SONA clash: The man of the hour vs the anachronistic Reds
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-07-24
If President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) had a bad reputation for lying — like someone we know — one might be tempted to say that his third SONA (State of the Nation Address) was a snow job. It gave that impression because very rarely did we ever hear such progress being made, especially coming from what was a disaster zone three years ago, under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime.

With so much accomplishment to report to the nation, yesterday’s SONA was comparatively lean in making references to the GMA regime. Contrary to what some critics have been peddling, it’s important that proper references to the root causes of major problems be established. Otherwise, Filipinos will once again fail to see the big picture. P-Noy’s occasional references to the unlamented GMA regime were not personal attacks but important starting points to guide Filipinos where we came from. Only when we know where we came from can we then forge a sure path to progress.

More than P-Noy’s SONA, the president’s July 18th live interview with ANC’s Coco Alcuaz provided more insights on where P-Noy hopes to bring us when he steps down as president in June 2016. With so much to report on, the SONA could only glance over the many accomplishments of the P-Noy administration. Coco Alcuaz posed very intelligent questions that brought out the very concepts and values that our president lives by.

Upon discussing the recently promulgated EO (Executive Order) 79 to guide mining operations, Alcuaz was able to draw the following insights from the president:

1. The Mining EO, which took 9 months to prepare, was not the biggest P-Noy faced but certainly demonstrated the loudest proponents, the opposing sides in the issue.

2. P-Noy regards ecotourism as more important than mining. P-Noy said: “Ecotourism continues on and on and on, while you preserve the sites. Mining, once the minerals are gone, that’s it. What happens if it is, if they don’t adhere to the provisions that protect the environment, is a damaged environment that will take years and years to rebuild.”

3. Compared to other leaders who brought a lot of mining revenues to their country, P-Noy sees his duty to protect the patrimony of the nation as the superior value.

Touching on education, P-Noy stated that by 2013, the government hopes to finish the backlog of 64,000 classrooms in the country, and that this will be accomplished without raising taxes.

Asked by Alcuaz about the state of human capital, P-Noy said: “That is actually the source of pride and perhaps our biggest comparative advantage. But there is that necessity of improving the human capital. DepEd, what were the figures presented to me? 14% will graduate from college, that’s why such an emphasis on the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program. 800,000 families got in; we’re now at 3 to 3.1 million families. We’ll have another 700,000 families by next year and perhaps a year after that by 2014, we will have the 4.6 million families or probably 5.2 million families already enrolled in that program.”
Regarding tourism, P-Noy stated that from an initial target of 6 million annual tourist visitors, the government is now aiming for 10 million. With the rise of tourism, will come jobs and infrastructure. From an importer of rice, P-Noy is optimistic that we’ll soon be an exporter.

Asked by Alcuaz about the continuity of the reforms he introduced after 2016, P-Noy said: “I think the central tenet is to get the people used to this level of governance and basically what to expect and what to demand of their government.” He added: “It’s the people who will ensure that the right officials will be put in place.”

Asked by Alcuaz if P-Noy was not giving China enough space to back off without losing face, P-Noy answered: “We have not engaged in a media war, to the same extent that they have within their own country. We have not yet gone into international arbitration. We have tried to be as reasonable as possible.” He added: “I don’t think I have been as belligerent as some sectors are saying I should be tougher. But I think we have given them all of the necessary means and steps to avoid having the “loss of face” aspect, trying to come up with something that is doable immediately.”

While the country and the international community are optimistic and excited about the prospects of the Philippines under P-Noy, the Philippine man of the hour, the usual rabble-rousers — the front organizations of the Reds — have been staging their own version of the SONA. If you listen to them, it’s as if we have gone from bad to worse, from GMA to P-Noy.

Pathetic is the best word that comes to mind because nobody really listens to them. It’s puzzling why media here allow the Reds more space and time than they deserve. They’re noisy like prattle and nothing more. Filipinos never bought the Red line and they’ll not likely buy it now, not after Russia and China had junked it.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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