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Aquino administration ushers in new governance era

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Emerging victorious in the country’s first nationwide automated polls on May 10 this year, President Benigno S. Aquino III on June 30 assumed the nation's highest post and committed to push for governance that is pro-people, anti-corruption and democracy-centered.

"Here today, we will end leadership that's insensitive to the cry of people," he said in his inaugural speech at Rizal Park. His administration walked such talk by establishing within its first 100 days an inter-active mechanism for public feedback on government affairs and concerns hounding people’s daily lives. p>President Aquino also worked on streamlining and improving the bureaucracy.

Upon assuming the presidency, he declared vacant as of June 30 all co-terminous third-level positions in government. However, he directed all non-career executive service officials occupying Career Executive Service positions to continue performing their duties.

President Aquino also issued several directives aimed at helping curb corruption and irrational use of public funds.

These include executive orders (EOs) creating the Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 and transferring to the Office of the President the now-defunct Presidential Anti-Graft Commission’s investigative, adjudicatory and recommendatory functions.

The Truth Commission was supposed to look into corrupt acts during the previous administration. However, the Supreme Court declared its creation as unconstitutional.

The Chief Executive also ordered all public agencies, including government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs), to inventory their respective assets, bank accounts, fees charged and potential revenue sources.

He likewise issued EO 7 rationalizing multi-million peso compensation packages and position classification system in GOCCs and GFIs.

Last July, Malacanang announced plans to scrutinize public spending during the nine-year incumbency of Mr. Aquino’s predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, so cases can be filed against parties that misused public funds.

President Aquino decided to continue the government’s conditional cash transfer program for the most marginalized families nationwide. This program provides financial assistance to such families provided respective children attend school and expectant mothers avail of public health services.

Malacanang also announced last August it will prioritize domestic borrowing in 2011.

"The borrowing mix will be 70-30 in favor of domestic borrowing," Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Sec. Ricky Carandang said during a Palace briefing.

Of the country's expected PhP307.8 billion net borrowings next year, Carandang said PhP262.7 billion will be for the domestic scene.

The remaining PhP45.1 billion will cover external or foreign debt, he continued.

The government will also float peso-denominated global bonds to help raise additional revenues for various public projects nationwide.

"It'll be the first securities float of a peso instrument in the global market," he noted.

President Aquino likewise committed his administration's action on the decades-old nationwide problem on squatting or encroachment of illegal informal settlements.

"We want this addressed," he said in September.

Government aims to relocate more informal settlers from danger areas and other locations to safe, livable communities. Aside from helping promote public welfare and safety, curbing squatting will contribute to environmental clean-up since experts identified informal settlements as among major pollution generators.

Also in September, Mr. Aquino vowed to address Mindanao's power woes so this area can fully develop into one of the country's economic drivers.

"By the time I leave office, I hope Mindanao's power problem will be nothing but a bad memory," he said in Davao del Sur province. He noted efforts to increase power supply in Mindanao include rehabilitating inefficient but still viable power plants there.

In October, President Aquino stepped up government efforts to improve the country's employment situation.

He launched that month in Tagaytay City government's national skills registry system to help facilitate prospective employers' access to information on available local manpower.

Mr. Aquino likewise vowed increasing government's assistance for the agricultural sector which contracted 2.59 percent in 2010's first half due to drought from the El Niño phenomenon.

He said government will hike respective agricultural production loan portfolios of State-run Land Bank of the Philippines and other government financial institutions.

Government will rehabilitate irrigation facilities nationwide to ensure water supply for agricultural production, he also said.

To further help bring farmers closer to prospective markets and enable them to realize better profit from their produce, he said government will establish more trading centers and cold storage facilities.

Aside from promoting socio-economic development, the administration vowed to improve security for the country as well as promote peace and reconciliation.

To effectively address insurgency nationwide, the administration decided on mounting a four-pillared peace bid.

This bid covers good governance, delivery of basic services for people, economic recovery and sustainable development as well as reforms in the security sector, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

"It's a macro approach," he said, noting armed combat isinsufficient to achieve and sustain peace since rebels and civilians alike also need government's social support so they can lead peaceful and economically productive lives.

He said government will promote this macro approach during its peace talks with Communist Party of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Malacanang has already formed the government teams that will negotiate peace with both groups.

Following the deadly August 23 Manila hostage-taking incident, President Aquino ordered the creation of an elite strike force that government will mobilize when addressing crisis situations nationwide.

Presidential Communications and Operations Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma noted this group will be composed of 200 personnel each from the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"This will be a strong and highly trained force that can be deployed anywhere in the country," he said.

In November, President Aquino also granted amnesty to active and former military and police personnel as well as their supporters who may have committed crimes punishable under the Revised Penal Code, the Articles of War and other laws in connection with the Oakwood mutiny, Marines stand-off incident and Manila Peninsula siege.

As of November, surveys still showed that President Aquino continues to enjoy public trust.

His foreign trips also helped generate investments for the country and enhanced employment opportunities for Filipinos.

This December, President Aquino signed the PhP1.6 trillion 2011 General Appropriations Act, the first time in more than a decade that the national budget is signed before the start of the fiscal year. (PNA/PIA9-BST)




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