Press Release
June 16, 2013

Drilon addresses Filipino community in US,
urges them to help in nation building

"It's more fun in the Philippines."

This was how Senator Franklin M. Drilon described the Philippines under the watch of President Aquino who has successfully established a number of reform measures "that will provide the Filipinos with a better future."

In a speech delivered before a group of Filipino community in Los Angeles, California on June 15, 2013 (US Time) to commemorate the 115th anniversary of Philippine Independence, Drilon said the President consistently pursued numerous reforms in an effort to improve the lives of the Filipinos and to promote good governance.

"For the past three years, President Aquino has instituted difficult but needed reforms that will provide our countrymen with a better future, said Drilon. "Indeed, for the past three years, it has been more fun in the Philippines."

Among these reform measures, Drilon told, are the timely passage of the national budget for the past three years which prevented the rampant abuses in the use of public funds as a consequence of re-enacted budgets; as well as the passage of the GOCC Governance Act which is a tool to stop the abuses in government owned and controlled corporations (GOCC). As a result, about P75 billion in dividends was remitted to the national treasury.

Drilon was the chair of Senate Finance Committee since 2010. He was also the author of GOCC Governance Act.

The Aquino government also reformed the excise tax on tobacco and alcohol with the passage of the Sin Tax Law in December 2012. The measure, according to Drilon, will generate almost P50 billion a year which will help provide funding for the Philhealth insurance and universal health care program of the government.

"For sixteen years, no President was able to restructure the excise tax system for cigarettes and alcohol; the old system was clearly biased in favor of manufacturers resulting in hundreds of billions of pesos in loses in tax collection," stressed Drilon. "Against tremendous odds, coupled with the influence of lobbyists with very deep pockets, President Aquino succeeded where all other past Presidents failed."

He also mentioned the Reproductive Health which was passed in 2012 despite tremendous opposition it faced from the Catholic Church. He said President Aquino pushed for the passage of the Reproductive Health law to improve the government's family health services.

Drilon also said the impeachment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona and the resignation of Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierez were made possible during the Aquino watch.

These reforms measures, Drilon emphasized, resulted in a soaring stock market, robust improvements in financial and economic indicators, and sustainable, resilient and inclusive growth; as well as stable monetary conditions.

"The Philippines climbed five notches higher from 43rd to 38th out of 60 countries in the 2013 World Competitiveness Yearbook and over the past two years, the Philippines has improved by 20 spots in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Rankings," pointed out Drilon.

He also noted the 7.8 percent growth rate in the first quarter, the highest and the fastest among Asian economies; as well as the two investment upgrades to the Philippines by major credit ratings agencies.

"We expect the second quarter to be even better," told Drilon.

Drilon said that while the government is instituting reforms, it is also addressing the immediate needs of the poor and marginalized. He said a total of 3.9 million poorest Filipinos have been given financial aid of P1,400 a month through the conditional cash transfer program which has a budget of P44 billion this year.

Also, the government expanded the coverage of Philhealth insurance program to 5.2 million poorest families this year and the beneficiaries will double next year with the expected additional revenues from the newly-passed Sin Tax Law.

The government, according to Drilon, is now constructing about 66,000 classrooms, through a Public-Private Partnership Program, to finally solve the perennial problem of lack of classrooms.

On the political front, Drilon said the forging of a landmark framework peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a positive step towards the achievement of lasting peace and economic development in Mindanao.

While Drilon said much has been achieved by the government, much remains to be done in order to better the lives of the people. He said that there is a need to create more jobs, build better infrastructure, improve business climate, and end all armed conflicts.

"I submit that much more need to be done. We need to end all armed conflicts. We need to improve the country's ability to adapt and mitigate climate change, as well as its capacity to respond to natural disasters. We need to create more jobs for our people. We need to build better infrastructure to encourage foreign investments and improve business climate. We need to make the economy more competitive," stressed Drilon.

"I am very confident that in time with the support of the Filipino people, we will realize our development aspirations, ended Drilon."

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