Halik ng malupit

Rey Tamayo, Jr.

Alab ng himagsik kumawalang pilit,

Nang biglang humibik matapang na langit.

Pag-asa’y pinitik; kapalit ay galit–

At naging mabagsik kamaong kay bait.

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SONA ng Mamamayan

Talumpati ni Dr. Carol P. Araullo
Tagapangulo, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

Magandang tanghali sa lahat ng dumalo sa pagtitipon natin dito sa lansangan para ihayag ang tunay na kalagayan ng bayan, makiisa at magprotesta dito sa tinatawag nating SONA ng Mamamayan. Mabuhay kayo!

Sapagkat alam nating pawang kasinungalingan ang manggagaling kay Gng. Arroyo sa kanyang bibigkasing SONA sa Konggreso, ayaw nating palampasin ang insultong ito. Gusto nating patunayan na hindi na niya kayang lokohin pa ang taumbayan.

Kaya nga hindi tayo titigil, bagkus lalo nating pag-iibayuhin ang pagprotesta hanggat nakaupo si Gng. Arroyo sa Malakanyang sapagkat hindi na dapat patagalin pa ang kanyang papet, pasista at bulok na rehimen.

Bumubulusok ang satisfaction, approval at trust rating ni Arroyo – pinakamababa sa kasaysayan, sa lahat ng rehiyon, at sa lahat ng grupong sosyo-ekonomiko — patunay na sinisingil ng malawak na masa, maging ng mga nasa panggitna hanggang nakatataas na uri sa lipunan, ang rehimen sa kanyang mga krimen at iba pang kasalanan sa bayan.

Mabilis ang paghuhugas-kamay ng rehimen sa sumisirit ng presyo ng langis, ng bigas at iba pang mga pangunahing bilihin at serbisyo tulad ng tubig, kuryente, edukasyon. Maayos daw ang pagpapatakbo ni Gng. Arroyo sa ekonomya kundi nga lang ba nagkaroon ng pandaigdigang krisis. Wala raw magagawa ang gubyerno nito kundi iraos ang mga problemang nagsisipagdatingan at maghintay ng paglipas ng bagyo ng pandaigdigang krisis.

Subalit ano ang totoo? Totoong bahagi ang nararansan nating krisis ng isang pandaigdigang krisis, ang krisis ng imperyalismo. Pero hindi totoong walang magagawa at walang pananagutan ang gobyerno sa krisis na kasalukuyang bumabayo sa ating lipunan.

Panay ang anunsyo ni Gng. Arroyo ng mga sabsidi para may ipakita siyang tugon sa gipit na gipit na sitwasyon ng napakaraming Pilipino ngayon. Pero ayon sa survey ng Pulse Asia walang epekto ang mga gimik na ito. Walang tiwala at hindi nasisiyahan sa performance ni Arroyo kahit ang mga tumatanggap ng sari-saring sabsidi mula sa gobyerno.

Tinatanggihan ni Arroyong ipatupad ang mga hakbang na kagyat na makapagpapababa ng mga presyo ng mga bilihin tulad ng pagtanggal ng VAT sa mga produktong langis at kuryente. Ito’y sapagkat tumatabo ang gubyerno ng bilyon-bilyong piso mula sa pabigat na mga buwis na ito. Ang VAT ay ipinapataw sa atin ng IMF-World Bank at mga pinagkakautangang mga higanteng dayuhang bangko, para matiyak ang tuloy-tuloy na pagbabayad natin ng utang. Kinakaltasan ang badyet para sa mga serbisyo para mapunta sa pagbayad sa dayuhang utang ang napipigang yaman mula sa ating mga mamamayan.

Higit pa, malaking bahagi ng VAT ang napupunta sa pangungrakot ng mga kapamilya, kroni at kaalyadong politiko ni Arroyo at sa walang kahihinatnang gera laban sa mga rebeldeng NPA at Moro, na nagdudulot lamang ng malawakang paglabag sa mga karapatang pantao at higit na kawalan ng kapayapaan sa bansa.

Ang hanap ng mga magsasaka ay lupa at suporta sa agrikultura; mga manggagawa’y, trabaho at sahod na nakabubuhay sa pamilya; mga kabataan, edukasyong abot-kaya at pag-asa sa kinabukasan; mga maralitang lunsod, huwag itapon sa kalsada at itaboy na parang hayop sa sariling bayan. Ang mga panggitnang uri naman ay naghahanap ng maayos na pagpapatakbo ng gubyerno, bawas ang kurakot at pang-aabuso, pagkakataong umasenso, pagsugpo sa kriminalidad.

Sa walong taon sa poder, hindi ito ibinigay at di kayang ibigay ng rehimeng US-Arroyo. Reporma sa lupa? Ang mga Arroyo mismo ay mga cacique, dala-dala ang interes ng malalaking panginoong maylupa kaya’t walang interes na magpatupad ng tunay na repormang agraryo.

Disenteng trabaho? Pinagpapatuloy ni Arroyo ang patakaran na panatiliing tambakan ang bansa ng mga sobrang produkto at kapital ng mga monopolyo kapitalistang bansa sa halip na itayo ang sariling mga industriya na magbibigay ng trabaho, gagamit ng mga hilaw na sangkap mula sa bansa at tutugon sa sarili nating pangangailangan.

Walang habas na pinatutupad ni Arroyo ang mga patakaran ng imperyalistang “globalisasyon” kahit na ang dulot nito’y pagwasak ng agrikultura’t anumang natitirang kakarampot na manupaktura sa bansa. Tayo diumano’y bansang agrikutural pero ni hindi mapunuan ang pangangailangan sa bigas at iba pang pagkain ng sariling mamamayan. Binubuhay lamang ang ating ekonomiya ng remittances ng mahigit sampung milyong OFW at tuloy-tuloy na pangungutang.

At upang makapanatili sa poder sa kabila ng kalagayang isinusuka at kinamumuhian na siya ng sambayanan, si Arroyo ay nagpapakatuta sa imperyalistang Amerikano at sunud-sunuran sa panggegera nito sa mundo sa ngalan ng kontra-terorismo; kinokorap ang mga heneral at ginagawang pambala sa kanyon ang mga sundalo; sinusuhulan ang mga konggresista, gubernador at ibang lokal na opisyal, maging mga Obispo; at patuloy na winawalanghiya ang bayan at pinapasista ang mamamayang lumalaban.

Sa pulong ng pinagsanib na Lakas-NUCD at Kammpi kamakailan, nagawa pang sabihin ni Arroyo na maaabot ng Pilipinas ang pagiging mayaman at maunlad na bansa tulad ng ibang mga bansa sa First World sa loob lamang ng dalawampung (20) taon, BASTA magpatuloy ang pagkakaisa’t pagtutulungan ng lahat na kanyang kapartido. Hudyat kaya ito ng tunay na pag-ahon sa kinasasadlakang atrasado, mahirap at dustang kalagayang malakolonyal, malapyudal o ibig sabihin ni Arroyo na kailangang manatili pa siya sa poder ng dagdag pang dalawampung (20) taon upang maiahon ang Pilipinas sa kahirapan at maihatid sa kaunlaran?!

Napakarami, napakabibigat at napakahihigpit ng mga dahilan para kagyat na patalsikin ang korap, papet, pasista’t kriminal na rehimeng US-Arroyo. Pero kailangang palakasin at palawakin pa natin ang kilusang protesta ng mamamayan para maipatupad ito. Dapat nating pag-ibayuhin at mabuo ang kapasyahan ng mamamayang patalsikin ang rehimeng ito upang mahawan ang daan tungo sa tunay
at saligang mga pagbabago sa lipunan.

SONA: 2nd Regular Session of the 14th Congress

State of the Nation Address of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
2nd Regular Session of the 14th Congress
Republic of the Philippines
28 July 2008

Thank you, Speaker Nograles. Senate President Villar. Senators and Representatives. Vice President de Castro, President Ramos, Chief Justice Puno, members of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen:

I address you today at a crucial moment in world history.

Just a few months ago, we ended 2007 with the strongest economic growth in a generation. Inflation was low, the peso strong and a million new jobs were created. We were all looking to a better, brighter future.

Because tough choices were made, kumikilos na ang bayan sa wakas. Malapit na sana tayo sa pagbalanse ng budget. We were retiring debts in great amounts, reducing the drag on our country’s development, habang namumuhunan sa taong bayan.

Biglang-bigla, nabaligtad ang ekonomiya ng mundo. Ang pagtalon ng presyo ng langis at pagkain ay nagbunsod ng pandaigdigan krisis, the worst since the Great Depression and the end of World War II. Some blame speculators moving billions of dollars from subprime mortgages to commodities like fuel and food. Others point of the very real surge in demand as millions of Chinese and Indians move up to the middle class.

Whatever the reasons, we are on a roller coaster ride of oil price hikes, high food prices and looming economic recession in the US and other markets. Uncertainty has moved like a terrible tsunami around the globe, wiping away gains, erasing progress.

This is a complex time that defies simple and easy solutions. For starters, it is hard to identify villains, unlike in the 1997 financial crisis. Everyone seems to be a victim, rich countries and poor, though certainly some can take more punishment than others.

To address these global challenges, we must go on building and buttressing bridges to allies around the world: to bring in the rice to feed our people, investments to create jobs; and to keep the peace and maintain stability in our country and the rest of the world. Yet even as we reach out to those who need, and who may need us, we strive for greater self-reliance.

Because tough choices were made, the global crisis did not catch us helpless and unprepared. Through foresight, grit and political will, we built a shield around our country that has slowed down and somewhat softened the worst effects of the global crisis. We have the money to care for our people and pay for food when there are shortages; for fuel despite price spikes.

Neither we nor anyone else in the world expected this day to come so soon but we prepared for it. For the guts not to flinch in the face of tough choices, I thank God. For the wisdom to recognize how needed you are, I thank, you Congress. For footing the bill, I thank the taxpayers.

The result has been, on the one hand, ito ang nakasalba sa bayan; and, on the other, more unpopularity for myself in the opinion polls. Yet, even unfriendly polls show self-rated poverty down to its 20-year low in 2007.

My responsibility as President is to take care to solve the problems we are facing now and to provide a vision and direction for how our nation should advance in the future.

Many in this great hall live privileged lives and exert great influence in public affairs. I am accessible to you, but I spend time every day with the underprivileged and under represented who cannot get a grip on their lives in the daily, all-consuming struggle to make ends meet.

Nag-aalala ako para sa naka-aawang maybahay na pasan ang pananagutan para sa buong pamilya. Nag-aalala ako para sa magsasakang nasa unang hanay ng pambansang produksyon ng pagkain ngunit nagsisikap pakanin ang pamilya. I care for hardworking students soon to graduate and wanting to see hope of good job and a career prospect here at home.

Nag-aalala ako para sa 41-year old na padre de pamilya na di araw-araw ang trabaho, at nag-aabala sa asawa at tatlong anak, at dapat bigyan ng higit pang pagkakakitaan at dangal. I care for our teachers who gave the greatest gift we ever received – a good education – still trying to pass on the same gift to succeeding generations. I care for our OFWs, famed for their skill, integrity and untiring labor, who send home their pay as the only way to touch loved ones so far away. Nagpupugay ako ngayon sa kanilang mga karaniwang Pilipino.

My critics say this is fiction, along with other facts and figures I cite today. I call it heroism though they don’t need our praise. Each is already a hero to those who matter most, their families.

I said this is a global crisis where everyone is a victim. But only few can afford to avoid, or pay to delay, the worst effects.

Many more have nothing to protect them from the immediate blunt force trauma of the global crisis. Tulad ninyo, nag-aalala ako para sa kanila. Ito ang mga taong bayan na dapat samahan natin. Not only because of their sacrifices for our country but because they are our countrymen.

How do we solve these many complex challenges?

Sa kanilang kalagayan, the answer must be special care and attention in this great hour of need.

First, we must have a targeted strategy with set of precise prescriptions to ease the price challenges we are facing.

Second, food self-sufficiency; less energy dependence; greater self-reliance in our attitude as a people and in our posture as a nation.

Third, short-term relief cannot be at the expense of long term reforms. These reforms will benefit not just the next generation of Filipinos, but the next President as well.

Napakahalaga ang Value Added Tax sa pagharap sa mga hamong ito.

Itong programa ang sagot sa mga problemang namana natin.

Una, mabawasan ang ating mga utang and shore up our fiscal independence.

Pangalawa, higit na pamumuhunan para mamamayan at imprastraktura.

Pangatlo, sapat na pondo para sa mga programang pangmasa.

Thus, the infrastructure links programmed for the our poorest provinces like Northern Samar: Lao-ang-Lapinig- Arteche, right now ay maputik, San Isidro-Lope de Vega; the rehabilitation of Maharlika in Samar.

Take VAT away and you and I abdicate our responsibility as leaders and pull the rug from under our present and future progress, which may be compromised by the global crisis.

Lalong lumakas ang tiwala ng mga investor dahil sa VAT. Mula P56.50 kada dolyar, lumakas ang piso hanggang P40.20 bago bumalik sa P44 dahil sa mga pabigat ng pangdaigdigang ekonomiya. Kung alisin ang VAT, hihina ang kumpiyansa ng negosyo, lalong tataas ang interes, lalong bababa ang piso, lalong mamahal ang bilihin.

Kapag ibinasura ang VAT sa langis at kuryente, ang mas makikinabang ay ang mga may kaya na kumukonsumo ng 84% ng langis at 90% ng kuryente habang mas masasaktan ang mahihirap na mawawalan ng P80 billion para sa mga programang pinopondohan ngayon ng VAT. Take away VAT and we strip our people of the means to ride out the world food and energy crisis.

We have come too far and made too many sacrifices to turn back now on fiscal reforms. Leadership is not about doing the first easy thing that comes to mind; it is about doing what is necessary, however hard.

The government has persevered, without flip-flops, in its much-criticized but irreplaceable policies, including oil and power VAT and oil deregulation.

Patuloy na gagamitin ng pamahalaan ang lumalago nating yaman upang tulungan ang mga pamilyang naghihirap sa taas ng bilihin at hampas ng bagyo, habang nagpupundar upang sanggahan ang bayan sa mga krisis sa hinaharap.

Para sa mga namamasada at namamasahe sa dyip, sinusugpo natin ang kotong at colorum upang mapataas ang kita ng mga tsuper. Si Federico Alvarez kumikita ng P200 a day sa kaniyang rutang Cubao-Rosario. Tinaas ito ng anti-kotong, anti-colorum ngayon P500 na ang kita niya. Iyan ang paraan kung paano napananatili ang dagdag-pasahe sa piso lamang. Halaga lang ng isang text.

Texting is a way of life. I asked the telecoms to cut the cost of messages between networks. They responded. It is now down to 50 centavos.

Noong Hunyo, nagpalabas tayo ng apat na bilyong piso mula sa VAT sa langis—dalawang bilyong pambayad ng koryente ng apat na milyong mahihirap, isang bilyon para college scholarship o pautang sa 70,000 na estudyanteng maralita; kalahating bilyong pautang upang palitan ng mas matipid na LPG, CNG o biofuel ang motor ng libu-libong jeepney; at kalahating bilyong pampalit sa fluorescent sa mga pampublikong lugar.

Kung mapapalitan ng fluorescent ang lahat ng bumbilya, makatitipid tayo ng lampas P2 billion.

Sa sunod na katas ng VAT, may P1 billion na pambayad ng kuryente ng mahihirap; kalahating bilyon para sa matatandang di sakop ng SSS o GSIS; kalahating bilyong kapital para sa pamilya ng mga namamasada; kalahating bilyon upang mapataas ang kakayahan at equipment ng mga munting ospital sa mga lalawigan. At para sa mga kalamidad, angkop na halaga.

We released P1 billion for the victims of typhoon Frank. We support a supplemental Western Visayas calamity budget from VAT proceeds, as a tribute to the likes of Rodney Berdin, age 13, of Barangay Rombang, Belison, Antique, who saved his mother, brother and sister from the raging waters of Sibalom River.

Mula sa buwang ito, wala nang income tax ang sumusweldo ng P200,000 o mas mababa sa isang taon – P12 billion na bawas-buwis para sa maralita at middle class. Maraming salamat, Congress.

Ngayong may P32 na commercial rice, natugunan na natin ang problema sa pagkain sa kasalukuyan. Nagtagumpay tayo dahil sa pagtutulungan ng buong bayan sa pagsasaka, bantay-presyo at paghihigpit sa price manipulation, sa masipag na pamumuno ni Artie Yap.

Sa mga LGU at religious groups na tumutulong dalhin ang NFA rice sa mahihirap, maraming salamat sa inyo.

Dahil sa subsidy, NFA rice is among the region’s cheapest. While we can take some comfort that our situation is better than many other nations, there is no substitute for solving the problem of rice and fuel here at home. In doing so, let us be honest and clear eyed – there has been a fundamental shift in global economics. The price of food and fuel will likely remain high. Nothing will be easy; the government cannot solve these problems over night. But, we can work to ease the near-term pain while investing in long-term solutions.

Since 2001, new irrigation systems for 146,000 hectares, including Malmar in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, Lower Agusan, Casecnan and Aulo in Nueva Ecija, Abulog-Apayao in Cagayan and Apayao, Addalam in Quirino and Isabela, among others, and the restoration of old systems on another 980,000 hectares have increased our nation’s irrigated land to a historic 1.5 million hectares.

Edwin Bandila, 48 years old, of Ugalingan, Carmen, North Cotabato, cultivated one hectare and harvested 35 cavans. Thirteen years na ginawa iyong Malmar. In my first State of the Nation Address, sabi ko kung hindi matapos iyon sa Setyembre ay kakanselahin ko ang kontrata, papapasukin ko ang engineering brigade, natapos nila. With Malamar, now he cultivates five hectares and produces 97 cavans per hectare. Mabuhay, Edwin! VAT will complete the San Roque-Agno River project.

The Land Bank has quadrupled loans for farmers and fisherfolk. That is fact not fiction. Check it. For more effective credit utilization, I instructed DA to revitalize farmers cooperatives.

We are providing seeds at subsidized prices to help our farmers.

Incremental Malampaya national revenues of P4 billion will go to our rice self-sufficiency program.

Rice production since 2000 increased an average of 4.07% a year, twice the population growth rate. By promoting natural planning and female education, we have curbed population growth to 2.04% during our administration, down from the 2.36 in the 1990’s, when artificial birth control was pushed. Our campaign spreads awareness of responsible parenthood regarding birth spacing. Long years of pushing contraceptives made it synonymous to family planning. Therefore informed choice should mean letting more couples, who are mostly Catholics, know about natural family planning.

From 1978 to 1981, nag-export tayo ng bigas. Hindi tumagal. But let’s not be too hard on ourselves. Panahon pa ng Kastila bumibili na tayo ng bigas sa labas. While we may know how to grow rice well, topography doesn’t always cooperate.

Nature did not gift us with a mighty Mekong like Thailand and Vietnam, with their vast and naturally fertile plains. Nature instead put our islands ahead of our neighbours in the path of typhoons from the Pacific. So, we import 10% of the rice we consume.

To meet the challenge of today, we will feed our people now, not later, and help them get through these hard times. To meet the challenges of tomorrow, we must become more self-reliant, self-sufficient and independent, relying on ourselves more than on the world.

Now we come to the future of agrarian reform.

There are those who say it is a failure, that our rice importations prove it. There are those who say it is a success—if only because anything is better than nothing. Indeed, people are happier owning the land they work, no matter what the difficulties.

Sa SONA noong 2001, sinabi ko, bawat taon, mamamahagi tayo ng dalawang daang libong ektarya sa reporma sa lupa: 100,000 hectares of private farmland and 100,000 of public farmland, including ancestral domains. Di hamak mahigit sa target ang naipamahagi natin sa nakaraang pitong taon: 854,000 hectares of private farmland, 797,000 of public farmland, and Certificates of Ancestral Domain for 525,000 hectares. Including, over a 100,000 hectares for Bugkalots in Quirino, Aurora, and Nueva Vizcaya. After the release of their CADT, Rosario Camma, Bugkalot chieftain, and now mayor of Nagtipunan, helped his 15,000-member tribe develop irrigation, plant vegetables and corn and achieve food sufficiency. Mabuhay, Chief!

Agrarian reform should not merely subdivide misery, it must raise living standards. Ownership raises the farmer from his but productivity will keep him on his feet.

Sinimula ng aking ama ang land reform noong 1963. Upang mabuo ito, the extension of CARP with reforms is top priority. I will continue to do all I can for the rural as well as urban poor. Ayaw natin na paglaya ng tenant sa landlord, mapapasa-ilalim naman sa usurero. Former tenants must be empowered to become agribusinessmen by allowing their land to be used as collateral.

Dapat mapalaya ng reporma sa lupa ang magsasaka sa pagiging alipin sa iba. Dapat bigyan ang magsasaka ng dangal bilang taong malaya at di hawak ninuman. We must curb the recklessness that gives land without the means to make it productive and bites off more than beneficiaries can chew.

At the same time, I want the rackets out of agrarian reform: the threats to take and therefore undervalue land, the conspiracies to overvalue it.

Be with me on this. There must be a path where justice and progress converge. Let us find it before Christmas. Dapat nating linisin ang landas para sa mga ibig magpursige sa pagsasaka, taglay ang pananalig na ang lupa ay sasagip sa atin sa huli kung gamitin natin ito nang maayos.

Along with massive rice production, we are cutting costs through more efficient transport. For our farm-to-market roads, we released P6 billion in 2007.

On our nautical highways. RORO boats carried 33 million metric tons of cargo and 31 million passengers in 2007. We have built 39 RORO ports during our administration, 12 more are slated to start within the next two years. In 2003, we inaugurated the Western Nautical Highway from Batangas through Mindoro, Panay and Negros to Mindanao. This year we launched the Central Nautical Highway from Bicol mainland, through Masbate, Cebu, Bohol and Camiguin to Mindanao mainland. These developments strengthen our competitiveness.

Leading multinational company Nestle cut transport costs and offset higher milk prices abroad. Salamat, RORO. Transport costs have become so reasonable for bakeries like Gardenia, a loaf of its bread in Iloilo is priced the same as in Laguna and Manila. Salamat muli sa RORO.

To the many LGUs who have stopped collecting fees from cargo vehicles, maraming, maraming salamat.

We are repaving airports that are useful for agriculture, like Zamboanga City Airport.

Producing rice and moving it cheaper addresses the supply side of our rice needs. On the demand side, we are boosting the people’s buying power.

Ginagawa nating labor-intensive ang paggawa at pag-ayos ng kalsada at patubig. Noong SONA ng 2001, naglunsad tayo sa NCR ng patrabaho para sa 20,000 na out of school youth, na tinawag OYSTER. Ngayon, mahigit 20,000 ang ineempleyo ng OYSTER sa buong bansa. In disaster-stricken areas, we have a cash-for-work program.

In training, 7.74 million took technical and vocational courses over the last seven years, double the number in the previous 14 years. In 2007 alone, 1.7 million graduated. Among them are Jessica Barlomento now in Hanjin as supply officer, Shenve Catana, Marie Grace Comendador, and Marlyn Tusi, lady welders, congratulations.

In microfinance, loans have reached P102 billion or 30 times more than the P3 billion we started with in 2001, with a 98% repayment record, congratulations! Major lenders include the Land Bank with P69 billion, the Peoples’ Credit and Finance Corporation P8 billion, the National Livelihood Support Fund P3 billion, DBP P1 billion and the DSWD’s SEA-K P800 million. For partnering with us to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit, thank you, Go Negosyo and Joey Concepcion.

Upland development benefits farmers through agro-forestry initiatives. Rubber is especially strong in Zamboanga Sibugay and North Cotabato. Victoria Mindoro, 56 years old, used to earn P5,000 a month as farmer and factory worker. Now she owns 10 hectares in the Goodyear Agrarian Reform Community in Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay, she earns P10,000 a week. With one hectare, Pedro and Concordia Faviolas of Makilala, North Cotabato, they sent their six children to college, bought two more hectares, and earn P15,000 a month. Congratulations!

Jatropha estates are starting in 900 hectares in and around Tamlang Valley in Negros Oriental; 200 in CamSur; 300 in GenSan, 500 in Fort Magsaysay near the Cordero Dam and 700 in Samar, among others.

In our 2006 SONA, our food baskets were identified as North Luzon and Mindanao.

The sad irony of Mindanao as food basket is that it has some of the highest hunger in our nation. It has large fields of high productivity, yet also six of our ten poorest provinces.

The prime reason is the endless Mindanao conflict. A comprehensive peace has eluded us for half a century. But last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved. Yes, there are political dynamics among the people of Mindanao. Let us sort them out with the utmost sobriety, patience and restraint. I ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office.

The demands of decency and compassion urge dialogue. Better talk than fight, if nothing of sovereign value is anyway lost. Dialogue has achieved more than confrontation in many parts of the world. This was the message of the recent World Conference in Madrid organized by the King of Saudi Arabia, and the universal message of the Pope in Sydney.

Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est reminds us: “There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love for neighbour is indispensable. ”

Pinagsasama- sama natin ang mga programa ng DSWD, DOH, GSIS, SSS at iba pang lumalaban sa kahirapan sa isang National Social Welfare Program para proteksyonan ang pinaka-mahihirap mula sa pandaigdigang krisis, and to help those whose earnings are limited by illness, disability, loss of job, age and so on—through livelihood projects, microfinance, skills and technology transfer, emergency and temporary employment, pension funds, food aid and cash subsidies, child nutrition and adult health care, medical missions, salary loans, insurance, housing programs, educational and other savings schemes, and now cheaper medicine—Thanks to Congress.

The World Bank says that in Brazil, the income of the poorest 10% has grown 9% per year versus the 3% for the higher income levels due in large part to their family stipend program linking welfare checks to school attendance. We have introduced a similar program, Pantawid Pamilya.

Employers have funded the two increases in SSS benefits since 2005. Thank you, employers for paying the premiums.

GSIS pensions have been indexed to inflation and have increased every year since 2001. Its salary loan availments have increased from two months equivalent to 10 months, the highest of any system public or private—while repayments have been stretched out.

Pag-Ibig housing loans increased from P3.82 billion in 2001 to P22.6 billion in 2007. This year it experienced an 84% increase in the first four months alone. Super heating na. Dapat dagdagan ng GSIS at buksan muli ng SSS ang pautang sa pabahay. I ask Congress to pass a bill allowing SSS to do housing loans beyond the present 10% limitation.

Bago ako naging Pangulo, isa’t kalahating milyong maralita lamang ang may health insurance. Noong 2001, sabi natin, dadagdagan pa ng kalahating milyon. Sa taong iyon, mahigit isang milyon ang nabigyan natin. Ngayon, 65 milyong Pilipino na ang may health insurance, mahigit doble ng 2000, kasama ang labinlimang milyong maralita. Philhealth has paid P100 billion for hospitalization. The indigent beneficiaries largely come from West and Central Visayas, Central Luzon, and Ilocos. Patuloy nating palalawakin itong napaka-importanted programa, lalo na sa Tawi-Tawi, Zambo Norte, Maguindanao, Apayao, Dinagat, Lanao Sur, Northern Samar, Masbate, Abra and Misamis Occidental. Lalo na sa kanilang mga magsasaka at mangingisda.

In these provinces and in Agusan Sur, Kalinga, Surigao Sur and calamity-stricken areas, we will launch a massive school feeding program at P10 per child every school day.

Bukod sa libreng edukasyon sa elementarya at high school, nadoble ang pondo para sa mga college scholarships, while private high school scholarship funds from the government have quadrupled.

I have started reforming and clustering the programs of the DepEd, CHED and TESDA.

As with fiscal and food challenges, the global energy crunch demands better and more focused resource mobilization, conservation and management.

Government agencies are reducing their energy and fuel bills by 10%, emulating Texas Instruments and Philippine Stock Exchange who did it last year. Congratulations, Justice Vitug and Francis Lim.

To reduce power system losses, we count on government regulators and also on EPIRA amendments.

We are successful in increasing energy self-sufficiency—56%, the highest in our history. We promote natural gas and biofuel; geothermal fields, among the world’s largest; windmills like those in Ilocos and Batanes; and the solar cells lighting many communities in Mindanao. The new Galoc oil field can produce 17,000-22,000 barrels per day, 1/12 of our crude consumption.

The Renewable Energy Bill has passed the House. Thank you, Congressmen.

Our costly commodity imports like oil and rice should be offset by hard commodities exports like primary products, and soft ones like tourism and cyberservices, at which only India beats us.

Our P 350 million training partnership with the private sector should qualify 60,000 for call centers, medical transcription, animation and software development, which have a projected demand of one million workers generating $13 billion by 2010.

International finance agrees with our progress. Credit rating agencies have kept their positive or stable outlook on the country. Our world competitiveness ranking rose five notches. Congratulations to us.

We are sticking to, and widening, the fiscal reforms that have earned us their respect.

To our investors, thank you for your valuable role in our development. I invite you to invest not only in factories and services, but in profitable infrastructure, following the formula for the Tarlac-Pangasinan- La Union Expressway.

I ask business and civil society to continue to work for a socially equitable, economically viable balance of interests. Mining companies should ensure that host communities benefit substantively from their investments, and with no environmental damage from operations.

Our administration enacted the Solid Waste Management Act, Wildlife Act, Protection of Plant Varieties, Clean Water Act, Biofuels Act and various laws declaring protected areas.

For reforestation, for next year we have budgeted P2 billion. Not only do forests enhance the beauty of the land, they mitigate climate change, a key factor in increasing the frequency and intensity of typhoons and costing the country 0.5% of the GDP.

We have set up over 100 marine and fish sanctuaries since 2001. In the whaleshark sanctuary of Donsol, Sorsogon, Alan Amanse, 40-year-old college undergraduate and father of two, was earning P100 a day from fishing and driving a tricycle. Now as whaleshark-watching officer, he is earns P1,000 a day, ten times his former income.

For clean water, so important to health, there is P500 million this year and P1.5 billion for next year.

From just one sanitary landfill in 2001, we now have 21, with another 18 in the works.

We launched the Zero Basura Olympics to clear our communities of trash. Rather than more money, all that is needed is for each citizen to keep home and workplace clean, and for garbage officials to stop squabbling.

Our investments also include essential ways to strengthen our institutions of governance in order to fight the decades-old scourge of corruption. I will continue to fight this battle every single day. While others are happy with headlines through accusation without evidence and privilege speeches without accountability, we have allocated more than P3 billion – the largest anti-graft fund in our history – for real evidence gathering and vigorous prosecution.

From its dismal past record, the Ombudsman’s conviction rate has increased 500%. Lifestyle checks, never seriously implemented before our time, have led to the dismissal and/or criminal prosecution of dozens of corrupt officials.

I recently met with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US agency that provides grants to countries based on governance. They have commended our gains, contributed P1 billion to our fight against graft, and declared us eligible for more grants. Thank you!

Last September, we created the Procurement Transparency Group in the DBM and linked it with business, academe, and the Church, to deter or catch anomalies in government contracts.

On my instruction, the BIR and Customs established similar government-civil society tie-ups for information gathering and tax evasion and smuggling monitoring.

More advanced corruption practices require a commensurate advances in legislative responses. Colleagues in Congress, we need a more stringent Anti-Graft Act.

Sa pagmahal ng bilihin, hirap na ang mamimili – tapos, dadayain pa. Dapat itong mahinto. Hinihiling ko sa Kongreso na magpasa ng Consumer Bill of Rights laban sa price gouging, false advertising at iba pang gawain kontra sa mamimili.

I call on all our government workers at the national and local levels to be more responsive and accountable to the people. Panahon ito ng pagsubok. Kung saan kayang tumulong at dapat tumulong ang pamahalaan, we must be there with a helping hand. Where government can contribute nothing useful, stay away. Let’s be more helpful, more courteous, more quick.

Kaakibat ng ating mga adhikain ang tuloy na pagkalinga sa kapakanan ng bawat Pilipino. Iisa ang ating pangarap – maunlad at mapayapang lipunan, kung saan ang magandang kinabukasan ay hindi pangarap lamang, bagkus natutupad.

Sama-sama tayo sa tungkuling ito. May papel na gagampanan ang bawat mamamayan, negosyante, pinunong bayan at simbahan, sampu ng mga nasa lalawigan.

We are three branches but one government. We have our disagreements; we each have hopes, and ambitions that drive and divide us, be they personal, ethnic, religious and cultural. But we are one nation with one fate.

As your President, I care too much about this nation to let anyone stand in the way of our people’s wellbeing. Hindi ko papayagang humadlang ang sinuman sa pag-unlad at pagsagana ng taong bayan. I will let no one – and no one’s political plans – threaten our nation’s survival.

Our country and our people have never failed to be there for us. We must be there for them now.

Maraming salamat. Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat.

NUJP’s 22nd anniversary

To all our beloved friends,

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is celebrating its 22nd anniversary on July 30 (Wednesday).

We are taking the opportunity to thank all the people and organizations whose unwavering and generous support have helped the NUJP survive being listed by the military as an “enemy of the state”, grow to 55 chapters nationwide, and earn recognition as an organization that genuinely represents the interests of the working press and our aspirations for press freedom.

Since the date of our anniversary falls on the same period as the annual SONA (state of the nation address), we thought it would make our celebration more significant by encouraging critical analyses of the Philippine media’s performance through a forum on this subject, a state of the media report of sorts.

Thus, on July 30, we have lined up two exciting activities:

  1. PRESSing Times: A Forum on the State of Philippine Media, 9:30 to 11:30 am, College of Mass Communication Auditorium, UP Diliman
  2. Pasasalamat: 22nd NUJP Anniversary Get-together, 12 nn, Balay Kalinaw, UP Diliman

Different media leaders will speak in the forum: Isagani Yambot (print), Ed Lingao (TV), Noel Alamar (Radio), Joe Torres Jr. (Online), Joe Pavia (Community Media) and Mike Ubac (Media Unions). 

During the “Pasasalamat”, we hope to bring together the oldies and newbies in news media. We also plan to launch the Antonio Ma. Nieva Media Training Program.

Please join us on this very important day.

Yours truly,

The NUJP family

More effective options

Anthony Chua

Despite the fact that the Philippines holds the highest population growth rate record Southeast Asia, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo still sides with the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in upholding natural methods of family planning and in condemnation of using of artificial contraceptive methods.

Last week, Arroyo met with CBCP to consolidate their stand against the reproductive health care bills pending at both chambers of Congress. They maintain the Catholic Church’s stand on slamming the use of artificial contraceptives such as vasectomy and tubal ligation. CBCP deems those who use artificial contraceptives as sinners of the same level as those who commit abortion. Ozamiz Archbishop Jesus Dosado, in his pastoral letter, even ordered priests to refuse giving communion to “pro-abortion” legislators.

On the other hand, advocates of reproductive health care bill considered Dosado’s letter “very misleading.” Supporters of the bill stated their unified stance against abortion. Moreover, artificial contraceptives can even improve the reproductive health of women and reduce abortions, which are rampantly committed by Catholics despite the Church’s pro-life, no-to-artificial contraceptives principle.

Majority of Filipinos are self-confessed devout Catholics. We even take pride in saying that we are the only nation which is predominantly Catholic in Asia. Our laws and state principles are largely influenced by Catholic doctrines. But despite the church’s steadfast advocacy of natural contraceptive methods for decades, the glaring and undeniable truth is unwanted pregnancies are still on the rise and abortions, though illegal and immoral, are rampant. What’s worse, the effects stemming from family mis-planning, such as broken homes, illiteracy of children and poverty are also getting worse every year that almost render the church’s recommended method of contraception ineffective.

To add injury to insult, it is the poor Filipinos, those more prone to abortion, who are more fecund. In a study, mothers who belong to the top 20 percent of the population in terms of income, on the average, bears only two children, while in the lower 20 percent, it’s five. In a life full of problems and oppression, they simply can’t resist the enjoyment and pleasure that sex brings.

Family planning is then needed to curb the rising costs and problems of unwanted pregnancies and abortions that would destroy more families and lives. But given the contraceptive method that is supported by the state and the church at present, can both the government and the Catholic Church say that they are making progress in their fight towards abortion and in preserving the sanctity of life?

The Filipino people have the right to be given better options for their own good.

On the other hand, the government, in its obligation to save the worsening condition of its people and by using its democratic prerogative, should stand on its own feet in teaching effective family planning methods for impoverished couples.

A call for resilience

Anthony Chua

The world price of oil jacked up to its record high $147 per barrel last week, slowing down the entire world’s economy. As expected, this sparked waves of price increases of other commodities and services not only in the archipelago but in the rest of world. In the Philippines, the skyrocketing increase of the country’s inflation rate—which spiraled to 11.4 percent in June this year, the highest in 14 years—is attributed mainly to the unprecedented increase in world oil price.

Record-high oil prices and affects the entire Filipino populace. If before the Filipino poor were the only singled-out victims who endure the daily challenge of subsisting by means of continually dwindling resources, this time they are joined by the middle class and even the rich. Many motorists are forced to join the commuting public in muscling their way into the crowded LRT and MRT and many shopaholics moderate their addiction by buying less.

Authorities are mulling on ways to soften the impact of the country’s worsening economic landscape. One of the most popular, and the most debated, measures is to suspend value-added tax (VAT) on petroleum products. Led by Sen. Francis Escudero and other government officials wanted the VAT on oil scrapped, saying that it would make the price of oil cheaper. Without VAT, fuel prices will become cheaper that would translate to lower prices of other commodities.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Sen. Edgardo Angara and other authorities, on the other hand, stood in defense of the implementation of VAT on oil, explaining that the amount collected from this tax are used to subsidize the poor’s rice and electricity.

With or without VAT oil prices will continue to increase as long as speculation and increased demand from emerging economies thrive. China and India’s mammoth economic growth obviously requires more oil than before. Yet oil price increase spree stems out not mostly from the actual demand for the “black gold” but from the obsession of a few people called speculators. Twenty years ago, 21 percent of oil contracts were purchased by them who trade oil on paper with no intention of ever taking delivery. Today, oil speculators purchase 66 percent of all oil futures contracts, and that reflects just the transactions that are known. Speculators buy up large amounts of oil and then sell it to each other again and again. A barrel of oil may trade 20-plus times before it is delivered and used; the price goes up with each trade and consumers pick up the final tab. Some market experts even estimate that current prices reflect as much as $30 to $60 per barrel in unnecessary speculative costs.

Accepting the mentioned fact may be a bitter pill to swallow but it’s a reality any person needs to accept. Every established economic and political system in the world always has ugly, despicable loopholes. In a global capitalist economy speculation is one of those. Not even the richest and the most powerful countries such as the United States and other G8 member countries can use their power to arrest the damage done by the game global avaricious profiteers play. More so for the Philippines—a hapless and helpless impoverished nation managed by the most corrupt government in Asia.

Now is the perfect time Filipinos need to further harness the coping skills that we have acquired over the years, our attributes admired and prized by foreigners worldwide—our uncanny ability to rise from the ashes. Our resilience motivates us to use our innovative and resourceful spirit to solve problems by means of unorthodox methods with fewer than expected resources. This has made poor Filipinos subsist despite the most harrowing economic conditions.

By resilience joined with inventiveness and resourcefulness our elders were able to convert used US military jeeps left by Americans during World War II into mass transportation vehicle known as jeepneys. They transformed a two wheeled tractor similar to a rotary tiller into a mass transportation vehicle named kuliglig. These are are just tangible proofs on how we Pinoys can overcome our daily trials and problems in life. We may not be the most creative, hardworking, intelligent, or resourceful race. We are even far from being the richest and the most productive economy. But one apparent thing Pinoys can contribute in coping with the world’s present ordeal is to use our uncanny ability to rise from the ashes. Resilience is a trait that can only be discovered and honed from further subsisting amidst diverse and sundry trials in life. Fortunately for us resilience is our daily bread that has kept us alive and growing despite living in a corruption infested country and in a maddening world.

The price of playing god

Anthony Chua

One thing that an intellectually sound and a God-fearing person won’t do is to cover one’s mistake by finding fault in others. Another thing is to blame nature and her “wrath” for an accident that should have been prevented if the necessary precautionary measures were done and conscientious judgment was executed.

These were the very acts that Sulpicio Lines, the operator of four capsized ships that killed thousands in the last 21 years, has committed in filing a class suit against the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) for the latter’s “inaccurate weather bulletin.”

In the suit, the ship operator claims that PAGASA “willfully and maliciously” forecasted typhoon “Frank’s” erratic movement. For this irresponsible reporting, Sulpicio demands P4.4 million from PAGASA, which includes moral damages and payment for loss of goodwill in the company (Sulpicio). Aside from the P4.4 million, Sulpicio also demands a public admission of PAGASA officials’ blunder, which the management believed was the cause of the MV Princess of the Stars tragedy.

Weather forecasting is a tricky science. Just like a person’s temperament, a storm’s movement is sometimes inconsistent. Science may be able to forecast a typhoon’s path using the most sophisticated gadgets; but again, just like a person’s mood, no one can accurately predict what it will do next. Based on this scientific principle, PAGASA’s forecast on the storm’s intensity or movement will always be prone to changes and irregularities. PAGASA is not an agency of gods.

This, however, does not totally absolve PAGASA from the shocking mishap that killed more than 800 people. PAGASA might have better warned Sulpicio and the Princess’ captain if they were able to update their weather bulletin in a shorter span of time.

But still, for Sulpicio to blame PAGASA after the latter had already warned the shipping line and the entire Philippine nation that it was signal no. 1 in the Princess’ departure area and signal no. 2 in the ship’s destination point at the time the ship sailed is absurd.

Didn’t Sulpicio learn from their own catastrophic experiences that typhoons with the size, magnitude, and behavior as “Frank” can be ruthless to their ships especially so if they are loaded with toxic chemicals like endosulfan? Why make the same blunder, which had already wasted hundreds of lives and millions of pesos, of sailing ships despite raised storm signals from PAGASA thrice?

And now, aside from paying for the insurance of the passengers of the hapless Princess, Sulpicio has yet to answer for the destruction that their sunken ship had done to the fishing industry of Romblon – the province where the once mighty vessel, carrying containers of toxic pesticides – capsized. The ship operator could have avoided this sea tragedy had it refrained from playing god and ignoring PAGASA’s weather forecasts.