MANILA, JULY 27, 2010
(STAR)  (Xinhua) President Benigno Aquino III said today that he is banking on "public-private partnerships" to fund the priority programs of a government faced with a "massive" budget deficit.

In his first State of the Nation Address which clocked 36 minutes, the President said that his "new and creative approach" would solve the "dearth in funds" that he has inherited from the previous government.

"No matter how massive the deficit is, I am heartened because many have already expressed renewed interest and confidence in the Philippines. Our solution: public-private partnerships," he said.

Aquino said the government has not signed any contracts yet, but he expects that "ongoing talks with interested investors will yield fruitful outcomes."

This includes the proposed construction of an expressway from Manila to Cagayan Valleypassing through Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, and Nueva Vizcaya solely at the private partner's expense.

He also revealed a proposal to lease the Navy headquarters along Roxas Boulevard and the Naval Station in Fort Bonifacio.

"They will take care of the funding necessary to transfer the Navy Headquarters to Camp Aguinaldo. Immediately, we will be given $100 million. Furthermore, they will give us a portion of their profits from their businesses that would occupy the land they will rent. In short, we will meet our needs without spending, and we will also earn," he said.

The President said these are just a few of the proposals that his administration has been receiving from local and foreign investors since it took over this month, which would benefit the tourism and agriculture sectors, among others.

The President said that job creation is "foremost" in its agenda, to be provided by a stronger business sector, which in turn could grow "if we streamline processes to make them predictable, reliable and efficient for those who want to invest."

"We will make sure that the Build-Operate-and-Transfer projects will undergo quick and efficient processes. With the help of all government agencies concerned and the people, a process that used to take as short as a year and as long as a decade will now only take six months," he said.

He said that Trade Undersecretary Gregory Domingo is out to reduce the process of registering business names from as much as eight hours to just 15 minutes and that "what used to be a check list of 36 documents will be shortened to a list of six, and the old eight-page application form will be whittled down to one page. "

He urged local government units to "find ways to implement reforms that will be consistent with the ones we have already started."

"As long as the interests of Filipinos will not be jeopardized, we will explore all available avenues to make this a reality," Aquino said.

The President began his speech, broken 31 times by applauses, by providing a "glimpse" of the current state of the nation left behind by his predecessor, and cited six "shocking" discoveries" that his administration has uncovered in its first three weeks.

"This report is merely a glimpse of our situation. It is not the entire picture of the crises we are facing. The reality was hidden from our people, who seem to have been deliberately obfuscated on the real state of our nation," he said.

Aquino noted that as of June, the only P100 billion ($2.16 billion) or 6.5 percent of the P1.54 trillion ($33 billion) for the year remains, and of the P2 billion ($43.2 million)calamity fund for 2010, only 30 percent is left.

Under his administration, he stressed, "there will be no quotas, there will be no overpricing, the funds of the people will be spent for the people."

On the alleged past misdeeds of his predecessor, the President said he is set to sign an Executive Order creating the Truth Commission this week.

Aquino said the government expects to resume peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after Ramadan, which will be from Aug. 11 to Sept. 9 this year.

He said that in pursuing negotiations with the MILF, his administration "will learn from the mistakes of the past administration, which sprung upon the people an agreement reached without consultation from all concerned."

"We are not blind to the fact that it was done with political motivation, and that the interest behind it was not that of the people," Aquino said.

He asked the National Democratic Front (NDF) if it is "prepared to put forth concrete solutions rather than pure criticism."

"The mandate we received last May 10 is testament to the fact that the Filipino continues to hope for true change. The situation is not what it was before, we can all dream again. Let us all become one in achieving a fulfillment of our hopes and aspirations for our country," he concluded.

Pulse Asia: Aquino most trusted individual since 1999 By Dino Maragay ( Updated July 26, 2010 09:47 AM Comments (12)

MANILA, Philippines – About 85 percent of Filipinos trust President Aquino, the highest trust rating ever recorded by any individual included in trust probes by Pulse Asia, the pollster announced today.

Pulse Asia’s latest trust survey, conducted from July 1 to 11, 2010, showed that Mr. Aquino’s trust rating surged by +18 percentage points between April and July 2010.

The survey firm said only a “negligible” percentage (2 percent) of respondents distrust the new President, while 13 percent are unable to say if they trust or distrust him.

Mr. Aquino enjoys basically the same trust ratings across the country’s geographic areas (83 percent to 89 percent) and socio-economic groupings (84 percent to 88 percent), Pulse Asia added.

Appointments well-received by public

Pulse Asia said selected appointments made by Mr. Aquino to key government positions are generally well-received by the public. At least half of respondents approve of all 11 presidential appointees included in the survey.

The highest level of approval is for Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman, who scored 72 percent. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is at second with 69 percent, followed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Versoza (67 percent each).

Near to small majorities approve of the appointments of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin (50 percent), Presidential Adviser on the Pease Process Teresita Deles (51 percent), Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima (55 percent), Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa (55 percent), Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro (58 percent), Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad (62 percent), and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Ric David (64 percent).

Meanwhile, 22 percent to 36 percent of those aware of these selected presidential appointments cannot say if they approve or disapprove of Presidential Aquino’s choice for these government positions.

Prioritize lowering cost of goods, services

Pulse Asia said majority of Filipinos (85 percent) consider it of utmost importance for the new administration to implement measures to control the spiraling cost of goods and services.

Big majorities also deem it very important for the Aquino administration to not only make new pro-poor programs but also find ways to finance these (75 percent), as well as to create new jobs 73 percent).

Likewise, the following issues are also seen as being very important by near to small majorities of Filipinos:

– Appointing individuals with skills, experience and integrity to key government officials (60 percent);

– Preparing a program addressing the government’s fiscal and debt problems (59 percent);

– Continuing peace negotiations with armed political groups (56 percent);

– Forging a government of national unity (54 percent);

– Providing loans for small businesses and the self-employed (49 percent).

Pulse Asia’s survey was conducted using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 representative adults 18 years old and above. The poll has a ± 3 percent error margin at the 95 percent confidence level.

Subnational estimates for each of the geographic areas covered in the survey (i.e., Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) have a ± 6 percent error margin, also at 95 percent confidence level.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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