WINNING WAR AGAINST POVERTY AND CORRUPTION

MALACANANG, October 24, 2003  (OPS)  Statement of Cabinet Secretary and Deputy Presidential Spokesman Ricardo Saludo:

As the Cabinet official tasked with monitoring the implementation of presidential directives, I strongly dispute the assessment by a US Embassy staff report that the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo "has not made significant inroads in poverty alleviation or combating corruption." Both independent data and accomplishment reports show substantial progress in addressing both poverty and corruption in 1,000-plus days since the President took office.

On poverty, the Presidentís programs have made major advances in boosting rural incomes through agricultural modernization; in assisting the poor through job placement, microcredit, housing, health services; and in bringing development to the countryside through land reform, education, electricity and peace and order initiatives.

The Arroyo administration was the first to implement the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, spending some P24 billion a year to increase the productivity of our farmers. These efforts have helped generate more than 600,000 jobs, while irrigation and credit programs have benefited some 1.5 million farmers and fisherfolk.

In addition, the government has assisted in placing 2.45 million workers abroad from July 2001 to October this year, with another 2 million jobseekers helped with local positions. Some P4.3 billion in microcredit loans have been given to nearly a million women borrowers. On the housing front, 275,153 informal-settler families have been given security of tenure, and another 129,045 poor households benefited from housing and slum upgrading programs Ė a total of 2 million people.

Direct assistance to the poor also includes the half-price medicine and Philhealth insurance programs, which bring affordable medical care to millions of indigent Filipinos. Philhealth has enrolled 7.4 million poor people under this administration, with many thousands added to the beneficiary lists every month. Of the 1,608 barangays with no schools nearby, nearly half have been provided classrooms. And 3,750 barangays were connected to power, as the country gets set to exceed 90% electrification.

The Presidentís successful anti-poverty programs are making a big impact on poverty statistics. According to the Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS), among families in the bottom 40% income strata, 84.9% households heads were employed in 2002, dramatically up from 57.6% in 1999. Education data is impressive too of those poor families with children 13-16 years old, 87.1% were able to send them to high school, compared with 57.6% three years before.

Households with strong roofing in their homes rose to 54.8% , from 51-6%. Access to electricity leapt to 55.9% from 47.4%. And the poor are able to assert themselves more households with at least one member involved in a peopleís organization: increased from 17.2% in 1999 to 25% last year.

The battle against corruption has been just as unrelenting as the war on poverty. In compliance with the Presidentís directive to turn the revenue and customs agencies into showcases in the anti-graft fight, formal charges have been filed against 254 BIR personnel, of which 97 were recommended for punitive measures including forced personnel, of which 97 were recommended for punitive measures including forced resignation. The Bureau of Customs, for its part, is moving on 50 cases against suspected smuggles. BIR also implemented computerized checks, which uncovered billions of pesos in under-declared sales, for which some P13 billion in taxes are due for collection.

To curb corruption in government purchases, the President certified the new Procurement Act, which has improved transparency and fairness in public contracts. The government has also created a website for electronic bidding, for which all offices are now registered. Full e-procurement is to begin next February. Meanwhile, lifestyle checks have led to the suspension and prosecution of dozens of officials in corruption-prone agencies.

To be sure, President Arroyo inherited massive poverty and rampant corruption, but in her 1,000-plus days in office, she has made major gains in addressing these daunting problems. Her record of achievement, now in the SONA Updates section of www.gov.ph, has been confirmed not only by APIS, but also by yearly assessment by the House of Representatives Oversight Committee.

More important, it is undeniable reality for the millions of Filipinos across the archipelago who have obtained jobs, homes, food, education, health care and a better life. And despite unwarranted and unhelpful attacks on her programs, the President is determined to liberate millions more of our people from the centuries-old yoke of poverty and corruption.

774 BARANGAYS AFFECTED BY ILLEGAL DRUGS By Ric Sapnu (STAR)

CAMP OLIVAS, PAMPANGA - At least 774 of the total 3,100 barangays in Central Luzon are "drug-affected," the regional police said yesterday.

Of the 774, six are classified as "seriously affected," 40 as "less seriously affected" and 728 "threatened," according to Chief Superintendent Vidal Querol, Central Luzon police director.

Bulacan, Querol said, has the most number of drug-affected barangays with 199 (out of its total 569 barangays), followed by Nueva Ecija with 179 (out of 849) and Tarlac with 134 (out of 510).

Since the launch of the all-out war against illegal drugs last June 16, the Regional Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (RAID-SOTF) has apprehended 1,593 suspected drug pushers and users throughout the region.

The task force also confiscated 1,616.172 grams of shabu, 16,827.082 grams of marijuana leaves, 34 firearms and four hand grenades in the anti-illegal drug operations.

Querol said 3,544 people have been identified as involved in the drug trade in the region ó 1,481 of them as pushers and 2,063 as users.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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