(first published in the Philippine Online Chronicles, July 22, 2013)
by the SERDEF Media Bureau
What the country has achieved in the agricultural and tourism sectors top-billed the list of economic gains President Benigno Aquino III reported to the Filipino people in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, July 22.
In agriculture, the President cited a 3.3 per cent growth in farm outputs, on-target figures for the rice self sufficiency program, and success in applying intercropping technology in raising the productivity of coconut farmers.
In tourism, he reported 3.8 million new jobs generated by the tourist industry, as estimated by the Department of Tourism which may be attributed to substantial increases in tourist arrivals – 4.3 million tourist arrivals in 2012 from 3.1 million in 2010. These figures do not include domestic tourism, where the targeted 35.5 million tourists for 2016 was exceeded as early as 2011, with 37.5 million domestic tourists.
He also mentioned “resounding praise” by foreign media about the country’s travel attractions: “Best Tourism Destination,” “Best Diving Destination,” and “Best Island” (referring to Palawan.)
The SONA also touched on broad economic improvements in the recent years, including the 7.8 per cent GDP growth registered in 2012, which surpassed government targets and considered East and Southeast Asia’s most impressive during the period.
The manufacturing sector contributed to the growth of the economy by 28.5 per cent, he noted.
He cited the country’s two consecutive ten place jumps in the global competitiveness index in the World Economic Forum and the attainment of investment-grade status for the first time from two international credit rating agencies, Fitch and Standard and Poor’s.
“We are now considered a rising tiger by the World Bank and the brightest spark, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales,” he said.
Other salient points on the “state of the nation’s wealth” include the following:
· Youth trained under the TESDA-DOLE skills training program successfully find employment after completion of training at the rate of 60%, up from 28.5 percent in 2008.
· 4 million households benefit from the Pantawid ng Pamilyang Pilipino program, up from 700,000 in 2010.
· Cold storage facilities set up in Palawan to raise the productivity and income of fisherfolks.
· Construction of ports, roads and other infrastructure to benefit the fishing industry
· Livelihood program implemented for families of soldiers and policemen.
· Inauguration of the Advanced Device and Materials Testing Laboratory for product testing in the semi-conductor industry, a process which used to be done abroad.
· Implementation of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program, which enabled the building of critical infrastructures the government couldn’t have implemented by itself on its own limited resources, including the Laguindingan Airport, Tacloban Cairport, and the Bicol International Airport.
· Other major infrastructures underway: Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project II to benefit 24,000 farmers; NAIA rehabilitation, Integration Transport System Terminals in Parañaque, Muntinlupa, Quezon City; NLEx-SLEx Connector Road project
The President also catalogued improving performance in education, health services, social services, governance, the peace and order situation, and the pursuit of the Bangsamoro dream.
Underpinning most of his report are the key strategies and principles of maximizing opportunities for all, especially for those most in need; pursuit of inclusive growth; proactive stance and not being content to wait for the trickle-down effect of the benefits of progress.
He exhorted all Filipinos to work together to foster, accelerate and expand the transformation of the society. He ended with: “How wonderful it is to be a Filipino in these times.”
The SONA drew mixed reactions from business and government leaders.
PhilExport president Sergio Ortiz Luis said he was disappointed that the SONA overlooked the micro, small and medium enterprise, which are potent tools for job generation and inclusive growth. The mining sector was also glossed over.