CHICAGO (JGL) – President Benigno S. Aquino III said Wednesday (Feb. 17) his administration is building so many schools, hospitals, rural health units, barangay health centers, roads, bridges, ports, airports during the last five years that his local government units have accommodated even projects from the rival opposition parties.
In his speech in Filipino before the more than 800 members of the Filipino community groups from Los Angeles and southwestern United States, who filled the Ballroom of Hilton LAX in Los Angeles, California, President Aquino at the conclusion of his Working Visit to Los Angeles said, “Talaga pong sa bawat sulok ng bansa, ang daming itinatayong eskuwelahan, ospital, rural health unit, barangay health center, kalsada, tulay, daungan, paliparan at marami pang iba. Itanong po ninyo sa ating mga LGU, kahit po hindi namin kapartido, wala pong nai-etsapuwera, maliban lang ho iyong talagang ayaw magkaroon ng mga proyektong ito.” (It’s true in every nook and cranny in our country, there are many schools, hospitals, rural health units, barangay health centers, roads, bridges, ports, airports that are being built that our local government units have accommodated even projects from their rival opposition parties.)
Aquino said his administration was able to construct not 66,800 but 185,149 school classrooms. He also said the government was able to provide some 7.7-million very poor individuals with money from the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) out of 4.4-M households and hopefully this figure will increase to 4.6-M before he leaves office on June 30, 2016.
Reiterating his speech in English at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on Tuesday (Feb. 16), Aquino said when he inherited the CCT program that gives cash grants to poor households, so long as they keep their children in school and have them vaccinated, among other conditions, from his predecessor, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, there were around 790,000 households by mid-2010 when he assumed office but the number jumped to 4.4-M, or an increase of 18%.
The 56-year-old Aquino also hailed the improvements his government introduced both on “the coverage and the efficiency of our Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (f)rom 2010 until 2015,” where more than one million graduates benefited from the Training for Work Scholarship Program.”
“EARNING AN INCOME THAT IS MULTIPLES OF MY OWN”
He said the average employment rate or placement rate, which is defined as finding a job six months after graduation, has shot up, from 28.5 percent then among TESDA scholars in 2006 to 2008, to above 70 percent among the 2013 graduates, and even reaching 96 percent in several specific sectors where there was very good cooperation with industry.
Aquino said, “The program is so effective that I constantly hear stories of graduates earning an income that is multiples of my own and with considerably less stress, too. And which I intend to follow after I step down from office.” His remark elicited laughter from the crowd. “I’m reminded of that conditioning,” Aquino added.
He also touted another accomplishment of his Administration anchored on the mantra, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” (If there is no corrupt person, there is no poverty.) as “the universal health insurance (PhilHealth) which covered 51% of the population when he took over in mid-2010. PhilHealth now covers 91%, which is a jump of 46%, for the very poor population that consists of the two quintiles or 40% our population, who can benefit with a free health care from public hospitals thru a zero budgeting program.”
On his anti-corruption crusade, the President also took credit for jailing his predecessor former President Arroyo and three “untouchable” Senators (Enrile, Revilla and Estrada), who are facing corruption plunder charges, removal by impeachment of Chief Justice (Renato Corona) for under-declaring his assets at 2%, and the filing of charges against 784 cases against smugglers and tax evaders that could be the crowning glory of his administration he called “Daang Matuwid” (straight path).
On foreign affairs, he disclosed that there are at least nine Filipinos working in North Korea, employed by different United Nations Agencies. He said the Philippine Embassy staff posted in Beijing would be responsible for extricating them with the help of different closely-knit organizations in that isolated regime if trouble erupts.
Aquino said also the Philippines has 23 staff in South Korea, who have come up with a plan to take the 50,000 Filipinos working in that country to the southern most part of South Korea, where they can be evacuated to the Philippines if case trouble breaks out in the peninsula.
PITCHES FOR MAR-LENI
He urged the overseas Filipinos to help him elect Sec. Mar Roxas and Rep. Leni Robredo as president and vice president on the May 9 elections so they can stay the course of his Daang Matuwid. He also urged the Filipinos everywhere to unite.
In his welcome remarks, Philippine Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim based in Los Angeles presented to the President “our kababayans (Filipino compatriots) who represent the diversity of Filipino presence in southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.”
Notwithstanding their diversity, “They are Filipinos sharing a common aspiration for our country, the home of their parents and grandparents,” Consul General Herrera-Lim said.
Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. referred to the high level of priority attached by the President and his Administration to the engagement of overseas Filipino communities.
President Aquino also conferred the Order of Sikatuna, with the rank of Grand Cross (Datu) to Ambassador Cuisia in recognition of the envoy’s “exemplary accomplishments in working for the advancement of the country’s national interests in its relations with the United States,” in a ceremony during the President’s engagement with the Filipino communities in Los Angeles and southwestern United States on Feb. 17.
Accompanying the President at the event were members of his Cabinet, namely: Secretary of Finance Cesar V. Purisima; Secretary of Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin; Secretary of the Cabinet Jose Rene D. Almendras; National Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Emmanuel F. Esguerra; Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office Herminio B. Coloma, Jr.; Secretary Emmanuel M. de Guzman of the Climate Change Commission; and Secretary Julia Abad of the Presidential Management Staff.
The Filipino population in the States of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and in southern Nevada and southern California numbers at around 1.13-million. Most of them are professionals in the fields of healthcare, accounting and law enforcement. Aquino attended the first US-ASEAN Summit hosted by President Obama on Feb. 15-16 and was back in Manila on Feb. 19. Among the topics discussed at the Summit with 10 other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are security and economic issues in the region.