This is my sixth SONA. Once again, I face Congress and our countrymen to report on the state of our nation. More than five years have passed since we put a stop to the culture of “wang-wang,” not only in our streets, but in society at large; since we formally took an oath to fight corruption to eradicate poverty; and since the Filipino people, our bosses, learned how to hope once more. My bosses, this is the story of our journey along the Straight Path. Just last Friday, we inaugurated the Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway. This is the first Public-Private Partnership project that we approved, and the first such PPP project opened to the public under our administration. Under the previous administrations: It was as if the government had to beg the private sector just to gain their participation. Now, companies are the ones seemingly courting the government-for MCX in particular, we were paid a premium of P925 million just so that our private partner could have the privilege of building the infrastructure we need. In fact, they are so confident that this project will earn them a profit, that they said the first month of toll operations at MCX is free.
We have indeed come so far. And, in order for us to appreciate just how far we have travelled, let us recall where we started. When we came into office, we found a citizenry that had grown desensitized to the many allegations of lying, cheating, and stealing in government. Those in power boasted of the country having enough classrooms. In truth: classes had to be held in four shifts. Students went to school while it was still dark, and others would go home long after the dark of night had well and truly fallen. All of them were left in the dark because they were not accorded sufficient time in the classroom for learning. Our predecessor took pride in “uninterrupted growth” during her last SONA. Scrutinize what she said, however, and you would realize that a significant portion of this growth was fueled by remittances from Filipinos who had lost hope in our country. As they say: People were voting with their feet.
If I were to imitate that style of governance, I would be loath to claim a success borne of forcing my countrymen to escape our shores. As the 2004 elections approached, more than 700 million pesos were allegedly used to buy fertilizer that was not suitable for crops; the endeavor was costly; and in many instances, the farmers who should have received the farming supplements never saw it. We ask: Who was nourished by such fertilizers? Definitely neither the farmers nor their crops. Perhaps you also remember the NBN-ZTE scandal. We investigated this in the Senate; someone said there was an attempt to bribe him. When we undertook an inquiry, this person did not want to testify; he claimed executive privilege. Of course, we couldn’t summon the sitting President-hence, the only one we could question was her henchman accused of bribery. Naturally, he denied the accusation. During those times, even children became familiar with the word “scam.” You might also remember “Hello Garci,” to which the answer was a mere “I am sorry.” The genuine bank accounts of the nonexistent Jose Pidal.
The attempt to convene a Constitutional Assembly, so that they could stay in power for the rest of their lives. There was Executive Order 464, which tried to stifle the truth. The declaration of a State of Emergency, in order to do away with the checks and balances for Martial Law as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. There were midnight appointments. The policy known as Calibrated Preemptive Response, which was used against protesters. Even on the level of grammar, this is wrong. How could a response come before anything else? It’s like saying you replied to someone who never texted you. These were the headlines that greeted us every time we had breakfast in the years before we came into office. The moment we assumed the presidency, we began to unearth anomaly after anomaly.
In my previous SONAs, I have already mentioned some of them: In the National Food Authority, they allowed the debt to bloat from P12.3 billion pesos in 2001, to P176.8 billion in June 2010. Even worse: they continued to import rice, only to have it rot in warehouses. In PAGCOR, a billion pesos went to coffee. In the MWSS: excessive bonuses, one on top of the other. For the Laguna Lake: an attempt to waste over P18 billion just to play with mud. Indeed: I could not comprehend how those behind such controversies could willingly benefit from the suffering of our countrymen. Every government official takes an oath to do right by our countrymen and to uphold the law. But it was clear: our predecessor did precisely the opposite. We were all witnesses to the most appalling example, when 58 Filipinos were massacred in Maguindanao in November 2009. To think about committing such a crime was already heinous.
To do it, which they did, was even worse. The worst offense of all: Their belief that they could get away with it, because they were in power-which is why they carried out their plans in the first place. These are only a few examples; there are many others. With this kind of situation, can we really blame our countrymen for losing sight of hope, and consequently, leaving our country? Like you, the thought of giving up had crossed my mind. When my mother died, my confidence diminished further; our family’s leader and inspiration to pursue change was gone. At her wake, someone approached me and suggested that I run for the presidency.
My immediate response: I am not a masochist. I was one of the people calling for an end to impunity and wrongdoing; I understood just how dire the situation was. I was also certain they had deliberately hidden details from us, and the real problems were bigger than what we knew. When you called me to serve, my question was: If I am unable to solve these problems quickly, how long will it take before my bosses lose their patience, and instead direct all their anger at me? One of those who convinced me to run was Alex Lacson. He said: “To simply put an end to all the abuse would suffice. To stop the hemorrhaging would be enough.” Let us listen to him:
Translated transcript of Testimonial of Alex Lacson
In 2008, our country was ranked by the World Bank as one of the most corrupt in the world. Our self-confidence and morale as a people was very low. At the time, many of my friends and I were looking for a good man, not just a good politician to be our president in 2010. Then, President Cory passed away, and Senator Noynoy spoke at her funeral. That is when we truly saw him. My friends encouraged me to lead the public call to urge Senator Noynoy to run for president. My friends and I went to the house of Senator Noynoy in Times Street.
We brought a yellow drum and we encouraged the public to write letters. Within 24 hours there was an outpouring of public support for Senator Noynoy to run for public office. I did not expect him to be superman and solve all our problems in the country; we expected him only to begin reform. Mr. President, thank you for heeding the call of the people in 2010, and thank you, too, for respecting my beliefs, even as we disagreed on a number of issues. Mr. President, continue to lead our country on the right path. [Applause]
From the start, we already knew that corruption was the root of all our people’s suffering. Thus, our battlecry: where there is no corruption, there will be no poverty. Tremendous perseverance, courage, political will, and faith in God and in our fellowmen were needed in order to breathe life into this ideal. Of course, the masterminds of the old system were not meek lambs, willing to see the end of their opportunity to take advantage of others. They used, and continue to use, their influence and wealth to fight our agenda of change. They also used their power to prepare life preservers for when the time of judgment came. The Ombudsman who should have been appointed to guard against corruption allegedly played blind to all the scandals of the past administration. She was impeached in the House of Representatives, and resigned from her post before she could be tried in the Senate. The Chief Justice who seemed to have a bias for the one who appointed him, was proven to have hidden wealth and properties not disclosed in his SALN. He was impeached in the House and convicted in the Senate.
To replace them, we appointed men and women with integrity and independent minds. The new Ombudsman: Conchita Carpio-Morales. The new Chief Justice: Ma. Lourdes Sereno. Now, she has sufficient time to implement reform in the Judiciary. [Applause] Even in other agencies, we appointed honest and fearless leaders. We immediately placed Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan in the COA. In the Executive, we likewise appointed uncompromising persons: Commissioner Kim Henares in the BIR and Secretary Leila de Lima [applause] in the Department of Justice. They did not back down from any challenge in fulfilling their mandates. To all of you, I give my heartfelt thanks. Whether in the top, middle, or bottom of the bureaucracy, so many have been suspended, removed from their positions, made accountable through cases filed against them, or even imprisoned.
If there is anyone who still doubts that justice is blind in the Philippines, it would be best if they turned their attention to the three senators currently detained, or to a former president still under hospital arrest. There are some who say we should move on. Personally, I believe in what George Santayana said: Those who forget the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat it. Just take a look at the actions of those who have wronged us. They will first work to ensure we forget what they have done. After this, they will say, “Have pity on us.” They already took advantage of us; now they are trying to take advantage of the Filipino’s innate penchant for forgiveness, in order to escape accountability. The next step: they will find a way to return to power. Isn’t that their master plan-so that they can continue to take advantage of us?
I learned from my parents, from the church, and from the processes of our laws: Whatever reconciliation must come from the confession and repentance of those who have committed wrong. Can you remember an instance in which anyone said, “I’m sorry I stole from you and abused you; I am ready to change”? For my part: We can only move on once justice has been attained. [Applause] We continued to reform our institutions, in order to refocus them towards their true mandates. For example: Government Owned and Controlled Corporations. Appointees to GOCCs swore to safeguard our people’s money. The sad fact is, even when the GOCCs were mired in debt, they showered themselves with benefits and incentives left and right. If we liken their institutions to cattle, they’d just as soon butcher the cow for meat, even as they milk it. This is why in the past administration, dividends collected over nine and a half years only amounted to P84.18 billion.
Under our administration: the number of GOCCs has already been reduced by shutting down those deemed irrelevant, and yet because of improved management: the dividends we have collected in the five years we have been in office have now reached P131.86 billion. [Applause] It isn’t unlikely that, before we step down from office, we will be able to double the dividends collected by our predecessor who had much more time to accumulate these funds. [Applause] This is the same commitment we have shown in the BIR, which is the biggest revenue-generating agency of the government. When we stepped in, the highest collection on record was in 2008, at P778.6 billion. We surpassed this by leaps and bounds. In 2012, the BIR collected P1.06 trillion-the first time in our history we have breached the 1 trillion mark for collections. [Applause] Last year, the number went up to P1.3 trillion; this 2015, we will collect up to P1.5 trillion. [Applause]
We only needed five years to match, surpass, and almost double our predecessor’s record high-and we did this without imposing new taxes, as promised, apart from Sin Tax Reform. [Applause] How did we do this? It was simple. I believe that Commissioner Kim Henares is a kind person, but those against whom she filed cases might have a different opinion. Commissioner Kim Henares spared no tax evader. [Applause] 380 cases have already been filed against those who attempted to evade taxes. She also made the system for tax payment more efficient, and made clear to everyone their civic duty to contribute to the development of our country. For the National Budget: under the previous administration, the budget was always reenacted, whether partially or fully. In 2007, for example, it was almost April when the General Appropriations Act (GAA) was approved. It was already worrying that projects that had been completed received funding once more.
Even worse: Even the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses, including salaries, were included in this reenacted budget. What this means: funds were allotted again for salaries-even if all had already received what was due them for the first three months of 2007. I wonder: Where did the excess funds that were allotted and requested for go? What we have proven: if the Executive proposes a reasonable budget, the dialogue with the members of Congress will go smoothly. The faster the GAA is passed, the quicker services will reach our countrymen, and the sooner will we be able to alleviate their suffering. The message was clear: We are serious about change; the playing field is level. The result: Confidence in our economy. When we began, I did not think that we would immediately win back the global community’s confidence in the Philippines. I only thought of fixing the crooked system to prevent our people from sinking deeper into poverty.
Let me ask you: Did it ever occur to you that we would continue rising in global competitiveness rankings, and that we would be recognized for the speed with which our economy has grown? In fact, the Philippines is now being called “Asia’s Rising Tiger,” “Asia’s Rising Star,” and “Asia’s Bright Spot.” [Applause] Now, for the first time in history, we are unanimously deemed investment grade by the most prominent credit rating agencies. This is a signal to businessmen that it is worthwhile to invest in the Philippines. The risks of doing business here have decreased. Now, with lower interest rates and more flexible debt payment schedules, more investors are finding it attractive to bet on the Philippines. Through the institution and expansion of businesses, commerce becomes more lively, competition strengthens, and even more opportunities are created. All this has been a direct result of reforms we made along the Straight Path. [Applause] Just look: back in 2010, net foreign direct investment in our country was at $1.07 billion. In 2014, net foreign direct investments reached $6.2 billion. [Applause]
This is the highest ever recorded in our entire history. The numbers for domestic investments are likewise impressive; now, Filipinos are betting on their fellow Filipinos. Let us compare: from the time this was first measured back in 2003 until 2010, the amount of approved domestic investments totaled just P1.24 trillion. Under our watch, from the third quarter of 2010 until the end of 2014, the amount invested by our countrymen in the market reached P2.09 trillion. [Applause] In manufacturing: I admit, during my first year in office, one of the things furthest from my mind was the idea that we could reinvigorate this sector. The industry faced many challenges: electricity, for one, was both expensive and unreliable. It was also no small feat to establish facilities here, because of the large investment involved in buying machines and training employees. This is why, back then, we had to import even low-tech electric fans.
Thanks to the reforms that have restored confidence in our nation, manufacturing growth has accelerated-from 3 percent annually between 2001 and 2009, to 8 percent from 2010 to 2014. [Applause] It is clear: The Filipino can compete. In the past, our only selling point was low wages. Now, investors are bringing to our country factories that produce hi-tech equipment: from aircraft components, electric tricycles, printers, and other digital media products, to high-quality medical devices like aortic catheters and devices for in vitro diagnostics and hemodialysis treatment. Let us listen to a businessman who will tell us of the new business climate in the Philippines: Translated transcript of Testimonial of Peter Perfecto, Makati Business Club One of the most important things this administration has accomplished was reversing the corruption trends of the previous administration. Without the rule of law, the advantage went to corporations that were complicit with the systemic bribery and a faulty tax system.
President Aquino has walked the talk. He has delivered on his promises. They arrested the former president, the three senators, and ousted a Chief Justice who were all once thought to be “untouchable.” The strong message has been sent. Because of the rule of law and the commitment to good governance this administration has made, our foreign direct investments rose from P2 billion to P6.2 billion. We have made a huge leap forward: jumping 33 places in the rankings set by the world Economic Forum; and according to them, this is a result of this administration’s anti-corruption agenda-all because of the changes that this government has enacted. It is the responsibility of each Filipino to learn from these recent achievements and ensure that we continue moving forward with the coming administration. [Applause]
We all know that the primary measure of economic improvement for the common Filipino is the creation of jobs. Let us look at what we’ve achieved in this area. Every year, around 80,000 new entrants join our labor force. Now, consider the fact that there are reports of overseas Filipinos returning home. In 2011, our Department of Foreign Affairs reported that there were around 9.51 million overseas Filipinos. Based on the latest estimates in December 2014, that number went down to 9.07 million. It is reasonable to say that a good number of the estimated 400,000 Filipinos represented by that decrease came home and were able to find work. [Applause] Despite the fact that there are new entrants, returnees, and previously unemployed Filipinos, our unemployment rate still dropped to 6.8 percent last year. This is the lowest recorded in a decade. [Applause] Let me be clear: We created permanent jobs; we did not hire an abundance of street sweepers during the period the labor survey was conducted, just to boost results.
Together with creating real jobs, we are also fostering a good relationship between labor and management throughout the country. Let us compare. In the nine and a half years of the previous administration, the number of strikes that occurred were 199, or roughly 21 strikes for each year. In our five years in office, the total strikes were only 15. [Applause] In fact, in 2013, there was only a single strike recorded in the country. This is the lowest recorded in the history of DOLE. [Applause] It is because of this that we are truly impressed with Secretary Linda Baldoz and our labor and management sector. [Applause] To Sec. Linda: you are not only efficient; you are also very positive which makes you the type of colleague who is a pleasure to work with. That is why you are considered the Pastor of the Cabinet. Thank you, very much, for all your efforts, Linda. [Applause] The transformation has indeed been vast.
Before, the signs we would always see proclaimed, “No Vacancy,” didn’t they? Today, announcements that say, “For Immediate Hiring” are scattered everywhere; you need only open a newspaper to see classified ads from many companies who are hiring. Some of them have even been getting creative with incentives. There’s this one company that says: just come in for an interview and your breakfast is on them. Once you’re hired, they’ll cover your treat to friends and family to celebrate your new job. Some businessmen have even mentioned to me that they are finding it difficult to hire accountants. I remember when I was younger, a lot of people were taking up BS Commerce, Major in Accountancy. When I visited Bicol University, I mentioned this to their president. I had to ask: Am I correct in the knowledge that your university has an accountancy program? Their reply: Yes, but even we are having trouble filling our accounting department. Why? Their president said that their students, even in their third year of college, are already being recruited by accounting and auditing firms. [Applause]
This is happening precisely because we have worked to address what is called the job-skills mismatch. In the past, so many of our countrymen were saying that they had no jobs, even when there were so many unfilled positions listed in the PhilJob-Net website. The simple reason: the skillset of our countrymen did not match what the market needed. The solution to this was also simple: Talk to prospective employers and ask them what skills are demanded by the positions they are opening. Now, it is in these skills that we train Filipinos, so that they can maximize opportunities. The principle behind our strategy of governance: instead of giving our countrymen fish, we will teach them how to fish. We are ensuring that the progress we have made and the opportunities that have been created can be maximized by our fellowmen. We cannot wait for the benefits of growth to trickle down to the poorest Filipinos; we cannot leave it to chance, or hope for the best.
Our commitment: Inclusive growth. The agenda: assistance, knowledge, skills training, and health, to ensure that no one is left behind. One of our mechanisms: the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. We have vastly expanded the scope of this program. Now, more than 4.4 million households are feeling the benefits of this program. [Applause] This is extremely far from the 786,523 households covered by the program when we entered office. This year, 333,673 graduated from high school; they are part of the first batch of beneficiaries under the expanded Pantawid Pamilya. 13,469 of these youth graduated with honors and a variety of awards. [Applause]
In fact, the two beneficiaries I met were accepted into Civil Engineering, a quota course in the University of the Philippines. All of these beneficiaries will gain important knowledge; instead of entering menial jobs once they graduate, it is almost certain that they will find jobs that will pay them a decent salary. Their income tax alone will repay the state’s investment, and we will be able to continue the cycle of empowering those in need. The brighter future that awaits the honor students the program assisted is just an added bonus. Let us listen to one of those assisted by Pantawid Pamilya.
Translated transcript of Testimonial of Alyannah, CCT beneficiary I work much harder now. I knew the trials my family faced because of poverty. When we were enrolled in the Conditional Cash Transfer program, I saw that people wanted to help us. I knew they wanted nothing in return-but, for me, the only way I could repay their kindness was through my studies. The money we get from the government was never wasted. We were able to finance all of my school expenses. I was so happy when I got into my dream school, the University of the Philippines. The CCT program gave me a chance to get a good education, which helped me finish high school; and now I’m on my way to college. I know this program is on the receiving end of a lot of criticism, but I want to tell President Benigno Aquino that they need only to look at me-at us. We are proof that the money set aside by the government for this program is not a dole-out. The money goes towards a worthy pursuit, which I know one day will help uplift the entire country. [Applause]
Under Pantawid Pamilya, in exchange for assistance, the primary focus of beneficiaries must be the education of their children. This has already borne early fruit: according to studies conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, in 2008, there were 2.9 million out-of-school children in the country. The years passed and our population grew, but in 2013, only 1.2 million out-of-school children remained. Let me emphasize the difference: 1.7 million. [Applause] It’s as if we filled around 42,500 empty classrooms with students. Of course, apart from the Pantawid Pamilya, the Alternative Learning System also helped to ensure that even indigenous peoples and street children are not left behind. And yet, there are still some who ask: Where are the results of Pantawid Pamilya? Our answer: Oh come on. They seem to think that Pantawid Pamilya is like a magic tablet that, once taken by a child in kindergarten, turns that child into a college graduate after only a few hours. [Laughter and applause]
Perhaps, they did not have enough time to study during their time; let us help them count: K to 12 lasts 13 years, while my term only lasts for six. Now we see who’s trying to deceive us. There are even some who had the guts to raise an outcry and shout: There are leakages in Pantawid Pamilya. Then we discovered they used data from 2009, just to have something to criticize. Let me remind them: I became President halfway through 2010; perhaps you should be asking another president to explain the alleged leakage. [Applause] I guarantee that, when the time comes that the beneficiaries of this program are contributing to the economy, those who are criticizing it today will be falling over themselves to proclaim that they are the father or mother of the expanded Pantawid Pamilya.
Now, in the sector of education: we are making sure that the deficits of the past are erased and the needs of the present are addressed, even as we prepare for the future. In just our first two years in office, we were able to close the backlogs we inherited of 61.7 million textbooks and 2.5 million school chairs. In 2013, the backlog of 66,800 classrooms was finally eliminated and the backlog of 145,827 teachers was likewise addressed, with the help of our LGU partners. [Applause] According to the estimates of DepEd, from 2010 up to 2017, the total amount of new students: 4.7 million. This is because of the increase of enrollees and the implementation of the K to 12 program. In order to meet this vast increase, we need to add an estimated 118,000 classrooms to what we already have. 33,608 of these have already been constructed.
This year, we are slated to construct more than 41,000 more. Funds for the remaining 43,000 classrooms have already been included in the proposed 2016 budget that we will pass tomorrow, which we hope you will approve. [Applause] The number of teachers we will need are estimated at 130,000. In 2014, we have already hired 29,444. This year, the total number of teachers we target to hire: 39,000. The remaining 60,000 positions will be covered in the proposed 2016 budget, which we hope you will approve as well. [Applause] According to Bro. Armin, the sum total of the classrooms our administration has constructed and the teachers we have hired exceeds the cumulative total of classrooms built and teachers hired in the past twenty years before we came into office. We have already turned over 73.9 million textbooks that will be followed by an addition 88.7 million this year. In 2015 as well, 1.6 million school seats were delivered to schools, and we will add another 1.6 million before the end of the year.
After eliminating the existing backlog in classrooms, we constructed or continue to construct 33,621 classrooms, while allotting funds for the construction of 41,728 more. For teachers: 39,000 are already being hired by DepEd for this school year alone. Tomorrow, we will submit the budget for 2016; included in it are funds for an additional 103.2 million textbooks, 4.4 million school seats, 43,000 classrooms, and 60,000 new teaching positions. Everyone can see: we will not leave further sources of headaches for those who will succeed us. [Applause] Let me be clear: We implemented K to 12 because it is not practical to cram learning in a 10-year basic education cycle.
May I remind you, that we are one of the three countries left in the world with a 10-year basic education cycle. The credentials of our countrymen working overseas are already being questioned; there are also some who have been demoted because our diplomas are supposedly not proof of sufficient knowledge. If the past educational system can be likened to a mango induced to ripen under artificial circumstances; now, we are ensuring that the abilities of our students are fully developed, so that they can take hold of their futures. Let us listen to a story that is proof of this:
Translated transcript of Testimonial of Rezia Joy Jianoran
My father has been a jeepney driver all my life. When I was in my second year of high school, my mom suffered a stroke. I didn’t ask, but I knew that they couldn’t afford to send me to college. Instead of dropping out of school, I decided to continue my studies under the K to 12 program. My chosen track of specialization was the Drafting Technology course. Part of the K to 12 program is the career immersion. I was assigned to CLP Metal, a metal fabrication company. I was tasked to design machines. This machine was designed to de-hair pigs. Once a pig is processed, after several seconds, it comes out without any hair. A machine like this can only be bought abroad. Because of the design by CLP, we’re able to adjust to the budget restrictions of our customers. I’m extremely proud because when you think about it: how many 19-year olds can say they have designed a machine? I’m proud that I’m a K to 12 graduate because I can now support my family. And I’m learning while I’m earning. [Applause]
Should these graduates choose to go into tech-voc, the programs we enhanced are already waiting for them. 7.8 million have already graduated from the different courses of the Technical Vocational Education and Training overseen by TESDA. Under the Training for Work Scholarship Program alone, the number of graduates have already reached 821,962. Perhaps you are wondering: what is their situation today? According to studies, 71.9 percent of graduates were able to find employment right away, compared to the 28.5 percent recorded before. There are even some industries breaking records: for example, the employment rate for the entire semiconductors and electronics industry has already reached 91.26 percent-just a little more, and we’ll be at 100 percent. [Applause] Secretary Joel Villanueva told us before of an OFW forced to return home; she thought there was no hope to improve her lot in life.
Then, she studied “hilot wellness massage” in TESDA; now, her spa already has 4 branches. In my last SONA, I also told you of a PWD who was once a barker; he is now an escalation supervisor in a BPO. [Applause] A success story from the Sari-sari Store Training and Access to Resources Program, or STAR: there was a sari-sari store owner who used to earn 800 pesos a day; now, her daily earnings have reached 4,000 pesos. If you sum everything up, her earnings are more or less equivalent to my salary, even if we do not experience the same type of stress. [Laughter] How did this happen? She was trained in bookkeeping, inventory management, accounting, and other disciplines. What’s extremely impressive: the STAR program even teaches students how to ensure that their profits are maximized.
Let us listen to one of those who benefited from TESDA’s program: Translated transcript of Testimonial of Ma. Theresa Tomaro, TESDA Star Program trainee My husband and I were both unemployed when we started training with the STAR program. We were taught how to manage and grow a business. When we started our sari-sari store, it was made out of bamboo. Now, its walls are made of concrete. This not only helps us, but also our children. We are able to give them good lives. I’ve been able to sell a lot of things. My income has doubled since then. I’d like to thank Secretary Joel Villanueva because of their program, I was able to have the opportunity to show my ability to run my own business. [Applause]
Now, on the sector of health. To many Filipinos, falling ill poses a serious challenge to the fulfillment of their dreams. Families climbing the ladder of progress, return back to zero once they are struck by illness. Not only are their savings emptied, they also fall deep into debt. When we came into office, only 47 million Filipinos were beneficiaries of PhilHealth. We have almost doubled this number: just this past June, PhilHealth coverage has reached 89.4 million Filipinos. [Applause] The transformation we wrought: Before, during elections, new PhilHealth beneficiaries seemed to sprout up like mushrooms. Instead of the basis for membership being the interest of Filipinos, it became manipulated to serve the electoral candidate’s interest. Now, we have corrected that system.
There is more good news in the sector of health. In 2012, we announced: If your family is part of the lowest quintile, or the poorest 20 percent of our population, and you are seeking treatment in public hospitals, then we guarantee that you will not have to pay a single centavo. Beginning in 2014, this has expanded to cover the next quintile of our society. This means that for the poorest 40 percent of the population, treatment in public hospitals is free. This is the care that some have called inefficient and uncaring. The only thing I have to say to them, as Aiza Seguerra said back in the day: I thank you, bow. [Applause] Now, let us hear some of the results of the improved PhilHealth program: Translated transcript of Testimonial of Danilo Espiritu, PhilHealth beneficiary I was diagnosed with quadruple clogs in the coronary area.
We didn’t know how we could afford the operation. The first hospital we went to said the operation would cost 300,000 pesos. At [the Philippine General Hospital], it would cost 700,000 pesos. At UST hospital, they said it was 800,000 pesos. But when one of the doctors learned that my wife was covered by PhilHealth, he said our case qualified under the Z-Package, and we could push through with the operation. We just stood up then and went to fix the paperwork, and I was provided the opportunity to extend my life. The service I got at the hospital was comparable to that received by a private hospital patient. I wasn’t considered a charity case. I was a full-fledged paying patient, and PhilHealth paid for my operation. To be honest, I didn’t pay for anything. The little money that we did save, we were able to use for the post-operation expenses. I’m thankful for PhilHealth and our government for implementing these kinds of projects, which genuinely help people in need. ____________________
Translated transcript of Testimonial of Governor Lilia Pineda Sin Tax should have been implemented earlier; it’s the answer to our goal of providing universal healthcare. It was a big help to the province of Pampanga: in the past, the Capitol spent over 400 million pesos a year in health aid. But when the Sin Tax Law was implemented, those who needed healthcare were covered by PhilHealth. We are truly grateful to President Aquino because the project provided a huge relief for Pampanga. The money saved was used to fund other important projects. The proceeds of the Sin Tax also went towards the construction of a birthing station, hospital renovations, and the construction of health centers. We’re so thankful to the President for caring for the poor who suffer sickness. [Applause]
Let us again return to the story of the past five years. We went after the corrupt and we cleaned the systems, which redounded to confidence in our markets. Businesses came into the country, opportunities expanded, all while we empowered Filipinos to gain decent employment. They patronized these businesses, which, having recognized that the playing field is level, know they can profit without having to resort to illegal activities. They then expand their operations, and employ even more people. This is a cycle: justice, trust, economic growth, the creation of opportunities, progress. Boss, this is the very spirit of, “Where there is no corruption, there is no poverty.” [Applause] And we did not just achieve change. The transformation we are experiencing today has already exceeded the expectations we had in the beginning. The Cadastral Survey, which was started in 1913, has been completed by us.
It took almost a century for those who came before us to complete 46 percent of this survey. The more than half left to be done, we finished in just five years in government. This Cadastral Survey identifies the boundaries of the land covered by each city, municipality, and province in the Philippines. In ARMM, for example, it was as if the land gave birth to more land: according to the maps, there are only 1.2 million hectares belonging to the region, but if we were to add up all the lands being claimed, they would reach a total of 3.7 million hectares. Now, because we have fixed the land record system through the Cadastral Survey, no new land will be birthed in ARMM. In 2011, we conducted an inventory of sitios, and we identified those that were still without electricity.
Through the Sitio Electrification Program, we were able to bring light to 25,257 communities identified through this inventory. On top of this, because of the use of solar energy and other technology, even far-flung and isolated areas that would be difficult to connect to the grid already have electricity. Now, around 93 percent of sitios in the Philippines have already been energized; the DOE has guaranteed that, before we step down from office, all the rest of the sitios from the 2011 tally will have electricity. [Applause] Now, let us watch a farmer who has benefited from our Sitio Electrification Program.
It was difficult when we didn’t have electricity; you just had to bear with it. We could only power our homes with fuel sources. We first got electricity this July, and we were so happy when switched on the lights here at home for the very first time. We can now watch movie tapes or listen to good music. The children are now able to study at night. I’m even able to work at night because now I can charge my spotlight during the day, and because I’m more productive, I earn more. Our lives have changed for the better now that we finally have access to electricity. We’re able to be more efficient-an example would be our weaving. With sewing machines, we can create more beautiful designs, which we can sell at a better price. Food processing needs equipment, which runs on electricity. Students can use the Internet for research. Electricity has brought good things to Bauko. Congratulations to our President for making Bauko a better place to live in. [Applause]
In the sector of aviation, there has also been a steady stream of good news: in 2013, the International Civil Aviation Organization lifted the significant safety concerns it had imposed on our country back in 2009. In the same year, the European Union allowed our flag carrier to resume its flights to Europe. The following year saw another local carrier receiving approval from the European Union, while the US Federal Aviation Administration upgraded us to Category 1, from the Category 2 downgrade we had received in 2008. Because of these developments, incoming and outgoing flights are increasing, and it is also becoming easier for tourists to fly around the Philippines. Even better news: just this June, the EU Air Safety Committee removed its ban on all our air carriers-the first time that it has lifted its ban on the entire civil aviation sector of a country. Now, all our airlines will be able to fly directly to the United Kingdom, Italy, and other countries part of the EU.
In seafaring: in 2006, the European Maritime Safety Agency or EMSA was already questioning our compliance to the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers. Because of this, there was a threat that the EU would no longer recognize our maritime education certificates. If we did not act, there would have been the chance that an estimated 80,000 Filipino seafarers working on European boats would be out of jobs. MARINA and the DOTC went to work quickly in order to match our maritime education certificates to global standards. To this day, the EU continues to recognize our certifications. Come EMSA’s next audit, which will begin in October, MARINA guarantees: We will definitely pass. [Applause] To Sec. Jun Abaya: May you not waver in your resolve, even when it seems that some have forgotten all that you have done for our sailors, ICAO’s lifting of the significant safety concerns it had imposed on our sector, the European Union’s lifting of the ban on our airplanes, and the Federal Aviation [Administration] upgrading us to Category 1.
It was also you who banned boats from setting out to see during typhoons, which helped to keep passengers away from danger. It is now rare for us to receive news about ships sinking during typhoons. All of these achievements have seemingly been cast aside, because of the complicated challenges in the public transport sector. The biggest example of this is the MRT. Few mention that we have partners from the private sector in this endeavor, who remember their entitlements, but seem to have forgotten their obligations. This partner of ours is supposed to be in charge of maintenance. In 2008, there should have been a general overhaul of the MRT, but upon DOTC’s inspection, only token cosmetic changes were undertaken. This lack of care practically guaranteed the breakdown of our trains. Is it not in the interest of all companies to make sure that they get their money’s worth from their investment? Yet, they allowed the situation to deteriorate, to the point where, at very short notice, they just passed the job of improving the MRT onto us.
When we made moves to undertake improvements, suddenly, they wanted to take back the responsibility of maintenance. However, their proposal was significantly more expensive than hours. This would, of course, translate to added expense and aggravation for our people. We did not agree to this, and began the process of obtaining new train coaches. But because the MRTC was adamant, they were able to obtain a TRO on the procurement. That is why the MRT situation has come to this. Sec. Jun: You, I, and the entire population of Metro Manila are not pleased with what is happening. The private sector relegated their responsibility to us; when we made moves to provide a solution, they blocked us. It is clear that our agenda and that of the MRTC will never meet. Now, we are taking steps to buy out the corporation. Once this is fixed, the state will be the sole decisionmaker. While we are undertaking this process, we are already implementing immediate maintenance work.
Bigger, more long-term solutions are also set to arrive. Next month, we can expect the delivery of the prototype for new coaches; once this passes scrutiny, beginning in January, three coaches will be delivered every month until our order of 48 coaches has been completed. The process to obtain new rails is underway, together with the upgrading of the signaling and automatic fare collecting systems; all this, we expect to be completed before we step down from office. The power supply of our trains will be upgraded before the end of 2016. There are 12 escalators that will be fixed before the end of the year, while the procurement for the rehabilitation of 34 more escalators and 32 elevators is ongoing. Let me remind everyone: When it comes to these matters, we cannot take shortcuts in the processes; we do not want our measures to be hampered by lawsuits left and right.
There are some who say that I wear blinders, when it comes to those who have long been my companions on the Straight Path. Me? I see the good things, but I also see the bad. Am I the one with blinders? Or is it those who insist on seeing only the bad things? On our Armed Forces: Back in November 2010, tensions arose once more between North and South Korea; there were fears that war would break out in the peninsula. We needed a plan to evacuate the 46,000 Filipinos in South Korea, as well as the eight Filipinos in North Korea. When I asked the AFP about the assets we could use in an evacuation, they said that the Air Force has a lone C-130. The shortest duration for a round trip? 10 hours. The capacity: around 100 people. I made some calculations: We needed to move 46,000 Filipinos away from conflict, which meant that, under the most ideal conditions, we would need 460 round trips, which would take 4,600 hours each.
This is equivalent to 200 days of travel. No one can count on an old C-130 to cope with such heavy usage. If we deployed ships, each could carry 1,000 people at a time, but we would be lucky if each round trip could be completed within 10 days. Should further conflict break out, there was the chance that the entire situation would have been over by the time we evacuated of our people. We took immediate action to address these limitations. Now, from one functional C-130, we now have three at our disposal, and we are planning to acquire two more. There are others to accompany them: The first of three C-295 medium lift transports has arrived, with the other two arriving within the year. We also expect the delivery of two more light lift transports before the end of 2015. [Applause] If we ever encounter another spate of problems like what happened in 2013, we are going to need more assets. When Yolanda struck, our docks were destroyed, and our ability to deliver aid was hampered. In such situations, landing craft utilities are invaluable because of their ability to dock on any shore.
Now, we have increased the number of our landing craft utilities from four to ten. There is the BRP Tagbanua. By next week, two Landing Craft Heavy will arrive from Australia; the turnover of these vessels was very generous: they even came with spare parts and generators. We plan on buying three more; once all the paperwork has been put in order, the processes to procure them will begin. These vessels will reduce our dependence on the kindness of other nations; we will be able to accelerate delivery to different parts of the Philippines, and more promptly send aid, supplies, and other heavy equipment such as bulldozers, which are needed for clearing and relief operations. [Applause] To better watch over our territory, we have also acquired 12 FA-50 fighters to replace our F5 fighter jets that were retired in 2005.
The first two units will arrive in December, and the rest of the deliveries will be completed by 2017. We have also acquired war ships such as the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and the Ramon Alcaraz, seven of 13 AW-109 helicopters, six of eight Bell-412 helicopters, 617 troop carrier trucks, and 50,629 assault rifles. Our target is to obtain two more frigates, six Close Air Support Aircrafts, 142 armored personnel carriers, and other new items such as 49,135 units of force protection equipment, 2,884 grenade launchers, and an additional 23,622 assault rifles. [Applause] In total, we have completed 56 projects for modernization, and I have approved 30 more. Compare this to the 45 projects completed by the three administrations that came before us combined. Let us listen to one of our servicemen from the Air Force:
Translated transcript of Testimonial of Jun Perry, member of the Philippine Air Force For the record, Sir, our Air Force now has actual force. There was a joke or stigma back then that the Air Force was all air and no force. I’ve only recently joined the Philippine Air Force, but I spent four years in the Philippine Military Academy, where we learned of the value of air power and air defense. During those four years, we found that the Philippine Air Force was losing its strength. But luckily the long wait is over. In December of 2012, President Aquino signed RA 10349. Now, the Philippine Air Force is receiving adequate advancement. It boosts morale. I’ve heard confirmation from our Army classmates themselves. One of them even said: “Mistah, when I heard the sound of the chopper taking flight, I was so inspired.” This is a dream that has slowly, but surely turned into a reality. [Applause]
As for our police, for the first time in our history, each of our policemen has his or her own firearm. Furthermore, to improve the capacity of our police force to shoot, scoot, and communicate, we have distributed 302 patrol jeeps, which are only part of the 2,523 that we have procured. We have also distributed 179 of 577 new utility vehicles, as well as 12,399 handheld radios. We are likewise procuring 30,136 long firearms, 3,328 investigative kits, and another 16,867 radios. Let us listen to some of our policemen, who talk about how these efforts have helped them in their work: Translated transcript of Testimonial of Melvin Velasquez
When I entered the police service in 2003, I was issued a .38 revolver. Sometimes some of the criminals we encountered were equipped with high-powered weapons. The .38 revolver paled in comparison to the ones used by criminals. In fact, I had to buy my own gun. It is difficult for us law enforcers when we encounter situations where we really have to risk our lives. It was a big change when all policemen were finally given their own guns. We know that we can depend on the firearms issued by the government to us. Those of us in the service dream of owning our own house and lot; it was only during this administration that such a dream was realized. As a low-ranking law enforcer, I really feel the reforms instituted by our President-one of which is the value accorded to the national police. The only way we can possibly repay all these good things is by fulfilling our duties in the correct and right way-even if it means sacrificing my life.