President Arroyo Asks Nation to Unite for Political and Economic Recovery; Seeks Congress Support for 4-Point Program to Reduce Poverty in Country

Article excerpt

President Arroyo called on the Filipino nation yesterday to work steadfastly towards political and economic recovery as she announced a four-point program of government aimed at reducing poverty in the country.

In a well-applauded State-of-the-Nation Address, the President asked all sectors, irrespective of political affiliation, to "unite and move forward" and take upon their shoulders the national fight against massive poverty.

"Mga kababayan, magkaisa tayo at magtulung-tulong upang labanan ang salot ng kahirapan at isulong ang kasaganaan, kapayapaan, at katarungan sa bayan. Magkaisa tayo. Labanan ang kahirapan," she said.

The President's more-than-one-hour address was applauded 86 times by Congress leaders and other government officials gathered during the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the Batasang Pambansa on Commonwealth Ave., Quezon City, yesterday afternoon.

She appealed to the nation to set aside politics in order to succeed in the fight against the myriad problems which, she said, she inherited from the previous administration.

"I appeal to everyone here today to undertake something unconventional but much to be desired in these especially hard times. From today, let us set aside bickering and politicking for at least one year," she said.

"Unity for the country's recovery will set the stage for the national mobilization needed to undertake the great and difficult tasks ahead," she added, noting that the country's poverty incidence ballooned from 36.8 percent to 50 percent from 1997 to 2000.

She said her administration inherited a budget deficit of P140 billion which it wants to trim down to a manageable level and an unemployment rate of four million that rose from 2.5 million in 1997.

The 54-year-old Chief Executive sought the support and cooperation of Congress leaders in her four-point anti-poverty agenda by expediting her programs on education, job/income generation, mass housing, and food security.

"The government cannot do it all. It cannot do it alone in Customs. It cannot do it alone in fighting graft. it cannot do it alone in fighting poverty. I am not a miracle worker. All of us must do our share," she said.

Elsewhere in her address to Congress and the nation, the President:

Assured a fair and expeditious trial on the plunder, perjury, and corruption charges filed against former President Estrada and his alleged cronies.

Ordered the release of P2 billion out of the P3.4 billion for the full computerization of country's elections, while the remaining P500 million was incorporated in the proposed 2002 P763-billion national budget.

Imposed a deadline of one year for all government agencies to streamline operations and slash red tape by implementing measures to cut in half the number of signatures required for their services, notably in the 45 approvals instead of 188 needed for housing permits.

Asked Congress to amend the charter of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the General Banking Act to improve supervision and promote financial prudence as she supported BSP's measures to curb speculation in the currency market. …