Sona 2011: 'Better than before'-A A +A
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
CEBU CITY -- Business and government leaders in Cebu found Monday's State of the Nation Address (Sona) "better than the one last year," despite some omissions.
President Benigno Aquino III again used the "wang-wang" as a motif for the mindset he wants his administration to correct, the "mindset of entitlement" shown by those who abuse their privileges, when they are supposed to serve.
In random interviews, community leaders said they would have wanted the Sona to include a clearer position for or against the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, as well as specific programs to create jobs and grow the economy beyond the national capital.
The Sona, delivered at 4 p.m. in a joint session of Congress, drew the most applause with the announcement that former Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales has been appointed as the new ombudsman.
"I expect that this year, we will have filed our first major case against the corrupt and their accomplices," President Aquino said. "And these will be real cases, with strong evidence and clear testimonies, which will lead to the punishment of the guilty."
Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Eric Ng Mendoza said the President explained well the kind of government he wants to have.
He commended the statement on protecting the country's claim to the Spratlys, because "it shows that even if we're a small country, we take pride in it."
There were few instructions for local governments, although Aquino did warn them against taxing the power transmission lines that run through their territories. This may raise local revenue, but will cause higher power rates for other Filipinos.
"Let us try to balance the interests of our constituencies with that of the nation as a whole," he said.
In Cebu City, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in Central Visayas was at the Plaza Sugbo where a live telecast of the Sona was shown.
Cebu was among five remote points of a live broadcast where success stories were presented during the pre-Sona.
Balamban Councilor Dave Karamihan talked about 14,000 jobs generated by the shipbuilding industry based in his town, now vying to become a city.
With the Magellan's Cross in the background, Karamihan told the nation that the town's shipbuilding industry has contributed P348 million in taxes.
Another accomplishment of the town is its gender sensitivity, an award given by Cebu Province.
Yuge Cuizon is among the few female welders in Tsuneishi Heavy Industries but has since been promoted to "lead man," the only woman to hold the position in the company so far.
She was supposed to speak during the pre-Sona but there was no more time, so she had to wait until after the President's 53-minute speech to talk about her success story.
"The President's speech was plain and simple and yet sober, in the light of the challenging times and challenges ahead. I could feel the eagerness of the President in curbing graft and corruption in government and in trying to gain back the dignity of the Filipinos," said Councilor Alvin Dizon in a text message.
"The President's 'matuwid na daan' (the straight and narrow path) is more apparent and felt now, with more public officials wary of engaging in crooked deals under this administration. The challenge now is to build upon this foundation and ensure that the fruits benefit our people," said Representative Gabriel Luis Quisumbing (Cebu Province, 6th district).
The President said the executive department intends to deliver Tuesday to Congress their budget proposal for 2012, and expressed hope for its early passage.
He also appealed to Congress for compensation for victims of Martial Law; better salaries and benefits for domestic helpers; pension reform for soldiers; an expansion of scholarship grants at the Department of Science and Technology; universal health care; and better facilities for citizens during calamities.
Aquino refrained from expressing support again for the controversial RH bill, but commended Cardinals Ricardo Vidal and Gaudencio Rosales for continuing to dialogue with the government.
He expressed hope that with Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma's election as head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, "the state and the clergy will be able to engage each other in a positive manner."
He described Palma as "a defender of human rights and of the environment."
Msgr. Achilles Dakay of the Cebu Archdiocese welcomed President Aquino's statement, but said it probably isn't a sign that the President may change his position on the RH bill.
"He has made up his mind," Dakay told Sun.Star Cebu.
But he added: "We hope everything will be better between the Church and the State."
Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale welcomed the appointment of Carpio-Morales as ombudsman, given her track record.
She also took pride in the President's acknowledgment of the work done by the Department of Energy (DOE), now headed by her younger brother, Energy Secretary Rene Almendras.
"Having rid the DOE of wang-wang, we have revived the confidence of investors in our energy sector," said Aquino.
He reported that 140 companies are ready to explore the country's oil and natural gas resources, compared to only 35 in the last energy contracting round in 2006.
Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) President Samuel Chioson said he is looking forward to the administration's next moves, and believes it is serious in its efforts to rid the government of corruption and build up confidence among investors.
"He started slow, but we can see a bright future ahead if our society will cooperate," he said.
Cebuano business leaders had asked the President during his first official visit to Cebu last year to prioritize a list of projects for Cebu. Chioson said he sent a letter to Malacañang last week to follow up on their request but has yet to get a reply.
Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, in a text message to Sun.Star Cebu, said that Aquino has spoken "loud and clear" and is "indeed determined to stop wang-wang in the government, which symbolizes change."
"We cannot expect overnight results from the President. I am confident that soon, we will be enjoying the fruits of his initiative," Cortes added.
Cebu Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Filomeno Lim said he was more interested in knowing the President's plans, rather than accomplishments, "so we could coordinate our efforts toward his direction."
"How much food, power and infrastructure do we need?" he asked. But for his overall assessment, Lim said: "I still have hope in our President, that we have a new and young leader."
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he welcomes the "clear stand against corruption" and the fact that the President "has set an example through practice."
"P-Noy has honest people around him. He is careful and cautious in his moves. I expect him to move at a faster pace as he adjusts to an environment plagued with corruption, influence-peddling, conspiracies, even intimidation by the Church," said Representative Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district).
Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young described the President's speech as "modest" when there are still many problems facing the country, but pointed out it's only been a year since Aquino assumed office.
Osmeña, Rama and Young were all at the Batasang Pambansa to witness the Sona.
Not everyone was pleased, as expected.
Militant groups marched on the streets of downtown Cebu City hours before the Sona.
"We are reminding President Aquino of the promises he made in his Sona last year," said Joe Tomongha, chairperson of the Alliance of Progressive Labor-Central Visayas.
Dennis Derige, spokesperson of Partido Manggagawa, said Aquino failed to make "major policy changes and a social reform agenda" during his first year in office.
Tomongha said that President Aquino should not just blame former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the problems he faces, but also show that he is serious about addressing these problems.
Protesters held placards with statements like "Wala'y kaugmanon, pasalig lang gihapon (There is no future, still just promises)" and "Noy, nasaan ang matuwid na daan (Noy, where is the righteous path)?"
Derige said he hopes President Aquino will improve his performance in the next five years. "Let us cross our fingers," he said. (MEA/JKV/OCP/JGA/RSB/RSA/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 26, 2011.