by Dea Villarosa
In his fourth — and second to the last — State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Aquino makes mention of sectors of society which have faced much (mostly positive) change over the course of the past year.
One of the first things he mentions is education. I personally find this very fact to be reflective of how the President prioritizes our national issues, and I find it to be a good thing that he makes mention of this sector early on, as education is a crucial stepping stone to a nation’s success. Indeed, he praises how the past year saw a decrease in the price of textbooks, as was the example in the SONA, and how the Department of Education has been sustainably implementing its programs for the years to come. Also, the research and development sector was given importance, with particular mention of the semiconductor industry. This is definitely something I approve of, given the Philippines’ pool of talent that has continually suffered from brain drain, which would hopefully lessen given these newfound local opportunities.
Perhaps one of the highlights of this SONA, like many others before it, would be the prevalence of increased spending. In particular, there was mention of larger budgets for health care facilities and insurance, disaster preparedness, national security, and infrastructures. Assuming that the extra resources have been spent efficiently and effectively, I would say that the administration has been able to do its job with regards to improving the quality of government services, especially those which immediately affect many of the Filipino people. However, transparency must be ensured so that there may be assurance of the tuwid na daan that defines the administration today.
On that note, another key theme of this year’s SONA is that of implementation. 2012 saw the creation of the Bangsamoro political identity, a major step towards the pacification of what was once the ARMM, and which ought to pave the way towards economic reforms and stability in that area. Also mentioned were the signing of two major bills: the Sin Tax, and the Reproductive Health bills, now laws. This initial triumph, however, cannot and should not come without follow-through by the government; there, again, should be transparency with regards to the benefits reaped by the former, and for the latter, faster resolution for the sake of our people, our economy, and our future. Lastly would be the stricter implementation of the anti-corruption philosophy that the administration fosters today. I find that the part of the SONA most adherent to this, more than the President’s calling-out for accountability of government agencies that have been mired in scandal, was his mention of an issue close to home: Hacienda Luisita. After how many years, the issue has finally been addressed, and the beneficiaries will get what they deserve from what should be an orderly implementation of the CARPER. However, something I believe was missing would be the explanation of the recent pork barrel scandals, the absence of which is not reflective of the straight and honest path the administration wants to take, and I find it to be a shame that not everyone elected into office shares in this vision for their constituents.
In summary, to answer the question “what is the State of the Nation?”, I would say that based on the President’s speech, the Philippines is on its feet; it’s not the sick man of Asia anymore (not that I ever believed that it was). But despite our progress, which data mentioned in the SONA can attest to, we still have a long way to go. Indeed, the President was also very realistic in mentioning how transportation fares would have to go up, for example, in the name of efficient distribution of our countrymen’s taxes. One more thing implicit in the SONA was the calling out for a national attitude adjustment, for lack of a better term, so that every human resource may be mobilized to propel our country forward.
We may be on our feet, maybe even taking steps, but I can’t help but think how these steps could have been taken earlier on, if not for several delays, scandals, and other obstacles that have gotten in the way of justice and action. Nevertheless, the abundance of reform mentioned, and even the mention of several issues that have yet to be addressed, shows that now seems to be a very interesting time to live in the Philippines — and to study the economics behind our growth, as a Filipino.
Slowly, steadily, we can win the race.
(But a little more push would be much appreciated by everyone.)