This is an English translation of the SONA delivered at the Session Hall of the House of Representatives, Batasang Pambansa Complex, Quezon City, on July 28, 2014.
His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
To the Congress of the Philippines
Vice President Jejomar Binay; President Fidel Valdez Ramos; Senate President Franklin M. Drilon and members of the Senate; Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and members of the House of Representatives; Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and our Justices of the Supreme Court; distinguished members of the diplomatic corps; members of the Cabinet; officials in local government; members of the military, police, and other uniformed services; my fellow public servants; and, to my Bosses, the Filipino people:
This is my fifth SONA; only one remains. We have a saying: Those who do not look back to the past, will never get to where they wish to go. Therefore, today it is only right for us to reflect on what we have gone through.
This was our situation in the past: To dream was an absurdity. We had a senseless bureaucracy; padded contracts had become the norm; and corruption was endemic to the system. We were known as the “Sick Man of Asia.” The economy was weak; industry was sparse. We failed to gain the confidence of investors. The result: very few jobs were created. We found a people deprived of hope. Many of us had already given up, and were forced to take their chances in other countries. With heads bowed, we had come to accept that we would never be able to rely on our government or our society.
The Philippines sank deep into despair because of dirty politics.Our trust in each other disappeared; the confidence of the world in the Philippines ebbed, and worst of all: we lost faith in ourselves.
It was at this juncture that we began our journey on the straight and righteous path.
As the father of our nation, on my shoulders rest not only the problems that we inherited and the problems that arise today—it is also my duty to prepare for the future. At every moment, I must be mindful of the concerns and perspectives of all. Think about it this way: it is as if you are watching two hundred TV channels at the same time. You need to understand not just what is unfolding before you—you also need to know what happened before, and where it could all lead. Confusion is not an option, and you must have a response for every question, suggestion, and criticism—and you must have all the answers even before the questions are asked. This is not an easy job, and I am only human, one who at times is also capable of feeling apprehension.
In spite of this, my resolve is firm because my primary goal is clear: To return government to its rightful mandate—to serve the Filipino people always. [Applause]
Is it not true that we have a saying: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. An example of this is the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). The Disbursement Acceleration Program contributed 1.6 billion pesos to TESDA’s Training for Work Scholarship Program. This amount enabled the graduation of 223,615 beneficiaries. 66 percent of these—or, 146,731 graduates—now have jobs. As for the remaining 34 percent, TESDA is helping them find employment. Just take a look: All of these scholars have their names and other pertinent data listed down, should you wish to confirm them. [Applause]
If we divide the allocated funding by the number of graduates, we will see that government invested around 7,155 pesos in every scholar. In the BPO sector, a monthly salary of 18,000 is already considered at the low end. Every year, he will earn 234,000 pesos. If he is given the maximum tax deduction, his annual income tax will be: 7,900 pesos. This means that in the first year alone the 7,155 pesos that the government invested in him would have been paid back—and there will even be a profit. This and all the taxes he will be paying the government until he retires will, in turn, provide his countrymen with the same opportunities he was given. This is good governance: [Applause]
The right intentions, practices, and results. Everyone wins.
Let us listen to the stories of two TESDA graduates:
Translated transcript of Testimonial of Marc Joseph Escora, TESDA beneficiary
Even when you’ve realized your dreams, you should know that success, it’s still not stable. You still need to work hard for it.
I am Marc Joseph Escora. I am a high school graduate. Through the help of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority [TESDA], I have my career in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry right now.
I was based in the Libertad public market for seven years. I worked as a barker forpublic transportation vehicles. My family couldn’t afford to put all of us through school, so I needed to find a way to support myself, so I could graduate.
The most important thing I’ve learned is to have the confidence to interact with other people. When people see that you have a disability, they usually won’t be able to see past it, to your abilities. So you need to trust yourself.
If TESDA wasn’t there to help me, I probably wouldn’t be where I am now. Our way of living now is much better than how we lived back then.
Translated transcript of Testimonial of Jonnalyn Navarossa, TESDA beneficiary
TESDA helped me finish my studies, find a job, and support my family.
I am Jonnalyn Navarossa, Technical Trainer at Toyota Motor Philippines. I graduated top of Batch 1 of automotive servicing training class at TESDA Region 4-A. I chose to study automotive servicing because I’ve always dreamed of being a mechanical engineer. In order for me to both earn a living and save up, I enrolled at TESDA.
We’re used to thinking that being an auto mechanic is a man’s job. But I’ve proven that as long you work hard, as long as you’re determined, we can ensure quality products. TESDA taught me the value of good, clean, and quality work.
Now, I’m more confident in myself. And it’s much easier to dream bigger.
We launched the Expanded Conditional Cash Transfer Program in June of 2014, with a budget of 12.3 billion pesos. Now, the government will also support the beneficiaries until they are 18 years old. Some will ask, “Why?” According to a study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, a high school graduate earns 40 percent more than someone who was only able to finish grade school.
We are investing in our most valuable resource: The Filipino people. Data from the National Economic Development Authority attests to our success. According to them, the 27.9 percent poverty rate during the first semester of 2012 went down to 24.9 percent for the same period in 2013. These three percentage points are equivalent to 2.5 million Filipinos who have crossed the poverty line. [Applause]
Of course, it is only right that we focus on the needs of the poorest in our society. But we will not stop there. Now that we have greater resources, we are striving to ensure that all those who crossed the poverty line will never go back below it. [Applause]
When we came into office, we found a society that was like a derelict house in which we had no choice but to live. What was even worse: we had virtually no tools and materials with which to repair the damage. Over the past few years, with the help of every Filipino who cared for the well-being of his fellowmen, we have been acquiring the tools and materials we need. One of these tools is a budget focused solely on the needs of the citizenry—a budget we have passed on-time four years in a row. These tools include the laws that have accelerated the bringing of benefits to our bosses.
This is where—under a fair system—the resurgence of our economy began. We were able to save because of prudent fiscal management. We were able to expand the coverage of essential services without raising taxes, apart from Sin Tax reform, whose goal is to reduce vice in society. [Applause]
We worked to have the ability to fund the projects that we implemented, are implementing, and will be implementing. We strengthened tax collections: from 1.094 trillion pesos in collections in 2010, we increased this to 1.536 trillion pesos in 2013. [Applause]
We improved the management of our debt. The result: a decrease in our debt to GDP ratio; money that once went to paying interest, we were able to channel into social services. We were even able to fulfill the obligations of government that we inherited from past administrations. For example: In 1993, or during the administration of President Ramos, the government was required to recapitalize the Central Bank of the Philippines with 50 billion pesos, so that it could fulfill its mandate. President Ramos was able to fund 10 billion pesos and nothing was added since then. 40 billion pesos was the obligation left to us, and we have paid this in full. [Applause]
We worked hard to accumulate the funds government has today, which is why we will not tolerate wasting it. If our Bosses choose the right leaders, succeeding administrations will be able to surpass what we have done because our administration has greatly reduced the number of problems remaining, giving them a stronger foundation from which to begin.
Why do we say a stronger foundation? Just this past 2013, for the first time in history, the Philippines was upgraded to investment grade status by Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard and Poor’s—the three major credit ratings agencies in the world. Through their study of our macroeconomic fundamentals and governance, they determined that there was less risk, which led to a vast increase in confidence on the part of investors. Just this May, they upgraded the Philippines yet again. What this means: Because the Philippines is now investment grade, government will be able to borrow funds for programs and projects at lower interest rates, more businesses will be attracted to invest in our country, and Filipinos will be able to feel the benefits of our economic resurgence more quickly. [Applause]
If anyone were to add up all the investmentsthat came in through the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) since its inception in 1995, they would see that 42 percent of total investments in PEZA came in during the four years of our administration. The remaining 58 percent took 15 years for past administrations to accumulate.We are confident that, before we step down from office, we will be able to match or even surpass this amount. To Director General Lilia de Lima: thank you for all you have done and for all that you will do to achieve this success.
Our economy and our country are indeed taking off, and we are already realizing even greater aspirations. For instance, we inherited a seemingly grounded aviation industry: significant safety concerns had been issued on the Philippines by the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO; we were downgraded by the United States Federal Aviation Administration; and the European Union implemented restrictions against our local carriers.
In 2013, ICAO lifted the significant safety concerns it had previously issued for the Philippines. This was followed, in the same year, by the European Union lifting the ban on Philippine Airlines, allowing it to fly once again to Europe—which means that Filipinos will be
able to fly directly from Manila to London.
Naturally, Cebu Pacific will soon follow suit, since they have also received the go signal from the EU in 2014. In this year, as well, the United States Federal Aviation Administration upgraded the Philippines back to Category 1. Because of this upgrade, it is likely that there will also be an increase in routes going to the United States. The increase in flights of our local airlines to the United States and participating countries in the EU is a big help to both tourism and business.
Today, we continue to receive news that, because of all the tourists and businessmen who wish to visit the Philippines, there is actually a shortage of flights to our country. So, all of the upgrades we have received in aviation are indeed good news: The number of flights will rise, thus providing a solution to the problem. And, through the continued cooperation of the CAAP and our local carriers, we will certainly be able to attract more businessmen and tourists in the coming years. This is a win for all those in the tourism sector; this is a win for the Filipino people. Good governance is the source of these upgrades, and we thank Director General William Hotchkiss, the CAAP, and our local carriers for their hard work. [Applause]
Indeed, the Philippines is in the limelight on the global stage. Just this May, when we successfully hosted the World Economic Forum on East Asia, we showed the world just what we were capable of. And with the APEC Summit the Philippines will be hosting next year, we will be able to inform even more people of our progress, and the opportunities that this has opened up for all. There is no doubt: the Philippines is indeed more open for business. [Applause]
Apart from fostering an improved busines climate, we are also pursuing better relations between labor and managment.
Consider this: According to the National Concilation and Mediation Board, since 2010, the number of strikes per year has been limited to less than ten. This is the positive result of the Department of Labor and Employment’s Single entry Approach, or SEnA, through which filed labor cases go through a 30-day conciliation-mediation period. The good news: out of 115 notices of strike and lockout in 2013, only one pushed through. This is the lowest number of strikes in the history of DOLE.
For these achievements, I extend my gratitude to Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, the DOLE family, and the labor and management sectors.
Secretary Baldoz and I were joking in around 2012 that there were two strikes, and in 2013 there was just one. I said, “Linda, in 2014, a half-strike won’t do. Maybe we can strive for no strikes?” [Laughter and applause]
We are well aware that we need infrastructure in order to sustain the momentum of our economy and to continue creating opportunities in the country. Infrastructure will entice businessmen—it will speed up the transport of goods and services, and will help us ensure that we can go head to head with overseas markets.
This sector has seen massive changes: Our budget for infrastructure has more than doubled from the 200.3 billion pesos of 2011 to 404.3 billion pesos this 2014. [Applause]
I remind everyone: we did this without adding any new taxes, apart from the Sin Tax Reform, which is focused on health, while we maintained our allowable deficit, and with our debt-to-GDP ratio continually declining. This has had a profound effect, because we have not only increased the infrastructure budget, we have also plugged leaks in the system, which has ensured that the citizenry is getting more value for its money.
Under the leadership of Secretary Babes Singson of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH): Neither kickbacks nor overpricing is condoned. The loopholes in the old system were plugged, the agency’s processes were streamlined. A simple example would be the removal of Letters of Intent from the bidding process. In the past, these bred a culture of collusion—knowing who was bidding on the same project only created a space for collusion. Another example: The requisite documents from bidders were trimmed to five, from 20. Processes are faster, and there are now fewer opportunities for the unscrupulous to ask for bribes. This allowed the Department to save 28 billion pesos and allowed them to accelerate the implementation of the next projects. [Applause]
To Secretary Babes and the DPWH: Again, thank you very much. [Applause]
It is truly awe-inspiring: In addition to what the DPWH has saved, the roads that they have laid out, fixed, widened, or constructed have amounted to a total of 12,184 kilometers. [Applause]
When I saw these figures, I thought: How can I visualize 12,000 kilometers?
Think of it this way: This is equivalent to four roads that connect Laoag to Zamboanga City. And this just only accounts for the national roads; that number doesn’t include local farm-to-market roads or tourism roads. [Applause]
Now, regarding the Public-Private Partnership program: From December 2011 to just this June, your government has awarded and signed off on seven PPP projects, with a total value of 62.6 billion pesos. In just our four years on the straight path, we have surpassed the combined six approved solicited PPP projects of the past three administrations. [Applause]
The difference between then and now is massive. As Secretary Cesar Purisima said: In the past, the Philippines could not entice investors; then, the government had to roll out incentives like commercial development rights, subsidies, and other guarantees for profit just to attract bidders. Now, the situation has reversed. Companies are now in close competition, trying to outdo each other; they are ready and willing to pay for the privilege to build the infrastructure we need. For example, with the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Passenger Terminal Building, the government has a premium that amounts to more than 14 billion pesos; with the NAIA Expressway Project Phase 2, the government received a premium of 11 billion pesos. Again: Good economics is borne of good governance. [Applause]
Let us take a look at the TPLEX. Because of this road, the journey from Tarlac to Rosales in Pangasinan has become easier. According to the proponents of the project, the segment of the road that reaches Urdaneta will be completed before the year ends. And by next year, the TPLEX will have extended to the end of Rosario, La Union. [Applause]
Infrastructure projects that long ago had been promised by other administrations, we have been able to turn into concrete reality. The Aluling Bridge, which was conceived in 1978, is finally open to the public. Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3, part of the Metro Manila Expressway project from the 1970s, was launched this January. Those who traverse Osmeña Highway can attest to how speedily its columns are being constructed. The Ternate-Nasugbu Road, the plans for which started to be laid out in 1994, is now 100% complete. [Applause]
The Basilan Circumferential Road, which has been under construction since 2000, will soon be completed. These are but a few of the infrastructure projects that we do not intend to pass on as problems to succeeding administrations; instead, our Bosses have already begun to make use of them.
Again, because of good governance, we now have a greater capacity to find solutions to problems that are on the horizon. For example: water. We all know that as our population grows and as our economy continues on its upward trajectory, the country will need a greater water supply in the coming years. According to some studies, there may be a shortage of water in Metro Manila by 2021. We will not wait for a drought: The solutions that experts have studied assiduously, we have already approved—the Kaliwa Dam Project in Quezon, and the repair of the lines of Angat Dam. These solutions are significantly better than sourcing water from underground aquifers, which are more easily penetrated by saltwater. On top of this, if we were to rely solely on aquifers, then we would only hasten the sinking of land—which would contribute to flooding.
Together with the dams for Metro Manila and its outlying cities, we are providing support to those in the provinces. We have also approved the Water District Development Sector Project, under the Local Water Utilities Administration. [Applause]
You may have already heard of our largest PPP project—the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike. [Applause]
—for which bidding will open before the end of 2014. This is a project that will yield numerous benefits. First: flooding in nearby areas will lessen. Today, when water levels of the Laguna Lake reach 12.5 meters, surrounding communities will be flooded. The solution: a dike with a height of more than 15 meters. Second: the water of Laguna Lake will be cleaner. Third: Less traffic. An expressway will be built on top of the dike, which will extend from Los Baños to Taguig. When the C-6 road that will connect to San Jose Del Monte is completed, we will have another route that will allow us to travel through Metro Manila without passing through EDSA. [Applause]
With the cooperation of the private sector, the only obligations we have in this project are for the right-of-way; and a portion of the reclaimed land will serve as payment for the highest bidder. Because of this,we will get what we need, while spending less in the process
These are only a few examples of the projects that are in the pipeline, and that will soon bring benefits to our Bosses. Might I add—there are many more: the NEDA Board has likewise approved the Laoag City Bypass Link Road Project; the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit Project; and the LRT Line 1 South Extension and Line 2 East Extension. For those of our countrymen from Palawan: Apart from the projects for the Puerto Princesa Airport, there is also the Busuanga Airport to look forward to. We have likewise given the go signal for the construction of phase one of the modern Clark Green City in Capas, Tarlac, that will certainly serve as a center for commerce and industry, not only of Central Luzon, but also of the entire country. At the end of the day, our vision for Clark Green City is that it becomes even bigger than the Bonifacio Global City. Formerly isolated places will now become areas teeming with opportunity.
Through good governance, we have been regaining the trust of the market, of the world, and of our own people, in government. This is creating a virtuous cycle: Seeing the results of our reform agenda has spurred the active participation of each and every one of our Bosses. Indeed: today the government is not alone in pushing for widespread and meaningful reform. It is true that you are our strength. [Applause]
This is why, Boss: We thank you for your trust and your solidarity, both of which have become even more significant in the times when we were faced with tragedies that came to us, one after the other.
In September of 2013, lawless elements attacked Zamboanga; our countrymen who had been living peaceful lives there were used as human shields, their homes were burned down. This crisis tested the caliber of our uniformed services. Urban combat is considered the most complex kind of combat; in spite of this, our troops were able to save 195 of the 197 Filipinos caught in the conflict. We salute our countrymen in the uniformed services: Your sacrifice paved way for the victory of the Filipino people. [Applause]
Following the incident, we gave Secretary Singson the responsibility of overseeing the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure in Zamboanga. The first priority: to provide shelter to our countrymen who lost their homes to fire. This is exactly what we are doing under the Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Reconstruction. By this coming August, affected families can begin to move into permanent housing units in Martha Drive Subdivision. We also aim to complete the construction of 7,176 housing units in other areas by June of next year. I must ask for your understanding. There were many problems surrounding the land for resettlement—problems we had to address. On top of this: We also had to make sure that the houses that would be built would be in accordance to the beliefs and culture of the beneficiaries; these will not be ordinary houses. On the other hand, to the 1,661 families that wish to build back or repair their own homes, 30,000 pesos worth of Home Materials Assistance is now being distributed.
We have set aside 3.5 billion pesos for the rehabilitation of infrastructure, the purchasing of lots, the construction of permanent houses, and other types of assistance for Zamboanga. 2.57 billion pesos from this fund has already been released to the NHA and DPWH.
A few weeks after the crisis in Zamboanga, Central Visayas was rocked by an earthquake, which left Bohol the most devastated. In the midst of a calamity, we witnessed just what could be achieved when our people come together to respond to the challenges brought by a disaster. For instance, just one week after the earthquake, electricity was restored in Tagbilaran and in all the municipalities of Bohol. [Applause]
Now, each of the 25 critical roads and bridges destroyed by the earthquake are passable. 3.583 billion pesos has already been released for the rehabilitation of Bohol and Cebu. [Applause]
Part of this is the 2.49 billion pesos that the DILG provided to the local government for the reconstruction of markets, civic centers, bridges, water systems, municipal halls, and other government facilities.
Before the end of 2013, Yolanda made landfall. It was the strongest typhoon in history, affecting 1.47million families and 44 out of our 81 provinces. In Eastern Visayas, where the damage was most severe, so many issues required immediate attention.
The immense strength of the storm paralyzed many LGUs that were hit directly. The relief goods we prepositioned were swept away, which is why relief had to come from areas farther away. The delivery of aid was made all the more difficult by the destruction of infrastructure. There was no electricity, roads were impassable, and almost all of the trucks and heavy equipment that our first responders needed had been destroyed in the areas most affected by Yolanda.There was no gasoline, and there was no communication.
It required an enormous amount of solidarity to assist affected families, take care of the wounded and of those who lost loved ones, and make certain that there would be no outbreak of disease, among many other responsibilities. Let us look at the delivery of food as an example: It was not just a matter of buying rice and canned goods. We needed repacking centers, several trucks, and boats that would bring aid to affected provinces. When the relief goods arrived, we had to be sure that the roads to the affected areas were cleared, and that the trucks had enough gas to return home, and load even more of our food packs.
Your government wasted no time in responding. We immediately cleared the airport, which is why, within 24 hours after the storm, three C130s were able to bring in aid. On that same day, we were also able to set up a communications hub to hasten the flow of information. On the second day, the Department of Health’s Rapid Health Assessment teams arrived, as well as additional soldiers, policemen, and BFP personnel from other provinces. Likewise, workers from DSWD lead relief operations—in the distribution centers in Eastern Visayas or in repacking centers all around the country.
In a span of two days, the Leyte water district resumed operations; on the third day, the first gas station opened. The main roads were immediately cleared. By the 22nd of November, which was two weeks after the storm, the one millionth food pack was distributed to the victims; we had cleared 35,162 cubic meters of debris from these roads through which the relief will be transported; and 3,426 kilometers of National Roads had already been cleared and were passable. At present, we are repairing the 108.8 kilometers of destroyed roads, bridges, approaches, and landslide prone areas. By Christmas Day of 2013, all municipalities affected by the calamity had been electrified. [Applause]
We took an emergency room mindset; the state utilized its full strength to stabilize the patient in the soonest possible time. I extend my gratitude to the members of the Cabinet, who led the government response in the affected communities. Secretary Cesar Purisima, along with Secretary Joel Villanueva of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, organized the logistics in the repacking center, taking on the role of warehouse operator. [Applause]
Secretary Greg Domingo of the Department of Trade and Industry became the country’s head purchasing agent, while Secretary Linda Baldoz of the Department of Labor and Employment served as a call center operator for all those who wished to help. [Applause]
I also thank Secretary Jun Abaya of the Department of Transportation and Communications, who dispatched our transportation; Secretary Dinky Soliman, who proved that she was worthy of being the country’s chief relief worker; and Secretaries Mar Roxas of the Department of Interior and Local Government and Secretary Volts Gazmin of the Department of National Defense, who were on the disaster frontline, giving marching orders to our uniformed services. [Applause]
To the members of our Cabinet, thank you.
To our friends and neighbors around the world: Your outpouring of solidarity will never be forgotten by a grateful Filipino people. Again, on their behalf, we thank you. [Applause]
Perhaps, given the Filipino people’s readiness to render assistance to the best of our abilities—a characteristic embodied by our OFWs, peacekeepers, and all our other countrymen abroad—when the world saw that we were in need, they saw fit to come to our aid. Today, we express once more our gratitude to all of you, and to all the Filipinos who have offered their prayers and their support, whether here, or in other parts of the world. [Applause]
Our work did not end there. We implemented livelihood interventions, to ensure that those of our countrymen who survived the typhoon could recover at the soonest possible time. This July, 221,897 jobs were created after we turned over boats, fishing and farming equipment, seeds, and livestock to our countrymen. This includes those Filipinos to whom we paid salaries for participating in the cash for work program.
Perhaps everyone can agree that Yolanda left in its wake a massive problem. According to international standards, whenever a calamity of this scale takes place, it normally takes a country one year before it transitions from relief to rehabilitation. However, in just a span of eight months, the United Nations declared the Philippines to be in the rehabilitation state. In fact, Mr. Yuri Afanasiev of the United Nations Development Program said, “We have never seen a recovery happen so quickly. And many of us have been in many different disasters.” [Applause]
It will indeed take a long time for any country to recover and rise from massive calamities. In Haiti, two years after the earthquake, there are still many who live in evacuation centers. For our brothers and sisters in Indonesia, it took eight years before they recovered from the tsunami in Aceh. And even in America, it is said that it took eight years for things to return to normal after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Our work is not done. There are still many houses that need to be constructed; many more of our countrymen need to be assisted in getting back on their own two feet; the work to build back better for all those affected by Yolanda continues.
This is why this July, the LGU Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan for Cebu, Iloilo, Eastern Samar, Leyte, and Tacloban City was submitted to me, and I have signed it. [Applause]
It passed the scrutiny of our cabinet clusters; according to the holistic post-disaster needs assessment that was conducted, the plan encapsulates the needs of our countrymen. This plan was formulated as a result of the dedication of Secretary Ping Lacson, whom we tasked with focusing on the challenges left by Yolanda. [Applause]
I am hoping for the cooperation of Congress, because a large sum is necessary in order to help our countrymen make a full recovery.
Let us remember: God proposes, but man disposes. This is likewise the idea behind our efforts for disaster preparedness. We are strengthening the capabilities of our LGUs, who are the frontliners in times of disasters, through a modern and comprehensive forecasting system.
Through the DREAM-LiDAR project under Project NOAH, for instance, we can more efficiently pinpoint areas that are prone to flooding. 19 out of our targeted 20 river systems have already been mapped, to determine which areas immediately suffer from the effects of torrential rain.
Because we can more efficiently determine when and where typhoons will affect us, today, we are able to give our LGUs sufficient warning—and thus give them ample time to prepare, and to evacuate their constituents. If we were to add the efficiency of LGUs to our already-efficient forecasting system, then, without a doubt, countless lives can be saved. In Albay, which recently had to endure the wrath of Typhoon Glenda, there were no recorded casualties attributed to the storm, thanks to the effective leadership of Governor Joey Salceda. [Applause]
And if a province that is considered a highway for storms can achieve this, is there any doubt that any and all other LGUs can achieve the same?
Let us now talk about security. We are aware of the challenges our country faces, and we also know the high cost of the equipment we need. Today, I am glad to report to you the ongoing modernization of the AFP. We have acquired brand new assets, including 8 Sokol Combat Utility Helicopters, 3 AgustaWestland-109 helicopters, and the first landing craft utility ship built right here in the country: the BRP Tagbanua. 4 refurbished UH-1 helicopters and 2 navy cutters have also arrived.This past May, we also inaugurated the Naval Forces West’s state-of-the-art Command Center in Palawan.
Next year, 2 out of the 12 FA-50 lead-in fighter jets we procured will arrive in the country. [Applause]
We expect the rest to be delivered in 2017. We are also targeting the acquisition of an additional 8 Bell combat utility helicopters, 2 anti-submarine helicopters, 10 more AgustaWestland-109 helicopters, 2 light-lift aircraft, 3 medium-lift aircrafts, radar systems, all of which are brand new. These, along with other new equipment, will boost the capacity of our Armed Forces.[Applause]
Meanwhile, we are expecting the delivery of 17 additional refurbished UH-1 helicopters by September of this year.
The M4 assault rifles we bought for our soldiers have likewise arrived. In the next few months, the total number of rifles that will be in the hands of our soldiers: 50,629 units. On top of this, through a correct and transparent procurement process and the honest management of funds, we were able to save more than 1.2 billion pesos. [Applause]
which we will use to purchase even more rifles.
I must emphasize: all these rifles are brand new and of good quality from a veteran manufacturer. Was it not true that, before, our funds were depleted in the purchase of Kevlar Helmets that were not even according to specification? Instead of buying them from the U.S., these helmets were purchased from another country. There has already been a conviction over this matter. The investigation of a judge who was allegedly involved, which was ordered by the Supreme Court, has been concluded as well, and we are awaiting their verdict.
We are continuing our pursuit of enemies of the state and lawless elements for the crimes they have committed. For example: We apprehended the Chairman and Secretary General of the NPA this March. Normality and order are now returning to the 31 provinces previously troubled by the NPA.
The image of our police has changed. Proof of this are the 30 policemen, led by Inspector Charity Galvez, who repelled an estimated 250 NPA members who stormed their precinct in 2011. [Applause]
Just last March, four rookie policewomen bravely exchanged fire with the Martilyo Gang in the Mall of Asia. It is indeed fortunate that we have already reached a 1:1 police-to-pistol ratio, which is why these rookie policewomen were issued brand new guns. Before, the needs of our police force went ignored; today, the state is taking care of them, and indeed, they are matching this support with efficient and upright service. [Applause]
Let us listen to our brave policewomen:
Testimonials of Juliet Macababbad, Marcelina Bantiyag, Maricel Rueco, and Delia Langpawen—policewomen who arrested members of the Martilyo Gang
PO1 Juliet Macababbad: We heard glass breaking, and my partner and I immediately went on alert.
PO1 Marcelina Bantiyag: The first thing that came to my mind was to draw my gun, because I knew that they would be ready to shoot at us—we were in uniform.
PO1 Maricel Rueco: My partner, PO1 Bantiyag said, “I’ll cover you. Call our Police Community Precinct.”
PO1 Marcelina Bantiyag: We caught one of the gang members.
PO1 Delia Langpawen: It was only our fourth day on the job, at that post. And then that happened.
PO1 Juliet Macababbad: Every police officer needs a gun. Thankfully, they issued us a Glock 17 Generation 4.
PO1 Marcelina Bantiyag: Guns are essential to us. If something bad happens when you’re on patrol, you’re confident that you can engage.
PO1 Juliet Macababbad: It feels good when you know you’re able to help your fellow citizens. Whatever a man can do, a woman can do just as well.
PO1 Delia Langpawen: Even if we were nervous, because it was our first encounter, we were thinking of the safety of all the people that were there.
This past June, we had a succession of high-profile killings. We have already arrested some of thoseinvolved in the murders of Mayor Ernesto Balolong and businessman Richard King, and are currently following a strong lead in the murder case of race car driver Ferdinand Pastor. Rest assured: we are seeking justice for all, and not just for a few. This is why, on top of the arrests we have already made, we continue to gather evidence against other suspects. We will hold to account all those who have committed wrongdoing. [Applause]
We are further strengthening ways to ensure the security of our citizens. Beginning June 16 of this year, we implemented Operation Lambat in the National Capital Region. After tripling the number of checkpoints and conducting various operations, we were able to confiscate 862 vehicles and 29 firearms. We have served 587 warrants of arrest, which have resulted in the arrest of 410 suspects. We also reinstated Oplan Katok, to ensure that the licensing of guns is limited to responsible owners. Our policemen knocked on 28,714 doors for this operation.
Before we implemented Operation Lambat, from January to the second week of June, the rate of murder and homicide cases in Metro Manila reached up to 31 cases a week. During the five weeks of Operation Lambat, murder and homicide cases decreased to only 22 cases per week. This is a 29 percent decrease, equivalent to nine murders prevented per week. And this is only in Metro Manila. If we are able to pass pension reform, which would enable us to gather even more funds to continue our planned purchases of equipment, then Secretary Mar Roxas will certainly be able to expand Operation Lambat, and thus make the whole country more secure. [Applause]
These equipment purchases were supposed to be funded by DAP, but since they were not obligated before the Supreme Court made its decision, we now have to look for other sources of funds.
Indeed, trust is the foundation of good governance: the trust that all those who were affected—or who will be affected—by typhoons will be cared for; the trust that, after each day of work, you will be able to return home safely to your families; the trust that your leaders will not take advantage of you; the trust that government will always be by your side, especially when you find yourselves at a disadvantage. The trust that those who abuse their power will be held accountable, and the trust that the institutions and processes that were once abused and used to steal from the nation’s coffers will be reformed. The trust that, if you do what is right, you, in turn, will receive what you deserve. The restoration of your trust in government: this is the meaning of reform. [Applause]
Let me give you an example: Customs, which had been sorely testing our patience these past years. It became clear to us that the solution to the problem this agency represented was a reset button. Thus, we created a new agency to look into the processes at Customs, with an eye towards making them more efficient. We appointed a new commissioner, five new deputy commissioners, as well as 40 trustworthy individuals to implement our reforms. We ensured that employees were recalled to their original positions—we put a stop to guards who acted like cashiers, or warehousemen who acted as examiners.
Many have made sacrifices just so we can fix Customs. Among them are officials from other departments and government agencies, who we asked to transfer to Customs because we were certain of their integrity. Who would have said yes to taking on these seemingly insurmountable challenges, and without the guarantee of success? Some passed on promotions. Some expressed fears of being targeted by syndicates, in retaliation for the reforms. But, ultimately, they heeded our call to serve. It is only right that I take this opportunity to personally thank these officials, under the leadership of Commissioner Sunny Sevilla. [Applause]
We are proving that, with righteousness and with solidarity, we can clean up an institution that has, for the longest time, been besmirched by corruption. Recent good news is testament to this—from January to April of 2014, Customs’ cash collections increased by 22 percent, compared to the same period last year. Their collections total in the first four months of the year: 117 billion pesos.
All I can say to those who continue with their selfish, illegal practices: I already know that you are impervious to both fear and shame. I will leave you to your conscience—if you feel any remorse for your fellowmen who have become addicted to the illegal drugs you have helped to smuggle in, or for the farmers who are being deprived of fair profit from doing honest work. As far as I am concerned: After we have gathered enough evidence against you, the Bilibid Prison is your next destination. [Applause]
If we are talking about reforms that have already begun to give rise to sweeping progress, we have to touch on recent developments in agrarian reform.
We know—and the law is very clear about this—that we must first determine which tracts of land can be distributed and which cannot. The trouble is, we were provided with data too insufficient to be of any help in this regard. The Cadastral Survey—which was supposed to accurately delineate the territory, and, thus, the land holdings, of every town, city, and province of the Philippines—was launched way back in 1913.
Another problem is that the previous administration had distributed land that was easy enough to distribute—like government-owned land, or land already settled between the farmers and the deed-holders. We were left with land that came with too many complications—that only spawned endless debates and legal disputes.
The complicated situation in ARMM proved to be another challenge. The land in ARMM is estimated to be at 1.5 million hectares, but the recorded number of hectares we found when we came into office was at 2.9 million, thanks to overlapping claims. ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman must be wondering—as he has sometimes asked me: How does land multiply like that?
I have no intention of passing on these problems to my successor, which will cause even greater complications and a standstill in agrarian reform.
In 2015, after 102 years, the Cadastral Survey will finally be completed. [Applause]
This year, we will once again submit to Congress a bill extending the filing of Notices of Coverage, which could not be completed precisely because of these problems that we first needed to solve. [Applause]
We are hopeful that, the moment we file that bill, Congress will pass it in the soonest possible time.
If we are to speak of trust, then we cannot forget about the Bangsamoro. After a lengthy period of conflict and derailed negotiations, we were able to put trust back to the table. Proof of this: This past March, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed. [Applause]
But this is only the beginning of the path toward widespread progress in Mindanao. Nobody can deny that the ARMM has been left behind in terms of development. We want to give equal opportunities to all Filipinos; this is why there is a need for a boost-up, so that our countrymen in the margins can catch up. For example, in the budget we are submitting for 2015, 5.17 billion pesos of the overall budget for DPWH has been allocated for infrastructure in ARMM. [Applause]
We are currently forging the proposal for the Bangsamoro Basic Law. We ask for the Congress’ understanding regarding this. It is important to scrutinize each provision we lay down. To the best of our ability, we aim to advance a bill that is fair, just, and acceptable to all. [Applause]
If we are able to legislate the Bangsamoro Basic Law before the end of the year and conduct the necessary plebiscite, we will be able to give the Bangsamoro Transition Authority one and a half years to show positive change. Should this be delayed, however, the period for proving that it was right to choose the path of peace will naturally be shortened.
We have achieved a lot through trust—and we have no intention of breaking this trust. Your current government keeps its word. I will no longer list each of the promises we have fulfilled by treading the straight path; if I do that, we might be accused of bragging. But of course, it would not be right for us to avoid mentioning anything, because our critics are always waiting for an opportunity to say that we have done nothing. Join me, then, in recounting some of the examples of these promises we have fulfilled: Jobs and opportunities that continue to be created for so many Filipinos. In truth, from April 2013 to April 2014, around 1.65 million jobs were created. [Applause]
The inherited backlog in books, chairs, and classrooms: erased; while we are working to fulfill the new needs brought about by the implementation of K to 12. The 1:1 police-to-pistol ratio has already reached. The modernization of the Armed Forces, currently ongoing. A just and lasting peace in Mindanao, already advancing. Growth of the economy, progressing continuously. [Applause]
Truly, our ambitions are now being fulfilled one by one: universal healthcare, classrooms, jobs, harbors, roads, airports, security, peace. In addition to the national integrity we have restored is the world’s recognition of a new Philippines. The nation’s coffers, which come from the sweat of our citizens, are being spent only for their benefit.
Let us again listen to one of our Bosses:
Testimonial of Gina Lastrado, relocated member of an informal-settler family
I am Gina Lastrado, 47 years old. I used to live at Isla 1 Barangay 180, in Maricaban, Pasay City. I was a businesswoman back in Pasay. Currently, I still make a living selling goods; it’s a job that demands hard work.
We were relocated here because the place we used to live was tagged a “danger zone”—most of the houses were right beside a river.
When typhoon Ondoy [international name, Ketsana] hit, it was terrible. You wouldn’t have believed that we would survive.
If you compare our lives back in Pasay to our lives now—here, it rains, it storms, but you can sleep through a night. There’s no lying awake, worrying about the coming flood—not like where we used to live. Which is why I told my friends, those who stayed behind, to relocate, too. Here: There’s no fear, there’s no flood.
When we got here, they gave us groceries, they gave us the key to the house, then they brought us to our house. And the eighteen thousand pesos they gave us, that helped us start a new life. This gave us back our dignity, all of us who were living in the squatters’ area back in Pasay. Our lives are much better here. You can say that this is really our home now.
Now: the problems we inherited, we have solved. The problems that are here today, we are solving. And the problems that are still on the horizon, we are preparing for. I believe; with your continued trust, we can solve all of these.
Let us turn to the energy situation. We are doing everything in our power to ensure that the growing energy demand in our country is met. In spite of this, there have been some unforeseen events, that may lead to problems in the next year. For instance, we need to make up for the shortages caused by the scheduled maintenance outages of old plants, the sudden halting of plant operations due to breakdowns, and delays in the progress of new plants.
Let us not forget that the coming El Niño season also threatens to affect the capacities of our hydro power plants, and to raise energy demand even further. If our use of electric fans and air conditioners in our own homes will increase due to the warm temperature, then imagine the spike in the usage of businesses and whole industries. And it is not as if we can just go to the store and ask to buy a 600 megawatt generator, to be installed the following day.
We want to be completely ready so that we can avoid paralysis if the worst-case scenario arises. The goal: to have planned solutions for problems that will not arise until next year. This is precisely why I have tasked Secretary Icot Petilla of the DOE to coordinate with the Joint Congressional Power Commission, the Energy Regulatory Commission, members of industry, and, most importantly, the consumers, in order to increase our capacity to respond to this problem.
I am also aware that many of our Bosses are affected by the staggering increase in rice prices. It seems that the reports are true: that some greedy rice hoarders are stockpiling their supplies in order to sell them when prices eventually rise, making an unjust profit in the process.
We will not let this pass. Perhaps they think they are being clever, but the government’s plan of action will prove the opposite. Our immediate solution: import more rice, supply it to the markets, reduce the prices and keep them at a reasonable level, and ultimately drive those who took advantage of the Filipino people into financial ruin. [Applause]
Last November, we imported 500,000 metric tons of rice to supplement decreased supply due to the typhoons that battered our country, and all of this had arrived by March of this year. This February, the NFA Council approved the importation of an additional 800,000 metric tons, in fulfillment of our buffer stocking requirement, and as of this July, 360,750 of this amount had arrived. This July as well, we approved the immediate importation of 500,000 metric tons of rice through open bidding. The NFA also has the standby authority to import an additional 500,000 metric tons to prepare for the effects of calamities on harvests and rice prices.
When the additional rice we have imported arrives in the country, hoarders will be forced to sell the rice that they have stockpiled in their warehouses. To these hoarders: If a showdown is what you want, by all means, take on the government. Just remember: it only takes six months before the stock you have hoarded in your warehouses begins to rot. When we flood the market with this imported rice, you will surely go bust. You are acting against the Filipino people, while we are acting for the interest of each Filipino. Let us see who will prevail. [Applause]
Apart from investigating those who have allegedly hoarded NFA rice, we are also probing all those in concerned agencies who may have conspired with these hoarders. Employees suspected of wrongdoing are already under scrutiny, so that we may file charges, and eventually, imprison those who must be held to account.
While we are in pursuit of those abusive few, we have also continued to implement projects to uplift Filipinos in the sector of agriculture. We are ensuring that rice farming remains a viable and attractive livelihood. After all, we know that our farmers are advancing in age, which is why it will help our pursuit of food security to encourage the youth to enter this kind of work.
We are providing our farmers with modern equipment to ensure the efficiency of planting and harvest. From 2011 to May 2014, we have already turned over 4,628 units of production machinery, 11,362 units of post-production machinery, and 105 rice mills to a number of farmers’ associations. This has allowed us to lessen waste in what our farmers are able to harvest. On top of this: we are also enhancing irrigation systems, constructing farm-to-market roads, and implementing training programs to ensure that they make the maximum profit.
Now, let us turn to the budget. The Executive Branch proposes projects, which are approved by Congress. However, we have had to suspend a number of projects to make certain that we remain in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program, or DAP. I know that those of you in this hall are one with me in believing that we must not deprive our countrymen of benefits, and that these should reach them in the soonest possible time.
This is why: We are proposing the passage of a supplemental budget for 2014, so that the implementation of our programs and projects need not be compromised. [Applause]
Together with this, we are calling on the cooperation of Congress for the passage of a Joint Resolution that will bring clarity to the definitions and ideas still being debated upon, and to the other issues that only you in the legislature—as the authors of our laws—can shed light on. [Applause]
On the first working day after the SONA, we will submit to Congress the proposed 2.606 trillion peso National Budget of 2015. As always, this budget was created together with our countrymen, using strategies that will ensure that funds are only allocated to projects and programs that will truly benefit the public. We are counting on the cooperation of our lawmakers to strengthen our Budget, as the primary instrument in creating opportunities for the Filipino people.
Let us now listen to one of the beneficiaries of our Alternative Learning System, A program of the Department of Education.
Testimonial of Maria Cecilla Fruelda—Aeta tribal leader, Alternative Learning System learner, and college student
I am Maria Cecilla Fruelda. I heard from my friends who also came from Zambales, and who are now living here in Rosario, that there are good jobs to be found in Puting Kahoy. That’s why we moved here.
Our first priority as tribespeople has always been to look for food, rather than to invest time in our education. But education is very important to me. Passing the Alternative Learning System (ALS) was the first step in realizing my dream of becoming a teacher.
I think that young Aetas in my community would have much better lives if only they could study.
If I hadn’t gotten into ALS, I wouldn’t have learned about our rights as indigenous peoples. We wouldn’t be able to fight for our ancestral land. Right now, thank God, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples is processing land titles to be awarded to us.
Once I graduate with a degree in Education, I want to teach in our community. I want to share with the Aeta community everything I’ve learned and more.
The ALS has been such a great help. My being a student of Teodoro M. Luansing College of Rosario has helped bring more attention to our community. A lot of people have offered to help. I see our community’s children following in my footsteps. A lot of them are in school now.
Fellow citizens, It is her story—and the stories of many other beneficiaries like her—that is drowned out by the din of the orchestra of negativism in the news. These noisy individuals willfully close off their minds and choose to live in their own world and reality. As the transformation of society becomes even more apparent, these people are acting just how we expect them to: their attacks on us are becoming more frequent, more venomous, and more intense. As the benefits of reform become clearer, it becomes more and more difficult for them to succeed in fooling the people, which is why they are sowing doubt and uncertainty. They have become desperate.
Why are they so angry? Let us examine their motivations. For those who turned public service into a business: if we are able to fix our systems, they lose the opportunity to subvert these systems for their own gain. It is only natural that they oppose us. On the other hand, for those who have no other goal than to overthrow government: They can only recruit members when agreat number of people are suffering and losing faith in the system. This is why, with a reformed system that has ended the people’s suffering, the number of potential recruits has dwindled, which explains why their group is getting smaller and smaller. It is only natural that they oppose us. The noisiest and loudest of those who oppose us are not in favor of the transformation of our country, precisely because they manipulated and benefited from the old and broken systems.
It was as if we were citizens who had been long trapped in an island with only one store. Since there were no other choices, the store owners abused their advantage, raising prices whenever they wanted. The task you gave me was to steer our ship of state to another island, where there were more stores, more choices, better lives, and more opportunities. Of course, those running the solitary store in the island did not want us to set sail, because they will run out of people to abuse. They would do everything in their power to prevent us from reaching other shores. They would say that it is no different there, and that nothing would change. They would detain us at the port, punch holes in our ship, and conspire to steer us astray.
The truth is that I am not the one these people oppose, but the entire Filipino people who are now reaping the benefits of the straight path. They oppose the farmers in Iloilo, who have hoped for efficient irrigation systems for more than fifty years, and today are witnessing the construction of the Jalaur Multi-purpose River Project. [Applause]
They oppose the countless students who no longer have to study in overcrowded classrooms. They oppose the Filipinos who have found jobs because of training received from TESDA; the Filipinos who have been safely evacuated before typhoons strike because PAGASA is now more efficient; they oppose the informal settlers who have been removed from danger because of housing resettlement programs; they oppose the poor who can receive treatment from public hospitals free of charge; they oppose the soldiers who, because their equipment has been modernized, can now protect our nation with greater confidence; they oppose the Moros and indigenous peoples who, today, see a just and lasting peace on the horizon. My Bosses, they are against you. [Applause]
In fact, their attacks began even before we came into office. We have grown used to being greeted by negative commentators for breakfast, personal attacks for lunch, insults for dinner, and intrigue for a midnight snack. [Laughter]
And even now that I am President, those opposed to change have not changed their ways. To be frank, I do not think that they will stop even when I have stepped down from public office.
I recall an old woman who I spoke to during the campaign. She told me: “Noy, you must take care of yourself. You will be up against many people.” Her warning proved to be true. But my resolve is unshakeable when it comes to facing them down, because I know: they are but a few, and there are so many of us. [Applause]
Those of us who are ready to fulfill our part in achieving positive transformation are, without doubt, stronger. We will triumph because we are in the right.
We dared to dream, we began pursuing those dreams, we worked hard, we gained the momentum, and today, the Filipino people are moving even faster along the straight path to lasting and inclusive growth. [Applause]
Our fatigue and sacrifices will be all the more worthwhile if you are able to continue what we started together.
It is you who will face a fork in the road; it is you who will decide if change will continue. Let us remember: This my fifth SONA; only one remains. In 2016, you will be choosing new leaders of our country. What I can tell you is this: if you wish continue and even accelerate the transformation of society, there can only be one basis for choosing my successor: Who will, without a shred of doubt, continue the transformation we are achieving? [Applause]
You are our bosses, you are our strength, you are bringing about change –and so it is you, too, who will continue the task. It is entirely up to you how history will remember this era. They may recall it as the very peak of our triumphs, as a promising start that went to waste. But it would be infinitely better if they remember our achievements as the beginning of a long journey towards the fulfillment of even more ambitious hopes.
When some groups appealed to me to run for President, they told me that they did not expect to solve all the country’s problems in a span of six years. They simply asked me to begin the change. You saw where we came from, and you are seeing how we have far surpassed the aspirations with which we began.
We are forging a system of fairness; where, as long as you follow the rules, you can get to where you want to go; where true competition leads to opportunity and widespread progress; where each and every person can take control of their own destinies. [Applause]
A society where the least fortunate are cared for is within reach; where each person recognizes his responsibilities to his fellowmen; where there is an unceasing, untiring, ever-active participation in collectively increasing the prosperity of society.
The future we desire is on the horizon: one where justice reigns supreme, and where no one will be left behind.
These are the results of reform. This is what we have fought for, and this is what we will continue fighting for: not the prevalence of the old ways, but a new system that will benefit all. [Applause]
To my Bosses: You gave me an opportunity to lead our efforts to transform society. If I had said “no” when you asked me to take on this challenge, then I could just as well have said that I would help prolong your suffering. I cannot do that in good conscience. If I had turned my back on the opportunity, then I might as well have turned my back on my father and mother, and all the sacrifices they made for all of us; that will not happen. On our journey along the straight path, you have always chosen what is right and just; you have been true to your promise, and I have been true to all of you. [Applause]
The transformation we are experiencing now, we can make permanent with the guidance of God. As long as your faith remains strong—as long as we continue serving as each other’s strength—we will continue proving that “the Filipino is worth dying for,” “the Filipino is worth living for,” and if I might add: “The Filipino is worth fighting for.”
The Vice President knows this—we were together in 1987. There was a coup de etat, and I was ambushed. Everything after that I consider my second life.
It’s hard not to think about these things, considering the people we’ve been going up against. Will there be a day when I go onstage, for work, and—will someone manage to plant a bomb? Will the dark schemes of those who want to bring us back to the wrong way of doing things finally succeed?
When that day comes, and my second life comes to an end, will I be able to say things will be ok? I will tell you this, straight in eye: after everything we’ve achieved, I can say that I am content.
I am content because I am sure that when I’m gone, many will take my place and continue what we have started.
Maybe this is what I’m meant to do: to start this.
There are people like Cardinal Chito Tagle, Ka Eduardo Manalo, Brother Eddie Villanueva, Father Catalino Arevalo, and Father Jett Villarin, Bishop Jonel Milan, Sister Agnes Guillen, and Mae Salvatierra. These are individuals from the religious sector, who will continue what we’ve started. [Applause]
There is Aris Alip of CARD, who will do his part through microfinance. There is an Alice Murphy and her urban poor associates who will truly continue to take care of our informal settlers. [Applause]
There are our soldiers and police officers, who try every day to do what is right—just like our new Chief of Staff, our Service Commanders, our soldiers in the Light Reaction Battalion, and the JSOG.
There are, of course, my fellow politicians. Is there any doubt that Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Belmonte will lead us along the right path? [Applause]
It has also been my privilege to work with and interact with a certain governor, Alfredo Maranon of Negros Occidental: [Applause]
He is not a party mate, but I think I am part of his fan club because of his good governance in Negros.
There are up and coming young politicians. Or at least they’re younger than I am—I don’t want to seem too much like an old politico by referring to my colleagues as young.
These are the likes of Mayor Jed Mabilog and Mayor Len Alonte [Applause].
There is also those in the cultural sector—such as Noel Cabangon and Ogie Alcasid-—who are not self-centered. [Applause]
Every night, before I go to bed, I am thankful that I was able to get through another day. Just as it was said when we were kids, “finished or not finished, pass your paper.” It seems to me, you have felt the true extent of the change that is every Filipino’s right to aspire to. It will be up to you to carry this forward. [Applause]
To my Bosses: You are behind the transformation we are enjoying. You are the key to continuing all the positive changes we have achieved. I fully believe that, whether I am here or not, the Filipino is headed towards the rightful destination.
And so, I will leave it here. Good afternoon to all of you. Thank you very much. [Applause]