REDWOOD CITY, California – Filipinos in America are weighing in on President Benigno Aquino III’s fourth State of the Nation Address where he again promised inclusive economic growth that would be felt by the Philippines’ poorest families.
Long-time US residents Waldo and Josie Reyes said they are a bit disappointed with Aquino's SONA as he failed to highlight how his administration plans to create jobs in the Philippines and help overseas Filipino workers.
"I don't know why he didn't mention job creation, because that's obviously very important. I don't know why he didn't talk about OFWs, when they have faced so many problems," said Waldo.
"There are so many abused Filipino workers abroad. More needs to be done," added Josie.
Community leader Gloria Navarrette, who played an active role in the Ninoy Aquino Movement that helped topple the Marcos dictatorship in the 1980s, applauded the younger Aquino's concern for the masses as his administration continues to provide housing to the poor and spends close to a billion dollars a year on social services and public education.
"He should be proud because we are proud of him. He's doing the best that he can do now," she said.
Navarrete said she also supports Aquino's move to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines, at a time when our country is faced with a territorial dispute with China.
Navarrete's group, the US Pinoys for Good Governance, recently met with the Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. The group is planning a global protest against China on Wednesday. The Philippine government said it is not sanctioning the protest.
But Del Rosario said he recognizes the leadership of Filipinos in America, and in other parts of the world.
"I welcome the support of Filipinos all over the world, in supporting our peaceful resolution for this dispute that we're having," he said.
"That's the difference between the Philippines and China. We have the democratic right to express ourselves," said Rodel Rodis, president of the US Pinoys for Good Governance.
"Napakasarap maging Pilipino"
A dramatic statement meant to draw attention to the Aquino administration's accomplishments has hit a chord among kababayans living thousands of miles away from their homeland.
“Ako si Noyoy Aquino. Pilipino ako, napakasarap maging Pilipino sa mga panahong ito,” the president said at the end of his 102-minute speech.
Fitzgerald De Leon, a resident from Chicago couldn’t agree more.
“Filipinos are unique. We can do anything. And then the economy is improving thanks to PNoy,” he said.
“I think we’re doing well,” Melbourne, Australia resident Mercy Williams said, “considering that foreign investors are coming in now.”
Others remain skeptical.
“Nothing has changed,” said Mel Sunga, a resident of Lakewood, New Jersey, “there’s still corruption and many Filipinos are still going hungry.”
Kababayans in New Jersey acknowledge that while the President's speech may be a little too sugar-coated, it’s probably what the country needs right now in order to move forward.
“I think Aquino is doing a good job, in being positive about things and sharing this positivity with our countrymen,” said Concepcion Magsino, a Jersey City resident.
“Then again, he should also be aware of the fact that many still languish in poverty,” countered Newark, NJ resident Hilda De Guzman.
In the end, many Filipinos here agree that overcoming problems in a developing country like the Philippines is not a task that should be left to the president alone to accomplish.
“The initiative should come from all Filipinos, whether they’re in the Philippines or overseas. We should all have a stake in making things better for our country,” said Cesar De Leon of Chicago.
While PNoy's State of the Nation Address boasted of the Philippine's unprecedented economic growth, critics said it was short on key policy decisions that would create jobs for the poor, and deal with the problems of OFW's.