Growth, economy are main themes
President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address on Monday will have two main themes: intensifying economic expansion and inclusive growth.
“The President’s SONA will emphasize the need to make growth beneficial to the poor,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said in a text message on Sunday. The President’s SONA will be aired via livestreaming on Monday, Radio TV Malacanang said on Sunday.
Aquino said his speech will “show to the people the true state of our nation.”
The President said presenting a truthful SONA will “improve the public discourse, and increase the number of our people who will join us in paddling towards the right and one direction.”
The Aquino administration has been widely criticized for bannering high economic figures that are not felt by ordinary Filipinos.
The country had the fastest economic growth among the major countries of East and Southeast Asia in the first quarter and the Philippine Stock Exchange index has achieved consecutive record highs, but the government’s own National Statistical Coordination Board said the gap between the country’s rich and poor is widening and that 28 out of every 100 Filipinos were poor.
Aquino himself on several occasions has admitted that making growth inclusive remains a challenge for his administration.
“We must make certain that this growth becomes even more inclusive—that the economic benefits do not merely trickle down to our people, but that every Filipino is able to ride the rising tide of progress,” the President said.
Former Finance chief Margarito Teves earlier said the trickle down effect of the country’s strong economic performance has been “very slow.”
Teves said instead of a trickle down policy, the government should adopt a bottom-up approach instead.
“The ones who benefit from economic growth are the rich families, those who own companies. Perhaps the government should start from the provinces, from the barangays and adopt a bottom-up approach,” Teves said.
The President is also expected to mention the government’s accomplishments in the tourism sector - including the country’s removal from the aviation blacklist of the European Union.
In an earlier statement, Aquino noted how the World Economic Forum, in its 2013 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index report, ranked the Philippines number one in the world in terms of government spending on tourism as a percentage of gross domestic product.
Abad said the strides in the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will also “likely” be included in the President’s fourth SONA.
The government and the MILF have just concluded the wealth-sharing annex, one of the three remaining documents that are needed to sign a comprehensive peace agreement.
The signing of the annex, which gives the future Bangsamoro political entity the lion’s share on metallic and non-metallic resources as well as revenues from taxes, leaves only the issues of normalization (otherwise known as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration) and power-sharing for the government and the MILF to work on.
Abad, however, said he was “not sure” if Aquino will include the distribution of Hacienda Luisita, his family’s vast sugar estate in Tarlac, in his SONA.
Critics have questioned the timing of the land distribution, but presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said it had nothing to do with today’s SONA.
In an earlier interview, political analyst Ramon Casiple said the midterm SONA would be “crucial” as it provides Aquino an opportunity to outline the legacy he hopes to leave for the Filipino people.
Lacierda, however, appealed to the public to give the President’s SONA a chance.
“Wait for the SONA...I understand people are interested too in what the President will say in his SONA but the only time that you can really evaluate the President’s SONA is after he delivers the SONA,” Lacierda said.
“Let’s wait for the SONA. Don’t have any prejudgment, don’t have anyone tell you this is what the President is going to say. You yourselves can listen and understand what the President is saying in his SONA,” the Palace official added.