Malacanang has defended the SONA, however the President’s speech seemed to have been based on a questionable reading of the state of the nation.
IBON Features— A lot has been said about the President’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA) including criticisms on the seeming rosy picture it depicted. Malacanang has defended the SONA, saying this was based on the belief of ‘correct analysis leads to correct solutions’. However, the President’s speech seemed to have been based on a questionable reading of the state of the nation.
The President enumerated the supposed achievements of his administration in uplifting the lives of Filipinos. There were claims of increased foreign direct investments (FDI) that propped up the economy, an improvement in the manufacturing sector, additional job opportunities, a decrease in the number of overseas Filipino workers, succeeding poverty alleviation, land reform and universal health care programs, and improved social services, among others.
Yet the figures clearly point to the reality that during Pres. Aquino’s past five years in office, pro-business interests were systematically accommodated by the administration. This was at the expense of millions of Filipinos faced with persistent and widespread poverty, and a resulting lingering economic backwardness.
Inclusive growth? It must be reiterated that economic growth, which has also started slowing down, has only benefited a few. Under Aquino, the wealth of the richest oligarchs increased by more than 250% but poverty levels have remained unchanged over the past five years. This is despite a quadruple increase in the budget of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or government’s centerpiece Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) program.
Government has also been putting capital on attracting more foreign investments supposedly for more jobs and a more stable economy. Yet at the same time the country experienced its worst jobs crisis in history as well as unchanged poverty levels in the past 5 years. The number of unemployed and underemployed grew to 12.2 million and the number of poor by some two million according to IBON estimates.
Cost-beneficial Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)? Though the PPPs, government spends billions to guarantee private companies’ profits; for instance, Php57.2 billion of the 2015 national budget have been allocated for PPP projects. A small group of corporations has cornered awarded projects costing Php189 billion including those owned by Sy, Ayala, Pangilinan and Cojuangco. Meanwhile, more than 3 million fisherfolk and residents are to be affected by the Laguna Lakeshore Development PPP project. The MRT project, of course has become an apparent symbol of the irrationality of PPP. There are, for instance, two times as many MRT service interruptions today than in 2010 as the train system continues to deteriorate.
Better job opportunities? The Aquino administration has further institutionalized contractualization and the two-tiered wage system, undermining the right to work and decent pay. Informal, insecure and low-paying employment comprised more than 90% new jobs in 2014. Part-time jobs grew by 593,000 while full-time jobs fell by 130,000 this year.
For working Filipinos, the real value of average daily basic pay nationwide increased only by Php9 or 3.5% between 2010-2014. Wages barely increased but the prices of commodities and utilities kept on increasing.
Social services? Not even 1% of the 2015 national budget was allocated for housing. Yet there were rampant demolitions on one hand and a real estate/ construction boom on the other. Meanwhile, 6 of 10 Filipinos die every year without seeing a doctor; 80,000 infants die every year from preventable diseases. PhilHealth coverage of 70% was the lowest in many years, while 82% of Filipinos’ health spending still had to be shelled out by patients. Meanwhile, the creation and implementation of the K-to-12 program continues to be questioned as it imposes two additional years in the grading system while backlogs in schools, classrooms, textbooks and teachers persist.
Land distribution? 1.2 million farmers are still in tenancy arrangements while 9 of 10 CARP beneficiaries are landless. The Aquino administration will also leave behind a legacy of having the slowest land distribution rate among post-EDSA administrations.
Human rights? There have been more political prisoners in Pres. Aquino’s five years than during former Pres. Arroyo’s 9 years. Human rights violations including extrajudicial killings have been on the rise under the Aquino government. Peasants and indigenous peoples top Aquino’s human rights victims as resource-rich sites including farmlands and ancestral domains are heavily guarded by military and paramilitary groups for mining, logging operations and other so-called development projects. This includes 300,000 hectares of land in Mindanao that are eyed by foreign corporations and being facilitated by the Aquino administration. Pres. Aquino is also leaving behind a legacy of dishonoring past substantial peace agreements as with the National Democratic Front (NDF). In violation to the agreement granting safe passes to NDF peace consultants, it has imprisoned the most number of NDF peace consultants along with many other peace and human rights activists.
These are only some of the real situations that showcase erroneous solutions for problems that Filipinos currently face. As critics put it, perhaps a sharpening of analysis from the people’s perspective is urgently in order. IBON Features