to pay the differential in salaries of judges as a result of SSL 3.
• P568 million for the implementation of the PAMANA program to benefit conflict-affected communities.