SONA 2013: another challenge more than a report

The State of the Nation Address or SONA is an annual report of the President to the general public of all the efforts undertaken, policies implemented, and the resulting accomplishments during his administration. It is a moment in time where we can stop for a while and reflect these questions: Where are we coming from? What has been done? Where are we now? Where are we going? How do we get there? As for the current administration, I think that the President’s report should at least be reflective of the real situation of our country, no sugarcoating despite how sad and depressing it may be.

I exercised my own version of being Tatak UP by giving time to listen to what our President has to say. Unfortunately, the almost two-hour speech of President Aquino came short of what was expected of his annual report to his Boss, which is us. Among the accomplishments that President Aquino boasted on his speech was: the 7.8% first quarter GDP growth, the success of the CCT Program, AFP and PNP Modernization, coverage expansion of social services like Philhealth, and PPP infrastructure projects. Yes, we can’t discount these accomplishments but reality remains that we’re stuck at curing the wounds of the past and still at a slow pace towards the social and economic condition that we are envisioning. The “sick man of Asia” needs an effective rehabilitation, not patch-up solutions. It was not explicitly stated as to how the 10.5 million needed jobs will be generated. What we need is an internal growth driven by the manufacturing, industry, and agricultural sector, rather than external growth dependent on our exported services. Instead of graduates adding to the unemployed labor force, what we want are graduates that will start industries that would create jobs. The stagnant agricultural sector needs to be invigorated because this will not only give us self-sufficiency in terms of food but will also address the issue on informal settlers, giving them more incentives to relocate back to the provinces. Finally, I was expecting that the President will address the issue closest to my heart which is on state subsidy for higher education, but I was disappointed when he focused more on technical and vocational skills training. There have been debates on whether to scrap or reform the STFAP, but clearly this is a matter on how much budget will be allocated on SUCs. PNoy is proposing a 2.268 trillion peso budget for the next fiscal year, and I hope that higher education will also be given prioritization on that.

As quoted from Prof. Diokno, “Time flies, time is running out”. This administration is now halfway through its term, only a matter of three years before the political climate changes again. There is no guarantee that there will be a continuity of the policies set by the Aquino administration after 2016 elections. Too much focus has been given already on the anti-corruption campaign. Now is the time for PNoy to let go the conservative stance and start to be firm and decisive in pushing for policies that will fuel inclusive economic growth and development. We’re now on the right track but we need to run faster. And being a Tatak UP calls for our unwavering involvement in the state transformation for the Bayan whom we owe our service to.

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