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Feature: SONA 2009 and PGMA's critics

Manila (27 July) -- "Sinagot na niya ang kanyang mga kritiko," so described Professor Alex Magno after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivered her ninth and last State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) at the House of Representatives in Quezon City.

In her report, President Arroyo described the state of the nation since her 2008 SONA as "a strong economy" while lashing out her critics saying, "have we listened to our critics, this country could have lied flat on its back!"

The President revealed that with the economic measures that her administration has implemented to boost government revenues, the country was able to develop critical infrastructures like seaports, airports, and roll-on-roll-off routes. She cited as an example the development of the Subic-Clark Expressway that has helped create wealth to Subic and Clark, Pampanga.

The Chief Executive made mention also of her recent order to the National Telecommunications (NTC) to act on complaints of unfair charges on drop calls and diminishing loads.

President Arroyo likewise reported that since its development in the country, the Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) has grown into a $6 billion-sector that has provided massive employment to Filipinos. Thus the call of the President for the development of "a department of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)".

She also revealed that about 700,000 families have already benefited from the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamiliyang Pilipino Project) while 700,000 ‘katutubo' and CARP beneficiaries are now proud land owners.

Among the accomplishments that the President also mentioned include the government's emergency jobs program which is part of her Economic Resiliency Program (ERP) that have provided employment to many; housing and shelter programs; the development of farm-to-market roads and irrigation infrastructures; P1 billion fund to fish farming; and the increase of farm gate price of rice from P11 to P17 per kilo; and the creation of 8.095 million jobs since 2001.

Economically, the President pointed out that through her administration the average inflation rate of the county is at 1.5 percent as of June 2009 – the lowest since 1966, while the average growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country is at 4.6 percent from 2001 to 2009. Her administration is also responsible for the reduction of the public debt and foreign debt from to 32 percent, with the self-rated poverty rate lowering to 47 percent.

With the influx of OFW remittances which is now already at P166.91 billion, the Foreign exchange reserves of the country grew by $3 billion. Hence, President Arroyo's intent to create an Investors Protection Task Force to help OFWs create investments in the country.

Legislatively, the President reported the passage of Cheaper Medicines law, Rent Control law, Biofuels Act, Renewable Energy Act, and the 2010 Fully Automated elections.

In Education and Skills training, the government has provided means and measures for the Filipino people to realize their dreams through education – which she referred to as a great equalizer. Part of this, she said, is the P1.5 billion fund for 100,000 teachers' training in English teaching; removal of miscellaneous fees in school expenses; removal of the requirement to wear school uniforms; and scholarships extended to 600,000 College and Post-Graduates. Aside from this, the President revealed that the Presidential Task Force on Education has already envisioned a "Philippine Main Education Highway" to better our education system.

For peace in Mindanao, the Chief Executive has expressed desire for Muslim, Christians and Lumads to find a common ground that respects each others beliefs.

In the same report, President Arroyo thanked the Congress "for standing with me, and doing the right thing".

On one hand, she told her critics that she "will step down from this stage but not from the Presidency" as her "term will end next year", pointing out that "I never expressed desire to extend my term".

She shot back at her detractors, saying "those who live in glass houses should not cast stones"

For those who want to become President, the Chief Executive advised them to do something but "don't say bad words in public".

At the end of her report, President Arroyo thanked the Filipino people for "allowing me to be your President".

Mrs. Arroyo received about 126 applauses and at least two standing ovations during the occasion.

Palace's allies are quick to defend the President saying, "it is about time na sagutin na talaga niya ang kanyang mga kritiko." (PIA) [top]

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