MANILA, APRIL 1, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Aurea Calica - President Aquino wishes his “bosses” – the Filipino people – a Happy Easter today, saying the Philippines itself is experiencing a resurrection after years of irregularities that caused hopelessness among the people.

Aquino said the Philippines is moving “forward in this era of daylight, guided by our people’s resourcefulness and hard work,” noting that “our journey toward national renewal has gained significant momentum.”

This was his message to an association of dentists providing free services and scholarships to deserving students as he cited the importance of helping one another for the betterment of the country.

In his Easter message, the President said he was one with Filipinos in celebrating Jesus Christ’s rising from the dead after offering His life to save humanity.

Christ’s resurrection mirrors the hope held by every Filipino after falling down a number of times into the Calvary of corruption and irregularities.

“And everyone with a clear mind can see that, like Christ’s resurrection, the Philippines is rising again,” Aquino said in Filipino.

“There is no doubt that by being on the right side and showing concern for others, we follow in the steps of Christ. Now that the focus of the government is no longer on selfishness but on the welfare of the people, we have saved the country from certain running aground and we can now reach for our many successes,” Aquino said.

The President called on the people to emulate Christ and continue to work for other people’s welfare.

Vice President Jejomar Binay echoed Aquino’s message that Easter symbolizes new life and new hope.

“This gives us hope that hardships will eventually give way to a better life,” Binay said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the week-long commemoration of Christ’s passion was also an opportunity to take time off for self-assessment toward the highlight of the season that is Easter.

“We all know that dreams are within reach if we have the unity and mindset to see them through, as well as the willingness to take the responsibilities, sacrifices and setbacks that may sometimes pave its path,” Belmonte said.

For his part, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle yesterday urged Filipino Catholics to allow God to infuse them with “fresh life.”

In his Easter Message, Tagle mentioned the many “tombs” faced by man such as hunger, unemployment, homelessness, violence, discrimination, injustice and corruption.

“There will never be any true resurrection from our individual, familial, societal and environmental ‘tombs’ if we do not allow God to act. Make room for God. He will raise us to true life with Jesus!” Tagle said.

Meanwhile, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches national director Bishop Efraim Tendero said Jesus Christ’s resurrection “is the greatest power made available to mankind” and that if He was able to overcome the dominion of death and darkness, He will be able to help us overcome whatever adversities and problems we may encounter.”

Tendero said the country will be more blessed if Filipinos will put Christ at the center of their lives. – With Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy, Evelyn Macairan

Contribute to growth, pay taxes, Pinoys urged By Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 31, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Ordinary citizens should do their part in helping the country sustain its record economic gains by simply paying their taxes, according to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.

“April 15 is the deadline for income tax filing. I urge everyone to contribute to the work of building our country by paying the right taxes,” Purisima said in a statement in reaction to the country’s getting an investment grade rating Wednesday from the New York-based Fitch Ratings.

“Higher revenues will allow us to invest in more education programs, more health services, and more infrastructure, creating more jobs and more wealth for everyone,” he said.

“Everybody wins when everybody pays the right taxes,” he said. “We have already done so much in the past three years, with greater cooperation from our people, we can do so much more.”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that while an investment grade rating would open new opportunities for the Philippines, “it also poses a challenge to all of us to maintain it.”

“Hence, the Philippine government will continue to focus on sustaining the progress that we have achieved both in terms of economic growth and institutionalizing good governance reforms,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said the administration is determined to preserve the factors that had enabled the country to achieve investment grade rating, including stable inflation, favorable interest rates, sound banking system, and strong fiscal position.

“Most of all, the platform of good governance, which has made such progress possible, will continue and is irreversible. Foreign and local businesses can rely on a government that will continue to be transparent, effective and responsive,” he said.

An investment grade rating means the Philippines is capable of meeting its financial commitments on time.

Credit risk is one of the factors taken into consideration by potential investors.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, for his part, said investment grade rating is a big boost to the country’s manufacturing sector.

“We are now affirming our growing reputation as a key investment hub in Asia – at par with our high-performing neighbors in the region – as we continue to enhance the country’s fast-moving industries, such as tourism and business process outsourcing,” Abad said.

For Sen. Franklin Drilon, the Fitch upgrade would help the government spend more for infrastructure development and social services.

He said an investment rating from Fitch was proof of the resilience of the economy and of the improved fiscal management under the Aquino administration.

But he said a ratings upgrade would not have any relevance to the poor unless they see and feel concrete benefits such as employment and additional health and education services.

“While we welcome this unprecedented investment status upgrade that basically acknowledges the positive reforms under the Aquino administration, we must see to it that these fiscal advantages and benefits should lead to more jobs and better incomes for poor Filipinos,” Drilon said.

Former Akbayan party list Rep. Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, said the Fitch rating is expected to strengthen the foundation of the government’s anti-poverty agenda.

Hontiveros, who is running as a senatorial candidate under Team PNoy, said the government is now in an even better position to eradicate poverty as a result of the Fitch upgrade.

“The historic investment grade bolsters the government’s arsenal in fulfilling its anti-poverty agenda. It shows that we now have the momentum to pursue the second half of the ‘kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap (there are no poor where there are no corrupt)’ promise,” Hontiveros said.

“Now is the time for the nation to roll up its sleeves to eliminate poverty,” Hontiveros said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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