MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino minced no words when asked what he loves the most about his job.
In an exclusive interview with ANC’s Coco Alcuaz, Aquino said the most marvelous thing about being president is the ability to effect change in government when before, some things were just accepted.
“I marvel at things that we have gotten used to accepting as facts of life, that suddenly can be changed,” he said.
Aquino listed several “facts of life” that are slowly being changed under his government including the country’s march towards rice self-sufficiency and putting up better weather forecasting systems.
The President noted that under the previous administration, government funds earmarked for irrigation were misaligned while some irrigation projects were useless or technically incorrect. He said the government’s certified seeds program had farmers receiving fake seeds so that agricultural productivity would stay low.
“1.3 million tons [of rice] was always a constant. Two countries were regular suppliers. Parang there's a certain surety that you can get every time from these 2. Suddenly we're talking about export. That's the thing that I, wow, we are, we managed to change that,” he said.
“We can’t bring back the past. We are in charge of the present and we can protect the future, and that is I think the sense of accomplishment -- is the best thing in this job. The rest of it as you know, comes with the territory,” he added.
Aquino said there were few surprises about the job after watching the example set by his mother, the late President Cory Aquino. Cory was President of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992 after the EDSA People Power Revolt toppled the dictatorship of then-President Ferdinand Marcos.
The President said his mother had to “revive an economy that was abused, misused and really floundering at the time she inherited it.”
“My idea is whenever I’m confronted with a problem, I can look back to the lives of both my parents, and say that what I’m undergoing is nothing compared to what they had to undergo. So I’m inspired that what they managed to achieve and I’m being asked to achieve less by my standards, compared to what my parents had to do, gives me the confidence that we can do that which is expected of us,” he said.
On being a laid back president
Aquino said one adjustment that he had to make after being elected is cutting down on his leisure time. He said that when he was a congressman, he had time to touch base with his constituents.
“You had the breaks in between. Here, I guess that’s the hardest thing…Christmas, we shut down as a country what, 4-5 days before Christmas. I get to have a Christmas eve. Christmas Day normally has a lot of activities. New Year, I think the executive secretary and I started work on January 1 and I started our break December 30-31,” he said.
“By law, you're entitled to 2 weeks break. We’re entitled to 2 days. And you're expected to be fully operational and fully recharged after those 2 separate days,” he added.
The President rejected criticism that he is a more laid back president compared to his predecessor.
At work, he said he always tries to be knowledgeable about any issue that comes to his desk so he can reach the best possible decision.
Aquino said he is not comfortable with praising himself or telling everyone of how good a job he is doing.
The full interview with President Aquino will be aired on ANC's Inside Business hosted by Coco Alcuaz at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (July 18).