MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino said he considers 2011 a fruitful year, and includes better economy, an independent Supreme Court and fewer or no natural calamities in his wish list for this year.
“If you look at our efforts in reducing poverty and corruption, there were successes,” Aquino said.
He cited the higher budgets for health and education, which have enabled his administration to expand coverage of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and to introduce kindergarten in public schools with over 1.7 million enrollees for this school year alone.
“These additional revenues became available because we revised significantly the way government spends money, minimizing corruption. And we have managed to allocate these savings to social programs without raising taxes,” Aquino said in a written interview for The STAR’s Sunday magazine Starweek.
“In minimizing corruption, we have been moving forward despite all the resistance. We are bringing (former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal) Arroyo to a legal process to determine her guilt or innocence, which is not easy because there are too many roadblocks. But no one will deny that we have moved forward,” the President said.
In an earlier interview with ABS-CBN News, the President said the administration was also able to generate P42 billion in savings as of September due to tighter procedures for implementing programs and projects. He stressed that better use of resources - not underspending - had generated savings for the government.
The President also said the government managed to save P7.7 billion by increasing rice production and importing less. He said the savings came from interest payments.
He also noted the credit rating upgrade that the Philippines earned from various agencies.
“We’re inching closer and closer to investment grade but it (the upgrade) has impacted already on how much we have to pay for the loans we do have. We’ve been able to replace the higher interest rate with cheaper interest rates, there is also acceptance on the global peso bond,” Aquino said.
He said the number of jobs was at 2.1 million as of October. “Again, it tells us that, one, we’re on track in fulfilling that promise of job generation and we expect more and more of it,” he said.
“While the external environment looks uncertain, we will be able to improve the domestic economy through tourism, which we expect to experience a boost after we launch the branding campaign early next year, and to increase agriculture investments and productivity in 2012,” the President told StarWeek.
“These are labor intensive sectors where more people will be employed. Government resources are in place, and the savings we have generated have given us the fiscal space to accelerate spending on infrastructure. These three - tourism, agriculture and infrastructure - will be the drivers of the economy next year. These are economic drivers that lead to inclusive growth. Hopefully, this will insulate us from whatever happens overseas,” Aquino said.
“I also hope that next year, we will have a truly independent Supreme Court to allow the wheels of justice to proceed in the case of Mrs. Arroyo, free from any partisan considerations,” the President said.
Aquino said over ANC’s “Strictly Politics” program that he was very excited about the new tourism campaign but the launching would all be up to the Department of Tourism.
“Each component will be introduced at a specific time and I would not want to disrupt their plans. But let me just put it this way that each tourist that comes in brings us about a thousand dollars and the secretary of tourism’s new target for 2016 or by 2016, we will get 10 million from the present (that is) about three million. We’re up about 12 percent already as of September if I’m not mistaken,” Aquino said.
He said new infrastructure projects could help boost tourism as well as stepped up promo campaign for top tourism spots such as the Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan.
“They are now at the level that they have to schedule people who want to see it. There are limits on human traffic so as not to destroy the natural wonders but they are already saying that (the number of tourists really increased),” Aquino said. “I’m very, very excited about that.”
The President also said he hopes there would be no or fewer natural calamities this year.
“It is said that God would not give us trials that we could not deal with... But of course if I have a wish for our countrymen, I hope next year there will be less typhoons... and volcanic (eruptions),” Aquino said. - By Aurea Calica