Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Arroyo's 6th SONA

From the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism:

IN her State of the Nation Address (SONA) today, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo promised economic reforms and a long list of big-ticket infrastructure projects that, according to her, will help put the country “on the path to prosperity.”

“I am not here to talk about politics; I am here to talk about what the people want,” the chief executive said in opening her 70-minute speech that was reportedly interrupted by applause 164 times from a predominantly pro-Arroyo audience of national and local government officials at the Batasan.

The President’s sixth SONA was marked mostly by promises of massive infrastructure plans that include highways, airports, trains, and bridges to be built in several areas in the country.

Some of the major infrastructure programs include roads linking the North Expressway to C-5 and the South Luzon Expressway all the way to Batangas; the expansion of the San Roque Mutipurpose dam; the Subic-Clark corridor which is being built as an international logistics center; and the construction of an international airport in the north and upgrading of several airports in Mindanao.

“By estimates, we would need half a trillion pesos to fund these massive infrastructure projects,” University of the Philippines economics professor Benjamin Diokno, a former budget secretary under the short-lived Estrada administration, said.

Cavite Rep. Gilbert Remulla asked: “Where will we get the money? The devil is in the details.”

Remulla said that with the country’s fiscal state and at the rate tax collection is going, it is nearly impossible for the President to achieve all of her proposed infrastructure programs even before her term ends in 2010.

But House committee on appropriations chair Joey Salceda said that the government has enough money to fund the infrastructure program. However, he also said the President should have asked Congress to pass the 2006 budget as it would would infuse an additional P135 billion.

In her speech, the President laid out the infrastructure projects for the four, newly-established four mega regions: North Luzon, Metro Luzon, Central Philippines, and Mindanao.

The creation of the four super regions, Arroyo stressed, is for economic and political power to be decentralized from “Imperial Manila.”

Read more here. For a copy of Arroyo's speech, click here. Arroyo's photo above from PCPO.

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