SONA 2013: Moving Forward

As mandated by the Constitution, President Benigno S. Aquino III delivered his 4th State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa Complex, Quezon City, last July 22, 2013. With the theme, ‘Sa Gitna ng Daang Matuwid’, the President gave an overview of the government’s accomplishments in the fields of health, education, agriculture, and security, to name a few. Spanning an entire length of 102 minutes, making this his longest SONA yet, the speech garnered 88 rounds of applause from the Senators, Congressmen and different government officials present during his address.

In the field of Education, the cutting of textbook costs was mentioned as well as the plans for the use of these savings in the building of new classrooms. For the field of agriculture, it was shown how our importation of rice has been steadily decreasing through the years and how the agricultural sector has grown by 3.3%. He also talked of the plight of the coconut farmers and spoke of the coconut intercropping program that has already helped 10,000 farmers in the past year. For the fishermen, it was pointed out that despite their contribution to the economy, almost half are subsisting at the poverty line. He outlined their plans to increase the efficiency of the Bataraza fisherman through the construction of a cold storage facility. In the Health sector, the percentage of people covered by PhilHealth insurance has increased from 62% to 81% and 33 billion of government budget has been allotted for the improvement of rural hospitals and health units.  The passing of the Sin-tax Law and Responsible Parenthood Law were lauded, as well as our 7.8% increase in GDP growth for the year and dubbing of the Philippines as a ‘rising tiger’ by the World Bank.

Although I applaud the strides that have been taken towards development and the government’s numerous achievements throughout the year, I couldn’t help but feel that the rote recitation of statistics and accomplishments doesn’t quite paint a clear picture of the country or where we’re heading for the year to come. I think that the 102 minute long speech missed on a couple of important issues like the Freedom of Information Bill and the pork barrel scam, issues especially important to an administration founded on the tenet of ‘ang daang matuwid’.  With this being the main goal of his administration, I believe that asking how far the government’s been able to go about eradicating corruption within itself is the more important question. Also, the 7.8 percent increase in GDP growth does not explain or solve how more than 11 million Filipinos are still unemployed according to the results of the SWS and IBON Foundation survey, leading us to question who exactly benefits from the growth of GDP and how do we ensure that its effects are felt by everyone in society.

At the end of it however, I completely believe in what PNoy said at the start of his address, “We know that our country’s problems cannot be solved in the blink of an eye, in one year, or even within the six-year term of a President. But just begin, and we will be one with you in nurturing change.” I think that the steps that have been taken this past year has succeeded in moving our country forward and I look forward to  seeing what else is in store for the future. 

– Flora Anne R. Palabrica

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