Update on Typhoon Quiel, September 30, 2011

  • As of 5 p.m. today, Typhoon Quiel (Nalgae) has accelerated and now threatens the Cagayan area. Its center is located 490 km East of Tuguegarao City with maximum sustained winds of 140 kph near the center and gustiness of 170 kph.
  • TY Quiel is expected to be 190 km East Southeast of Aparri, Cagayan, Saturday morning.
  • It is expected to move West at 26 kph, and to make landfall at Cagayan 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, or possibly earlier.
Areas with Public Storm Warning Signals (PSWS)
PSWS#3: Cagayan, Isabela
PSWS#2: Northern Aurora, Quirino, Ifugao, Mt. Province, Kalinga, Apayao, Calayan Group of Islands, Babuyan Group of Islands
PSWS#1: Rest of Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, Benguet, La Union, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra
Actions Taken
NDRRMC and PAGASA disseminated Severe Weather Bulletin No.5 on Typhoon “Quiel” by uploading it on their respective websites
PAGASA held press conferences 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to inform people of the latest updates on TY Quiel.  The next press briefing is scheduled for 11 p.m. tonight.
Continuous monitoring and updating are available online.

Senator Angara filed libel suit against Architect Palafox

Senator Ed Angara
Senator Edgardo J. Angara has filed a libel suit against high-profile architect Felino Palafox Jr., who Angara said has been waging a "willful, wanton, reckless and malevolent campaign" to damage his reputation as a public servant.

Angara, in his suit filed on Monday (September 19) at the Pasay Regional Trial Court, also said that Palafox's habit and pattern of defaming others who does not do his bidding--and destroying the reputation of people just to serve his personal motives and agenda--should be stopped.

The case asks Palafox to pay at least P61 million in total damages, consisting of P40 million in moral damages, P15 million in exemplary damages, a minimum of P6 million in litigation expenses and the costs of suit.

The libel case attached a document purportedly sent by the Coalition Against Corruption (CAC) to President Aquino on July 7, 2011, marked "Private and Confidential."

The letter alleged that Angara pressured then Department of Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim to make Palafox Associates, the architectural firm of Palafox, a loser in the bidding for the Tourism Master Plan of the Philippines. The letter said Angara threatened Lim's confirmation as DOT secretary should Palafox win the bidding.

Based on a the purported letter, Lim "tweaked the scores" to make Palafox Associates a loser, then awarded the bidding to former DOT Secretary Narzalina Lim. The letter claimed that the two Lims were friends, and the friendship was known to local and international watchdog groups.

That letter, principally attacking Angara for allegedly getting kickbacks for contracts and from investors at the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (APECO), also went on an accusation spree, accusing many mayors and other top government officials of various acts of corruption.

Angara said the letter purportedly from the Coalition came from Palafox himself and it was all "falsehoods and pure fabrications."

"The letter has the stink of Palafox's ruse all over it," said Angara.

Angara said that Palafox has been using his position as president of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) to convince the other members of the CAC--of which MAP is a member--to sign the letter that accused Angara and many others of corruption.

They have refused. Current CAC head David Balangue has asked Palafox not to involve the MAP on matters that concern him personally.

Angara said that personal motive has been driving Palafox's efforts to malign and defame him.

The APECO, which was created by a law authored by Angara and based in his home province of Aurora, earlier fired Palafox Associates as master planner.

The dismissal of Palafox Associates came after the designs it prepared were evaluated then rejected by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), which found them unusable and flawed.

The designs, if followed, would have posed grave dangers to the operations of the seaport and the airport, said the two agencies.

Subsequently, the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) ruled that Palafox failed to deliver his contractual obligations to APECO and yet improperly collected P32 million for his sloppy services.

APECO dismissed the services of Palafox Associates after the evaluation, then asked for a refund of the fees Palafox had collected for the unusable design.

Since the dismissal of his firm from the APECO work, Palafox "takes every opportunity to defame Angara with actual malice and falsehoods," according to the case.

The case against Palafox cited cases of "similar wrongful and reckless acts of defamation" carried out by Palafox when his s architectural firm failed to win a public bidding.

After failing to win the bid for the preparation of the Subic Bay Freeport Comprehensive Master Plan Project, Palafox accused the bidding and awards committee of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) of trying to extort from Palafox Associates. The SBMA filed a libel charged against him.

Palafox earlier accused former Senator Richard Gordon of protectionism and corruption, for which he was forced to issue a public apology to Gordon.

In May 2011, the APECO asked the Board of Architecture and Board of Environmental Planning both under the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) to suspend the license of Palafox.

APECO has asked the two bodies to fast-track the hearing on the cases against Palafox.

Advertisements and lease operations income to halt MRT/LRT fare hike

Bridge linking the MRT Taft Avenue Station LRT Edsa Station
The planned fare increase in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and the Light Rail Transit (LRT) can be aborted if the two agencies will restructure their operational contracts, Senator Chiz Escudero said.

Escudero, who has been opposing the proposed train fare increase, said there are a lot of existing options that the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) can explore to address the huge subsidy it continuously shoulders for the rail transport systems.

"As I have always said, raising fares should be the last option especially at this time. Yes, we need to look for viable measures to address the deficits faced by the two agencies. It is a challenge, but the bigger challenge for now is to restructure the whole operations and contracts to create benefits for the riding public," Escudero pointed out.

The senator has been pushing the government to collect its share from non-rail revenues of the LRT and MRT. He said revenue sharing derived from the advertisements and lease operations of the MRT Development Corporation (MRTDevCo) and the LRTA should be realized between the government and the two agencies.

He said MRTDevCo has been collecting and receiving income from the ads and lease operations, but the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC), which operates the MRT, failed to settle its outstanding debt to the government now running into billions of pesos.

Early this year, Escudero had asked the LRT and MRT administrators to submit to his office a full accounting of their revenue sharing from advertisements and lease operations. The two agencies have yet to comply.

"In other rails in the worlds, non-rail revenues are actually used to supplement the income of the railway system itself so it can subsidize lower rates to commuters," he explained.

The Senator said the government should get its rightful share from these non-rail revenues so that the country can implement what all rails in the world are doing: tap non-rail revenues to subsidize the fares.

As this develops, the senator cautioned the DOTC and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) against plans to sanction those who took part in the transport strike the other day because this might infringe on their right to free expression and organization.

"Such retaliatory action is punitive and reactionary especially given the fact that valid issues were raised by the protesters as shown by the creation by the DOTC of a task force to look into possible collusion and overpricing between and among oil companies," Escudero said.

Since yesterday the (LTFRB) has started drawing up a list of transport operators who took part in the strike.
LTFRB chairman Jaime Jacob said they are preparing to charge and penalize participants for violating their franchise.

THE ALTIMAX STORY, speech delivered by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada

A Case of Illegal Trading of Radio Frequencies


I stand before you here today to call your attention and that of our regulatory agencies, particularly the National Telecommunications Commission, to the continued violation of the legislative franchise granted by Congress to a telecommunications company called ALTIMAX BROADCASTING INC. (Altimax).

Allow me to provide Your Honors with a brief factual backdrop.

Altimax was granted by the National Telecommunications Commission Provisional Authorities to install, operate and maintain a nationwide direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service and a multichannel multipoint distribution system (MMDS), both on December 29, 2000, valid until June 29, 2002. On March 18, 2003, said Provisional Authorities were extended for three (3) years up to June 29, 2005.

Republic Act No. 8607, the Act granting Altimax its franchise to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain radio and television broadcasting stations in the Philippines was approved on March 27, 1998.

R.A. No. 8607 provides for certain conditions for compliance and they are as follows:
- Commence operations within one year from the approval of its permit by the National Telecommunications Commission;
- Operate continuously for two years;
- Commence operations within three years from the effectivity of its franchise.

Note that under the law, ALL three of these conditions must be met, otherwise, the law clearly provides that Altimax's franchise is rendered revoked ipso facto, which, literally translated, means revoked "by the fact itself."
Ladies and gentlemen, to this very day, Altimax has not complied with any of these conditions. Not one. That is a fact.

In 2008, or ten (10) long years after the approval of Altimax's franchise, the NTC-NCR conducted an inspection of the facilities of Altimax and found that the facilities supposedly located in Sampaloc, Manila simply were non-existent.

But strangely, in its Orders dated 23 June 2009 and August 14, 2009, the National Telecommunications Commission even extended the Provisional Authorities of Altimax for its MMDS and DBS services, respectively, up to June 29, 2012. This is despite the clear, uncontroverted fact that Altimax has failed to roll out its MMDS and DBS services for over a decade and that the franchise of Altimax, by its very terms, had long been ipso facto revoked. How can the National Telecommunications Commission lawfully grant or extend the Provisional Authorities of an entity that legally has lost its Congressional franchise? Certainly the National Telecommunications Commission does not have the power to grant a new franchise to Altimax. Only Congress has that power.

But that is not all, Mr. President. This anomalous situation continues and in fact, has grown worse!

Apart from scoffing at the conditions for the validity of its Congressional franchise, Altimax has unilaterally leased its assigned frequencies to third parties for purposes other than those specified in its franchise. According to Altimax' audited financial statements for 2009 and 2010, it entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with a company called INNOVE COMMUNICATIONS, INC. (Innove) wherein Altimax earned between 70 and 90 Million Pesos for the years 2009 and 2010, respectively. By this illegal arrangement, Innove has already deployed over 95 transmitters nationwide for the provision of WIMAX services to Innove customers. This arrangement is a flagrant violation of the conditions of the franchise of Altimax, which specifically prohibits the assignment or lease of its rights and privileges acquired under the said franchise.

Ladies and gentlemen, by leasing its bandwidth to Innove, Altimax has arrogated unto itself the very authority vested upon the Congress of the Philippines. Binastos po ng Altimax ang buong proseso. Binastos po tayong lahat ng Altimax. Tayong lahat at ang bawat Pilipino.

By entering into an illegal arrangement with Altimax, Innove has circumvented the procedure established by the National Telecommunications Commission for the application and grant of additional radio frequencies. Furthermore, Innove has been able to use the Altimax frequencies even if such frequencies were supposedly granted to provide MMDS service - and that excludes WIMAX service.

What is worse is that Altimax, which has clearly failed to perform its franchise obligations, has been allowed to derive substantial revenues SOLELY from the illegal lease of its allocated bandwidth to Innove. It is apparent that from the beginning, Altimax never intended to carry out the purported services for which its franchise was granted by Congress. But Altimax goes about its business to this day for purposes that are clearly contrary to law. Wala na pong ibang pinagkakitaan ang Altimax maliban sa panlolokong ito. This ladies and gentlemen, is nothing but an absolute affront to this august body, to Congress and to the consuming public. Deep in your heart of hearts, each of us present here today must find it difficult to disagree.

My fellow members of the Senate, given these simple facts, the following glaring question are now before us:

1. How can we overlook the terms of the franchise of Altimax as public utility and ignore the ipso facto revocation 
thereof after having spent the last decade doing nothing but engaging in illegal transactions for purely private gain?

2. How can we overlook the terms of the franchise of Altimax and consider as valid its MOA with Innove, thereby countenancing these illegal transactions worth over 160 Million Pesos?

3. How can we overlook the fact that Altimax, a company which never even started to roll out its own operations, has already earned millions of pesos by essentially subletting the privileges granted through its franchise to Innove?

All of these happened and continue to subsist right under our very noses.
It behooves us, therefore, to look at the fundamental law of the land for guidance as to how to proceed in the face of this controversial and anomalous condition.

Article XII Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution states that franchises are granted under the condition that it shall be subject to amendment, alteration or repeal by the Congress when the common good so requires. No less than that constitutional mandate to protect the common good requires us today to carefully review and examine the franchise of Altimax and its compliance, or shall I say NON-COMPLIANCE with its terms. We not only have the power to do so; we are in fact compelled by our positive duty as member of this august Chamber.

Allow me to further direct your kind attention to Section 22 of the same Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, which states that acts which circumvent or negate any of the provisions of this Article shall be considered inimical to the national interest and subject to criminal and civil actions, as may be provided by law.

The fundamental law of our land and our duty as legislators call on us to act accordingly today to correct this anomaly, lest we form part of the problem. We are all witness to an outright mockery of the laws which granted the franchises of Altimax and Innove. Must we all stand here blind before these facts that have been undeniably brought forth before us? Are we, the very representatives whom our people look to for guidance, to be held complicit by omission with these corporations as they arrogantly trample upon the clear letter of the law?

The franchise of Altimax itself states that the radio spectrum is a finite resource that is a part of the national patrimony and the use thereof is a privilege conferred upon the grantee by the State and may be withdrawn anytime, after due process. It is time for us now as legislators to go beyond the formulation of policy and delve into the proper implementation of the law according to the powers and duties expressly vested upon us by the Constitution.

The violations that I have asked you all to examine with me here today are so crystal clear and unequivocal that there is no room for any interpretation other than the fact that Altimax has no valid Congressional franchise and as such should not have been granted extended Provisional Authorities by the National Telecommunications Commission, and all those who are responsible for such blatant circumvention of the laws should be immediately held accountable.

The National Telecommunications Commission must immediately act to recall the radio frequencies illegally held by Altimax and to immediately stop the illegal leasing of Altimax's allocated radio frequencies to Innove. This, the National Telecommunications Commission should do unless we allow it to continue to be a party to these irregularities.

May I end by humbly proposing that this matter be referred to the proper committee for purposes, not only of investigating in aid of legislation, but more importantly, in the exercise of our oversight functions and our duty to see to it that the laws we pass are implemented faithfully and that any violation thereof are dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land.


Exams for Out-of-school youth set, passed like Manny Pacquiao

DepEd Secretary Hon. Br. Armin Luistro, FSC, Ph.D.
The Department of Education, through the National Education Testing and Research Center, announces that the Philippine Educational Placement Test (PEPT) will be held on November 20, 2011 for Luzon and on November 27, 2011 for Visayas and Mindanao.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro said the PEPT aims to retrieve out-of-school youth and place them in the formal school system if they so desire. “Through PEPT, we would also like to validate and accredit knowledge and skills in academic areas gained through informal and non-formal means. In the end, PEPT will pave the way for their re-entry into formal schooling, job promotion, job training, and employment,” added Luistro.
PEPT targets Filipino citizens who are dropouts from elementary and secondary schools for at least one year. It is also for those who never attended a formal school but can read and write, or those presently employed but need to upgrade their academic level, whether elementary or high school. Moreover, applicants must be at least one year overage for their supposed grade/year level in the formal school system.
Applicants must bring:
  • A birth certificate issued by the NSO or Local Civil Registrar, duly authenticated (original and 2 photo-copies);
  • 2 recent ID pictures (size 1 x 1);
  • School record: An original, and 2 photocopies of Form 137 (Transcript of Records with school seal and signature of principal/registrar) or Form 138 (Report Card with school seal and signature of principal/registrar) for elementary level; and Form 137 for secondary.
PEPT takers pay P50 for a regular test given every November in designated testing centers all over the country and P200 for walk-in or special administration, which is conducted from January to June at the DepEd-NETRC in Pasig City.
For elementary level, the test coverage is Science, Mathematics, HeKaSi (Heograpiya, Kasaysayan at Sibika), Filipino, and English.
In the secondary level, the exam for first year covers General Science, Elementary Algebra, Philippine History (Kasaysayan at Pamahalaan ng Pilipinas), English I and Filipino I.
For second year, the coverage includes Biology, Intermediate Algebra, Asian History (Kasaysayan ng mga Bansang Asyano), English II, and Filipino II.
For third year, the subjects covered are Chemistry, Geometry, World History (Kasaysayan ng Daigdig), English III and Filipino III.
For fourth year, the exam will touch on Physics, Advance Algebra, Trigo-nometry, Statistics, Economics, English IV, and Filipino IV.
The PEPT can also be administered to individuals with visual impairment, whether Braille or non-Braille readers.

Proclamation No. 248 - Special Non-working day in San Rafael, Bulacan on September 29, 2011

seal of the municipality of San Rafael, Bulacan
WHEREAS, Thursday, 29 September 2011, marks the Foundation Day anniversary of the Municipality of San Rafael, Province of Bulacan;
WHEREAS, in order to give the people of the Municipality of San Rafael, Bulacan the opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion, it is but fitting and proper to declare 29 September 2011, as a special non-working day.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, PAQUITO N. OCHOA JR., Executive Secretary, by authority of His Excellency, BENIGNO S. AQUINO HI, do hereby declare Thursday, 29 September 2011, as a special (non-working) day in the Municipality of San Rafael Province of Bulacan.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.
Done in the City of Manila, this 5th day of September, in the year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Eleven.
By the authority of the President:
Executive Secretary

"De Lima should explain VIP treatment on Mike Arroyo",Sen. Trillanes

Senator Antonio "Sonny" F. Trillanes IV called out on Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila De Lima to explain her apparent selective application of the law and her VIP treatment to former First Gentleman Miguel Arroyo.

Trillanes' demand comes on the heels of media reports that Arroyo has left the country for Munich, Germany, the other day purportedly for medical reasons.

"Secretary De Lima must explain why she has decided not to place former FG Mike Arroyo in the Bureau of Immigration's watch list despite of the plunder charge filed by the CIDG against him, in the same manner she has placed others with similar charges in the watch list. This is clearly contrary to the position she took in earlier cases, like the case of former PAGCOR Chairman Efraim Genuino and his children, who were all placed in the watch list on the basis of plunder charges filed against them," Trillanes said.

"Two or three weeks ago, Sec. De Lima said in a press conference that she is studying the possibility of placing FG in the watch list. As usual, it was all just a press release. Now the horse walked out of the barn because she left the barn door wide open," Trillanes pointed out.

"By not placing former FG Arroyo in the watch list, she is allowing him to flaunt the law and leave the country unchallenged despite of the serious charges against him," Trillanes also said.

"She should explain and take responsibility in case he does not return anymore to face the charges against him," Trillanes added.

Trillanes earlier demanded for the resignation of Sec. De Lima because of the supposed failure of the latter to pursue the numerous cases filed against former President and now Pampanga representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo despite of the fact that she has been in office for more than fourteen (14) months.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan disagrees with Sen. Drilon on moving school calendar

Taken during one of the LP sorties during the ...Image via Wikipedia
Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan , formerly a chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, shares a dissenting view on a proposal to change the school calendar, now under review by the Department of Education.

"Go slow on changing the school calendar," he says. "As former Chair of the Education Committee, this matter was brought to our attention in 2004. While the typhoon season causes a disruption of classes in June and July, data show that the strongest typhoons come in during September and October--the months wherein the change in start of the school calendar is being proposed."

"Foremost to consider is the excessive heat during the months of April and May. Unlike typhoons which disrupt classes for a few days, the summer heat takes place daily for two months."

"Our classrooms aren't air-conditioned and in many cases are overcrowded. Can our young students bear the heat on a daily basis for two months? Or will this not affect their physical and mental health?"

Pangilinan points out further: "Typhoons happen two or three times in a month, thereby disrupting classes for several days--but the summer heat is a daily ordeal. DepEd must weigh its options: Several days of class disruption due to typhoons, or daily ordeals and suffering from the summer heat due to the dry season?"

"For this reason I oppose the moving or changing of the calendar until such time that a definitive study has been undertaken to determine the impact of excessive heat in the learning process of our students."

Should the DOE be bent on pursuing the proposal, Pangilinan puts forward a recommendation: "The DepEd should pilot-test the impact of summer heat on our students. Essential in the learning process is the need to provide a setting conducive to learning. Will the exposure to daily excessive heat for two months get in the way of this essential requirement? DepEd must pilot-test the proposal before making any final recommendation."

Philippines 17th Best Place for Women, Lacierda Statement

Filipinas Philippines Women
Statement of the Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda: 
On the Philippines’ ranking as the 17th Best Place for Women
[Released on September 21, 2011] 
We are heartened to read that according to a recently published Newsweek article, “The Best and Worst Places for Women,” the Philippines topped Asia as the country that offers women the most expansive rights and the best quality of life.
Of 165 countries, the Philippines ranked 17, and is the only Asian country to be included in the top 20. Garnering an overall score of 86.3 out of 100, our country scored highest in the areas of education (92.2), economics (89.1), and justice (88.4).
This is an affirmation of the respect our culture has always accorded to Filipino women—one that manifests itself as well in our government’s efforts to promote equal gender opportunities in all spheres of public policies and progr

PNoy Speech at 2011 Annual Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund

IMF Headquarters, Washington, DC.
His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the 2011 Annual Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund
[Delivered at Washington, D.C., on September 21, 2011 (September 22, Manila time)]
Mr. Robert Zoellick; Sri Mulyani Indrawati; members of the official accompanying delegation; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen; and of course Governor Sy Tetanco of our Banko Sentral:
Good afternoon.
We gather today at a time of rapid change around the entire world. Earlier this year, in the Middle East and North Africa, people took to the streets in droves, risking their very lives, to call for the removal of leaders who could no longer respond to their needs and aspirations. Many of them succeeded, and are now attempting orderly transitions to new and better governments. In parts of Europe, people have also flocked to the streets to demand decisive action from their governments to deal more fairly with the problems arising from slower economic growth and crushing public sector debt.  Even here in America, grassroots movements have formed to call their leaders’ attention to the growing disparity between the wealthy and the middle class.
These peoples’ actions and the advocacies they champion may at times be debated, but one thing is clear: people all over the world today share an increasing desire to speak, to be heard, and to be part of the molding of their respective futures. The specifics vary from region to region, but the broad demands are similar: a more equitable society and a government that strives toward it.
My country is no stranger to this phenomenon. In 1986, the Filipino people took to the streets to peacefully oust a corrupt dictator and re-establish a true democracy. They chose my mother, Corazon Aquino, as their leader. I stand before you today as inheritor of that proud legacy, not just because I am Cory Aquino’s son—favorite son at that [laughter]—but because like my mother, the mantle of leadership was placed upon me.  Like my mother, I had no desire for power. But like my mother, I could not ignore the will of my people.
But while she was thrust into power by what we commonly call a revolution, I came into the presidency through a unique kind of revolution—one that was done through the ballot. The full force of a corrupted system had been mobilized to ensure my defeat. But it was my people, whose cries of desperation provided the initial sparks of my campaign, who stood by their convictions, flocked to their voting precincts, and zealously guarded the votes from the moment the first was cast to the moment the last was counted.
These instances are what we have come to call “People Power.” And each time I see it manifest in any part of the world—each time I see concerned individuals assembling and voicing out their respective convictions, I am filled with optimism about our capacity as human beings united under a single cause, armed not with rifles but with a collective desire for better governance.
As in all instances when a people has taken back its power and installed leaders that embody their aspirations, there is, of course, elation and a sense of newfound hope. But as the euphoria fades, how does a government faced with such a gargantuan task as ours sustain the momentum? How does it begin rebuilding its institutions from the ground up? How does it harness the energies of people power to provide jobs, food, education, health, and other vital services, given the situation it has inherited?
Take for example a region in my country, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, where 80 percent of funds allotted to the governor’s office in 2009 to 2010 cannot be accounted for. May I repeat that? Eighty percent cannot be accounted for. It is hard to believe that this kind of corruption has not contributed to the ARMM being among the poorest regions in the country. Had the funds gone to where they supposed to, perhaps the ARMM would be better off today.
Because of this and many other examples, despite the extended periods of economic growth that my country experienced, the disparity between the rich and the poor has widened over the past decade. Institutions have been eroded to the point that doubt is a Filipino’s first instinct when dealing with government. Decades of trauma borne of corruption and impunity have festered and calcified, and while my people approach the future with a renewed sense of optimism, it remains a guarded optimism, a hope that is only now beginning to take the first important steps away from disillusionment.
My government is determined to stoke that hope by putting in place strategic interventions that promote not just growth, but, more importantly, inclusive growth. Social services take up 31.7 percent—nearly a third—of our 2012 National Budget. We are spending significant sums to provide basic healthcare services to the poor. We are also working to widen access to education, and to ensure that this education is of good quality.
We have also worked to expand and improve a conditional cash transfer program that will provide stipends to less fortunate families, provided—and these are the conditions—they keep their children in school and visit their health centers regularly.  This is a program that was once used for political patronage, and we have taken it and given it an overhaul, such that it empowers not politicians, but the bosses they are supposed to serve—the Filipinos.
Our people have also demanded an end to the large-scale corruption that had become a common occurrence over the past decade. We have put in place a zero-based budgeting process that evaluates the effectiveness of government programs. Those that have not delivered the desired results have been eliminated and those that have been effective have seen an increase in their funding. Zero-based budgeting has also reduced discretionary spending items that have created opportunities for corruption.
These reforms are paying off. The savings generated by more honest and transparent budgeting have allowed us to increase spending on social services and defense without having to increase taxes this year.
These efforts serve to illustrate the principles that inform governance in this new Philippines, and the world has begun to take notice. My country has earned four positive rating actions over the past fifteen months, a stark contrast to the lone upgrade and six downgrades meted out by various rating agencies to the Philippines in the nine and a half years of the previous administration. This, on top of the recently released World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, in which my country posted a ten-point jump in rankings, the biggest improvement we have ever recorded in the report. In my recent trip to China alone, we were able to acquire 1.2 billion dollars in new investments; and, with an estimated 11.7 billion dollars more in potential investments, this number is sure to grow.
These foreign investments, and the equally important investments coming from domestic sources, are in large part responsible for the jobs that have been created within our administration. There are a million new entrants to the labor force every year—meaning that keeping our 8-percent unemployment rate from going up meant creating a million jobs. But we were not only able to maintain it; we actually improved on the unemployment rate by bringing it down to 7.2 percent. This does not factor in the fact that 2010 was an election year, creating an employment spike during the election period.
Ending corruption means not only cleaning up the system, but holding accountable those who have wronged our people. Accountability allows closure to the many sins committed against our people over the past generations. Without accountability, there will be no certainty that others will not follow in the footsteps of those who have wronged our people. Without accountability, the entrenched culture of impunity will remain, the corrupt will continue to flourish and steal, and the atmosphere of doubt and mistrust will continue to linger even as we rebuild our institutions.
Governing with integrity, with transparency and with accountability not only heals a national psyche that has long been characterized by its cynicism and mistrust of government. It also provides the foundation for equitable progress. Good governance, therefore, is good economics.
The goal is to percolate socioeconomic development to a greater majority. And it all begins with cleaning up government: instituting a culture of transparency and accountability—at the bottom line, a culture of trust in government. The strengthening of institutions levels the playing field and provides for an environment conducive to economic growth. Any gains that will be reaped from this growth are then channeled into vital social services such as those in education, health, and, more importantly, poverty alleviation. People who are educated and healthy have the capability to exploit the livelihood opportunities provided to them by businesses. They are likewise empowered as consumers, which further spurs economic growth on the macro level.
Good governance is at the center of my administration’s socioeconomic strategy, and the people are at the center of good governance. Their vigilance, their constant and adamant participation in public discourse, the strength they lend my administration as we dismantle the many obstacles put up by the enemies of reform—these, ultimately, are what fuels us on the straight and righteous path toward equitable progress.
And as we now speak of efforts to institutionalize people power, so do we speak of opening up government to the people; making government a truly democratic space, allowing citizens access to its processes, and in fact encouraging them to participate in these processes: to take a stand, to contribute to a consensus, and to accept this consensus as the product of their own collective will.
In 1986, my country asserted their collective will along the largest and busiest thoroughfare of Metro Manila to topple an oppressive regime. In 2010, they declared it through markings on a ballot, and through their resolute efforts to ensure that the results of the election truly echoed their choice. I speak to you now as President of a Republic whose people has time and again showed that they will not be denied their voice. Perhaps in the future another Filipino will stand before you and speak for his countrymen, at the helm of a nation that is already fully reaping the fruits of the seeds that we are sowing today. That is my hope.
Thank you. My people and I look forward to partnering with you as we continue to rebuild the Philippines.
Good day.