MANILA (UPDATED) - President Aquino announced no new wage hike or benefits for workers on Labor Day but instead defended his administration's performance on the economy and even talked about the upcoming 2016 election.
In his speech, Aquino asked voters to pick leaders who are "deserving" and will continue his reforms after he steps down from office.
"Ang pakiusap ko po - kung naniniwala kayo na tama ang ating ginagawa, kung ayaw niyong mabalewala ang maganda nating nasimulan sa tuwid na daan, piliin natin ang mga susunod na pinunong magpapatuloy at higit pang magpapayabong sa ating mga naipunlang reporma. Piliin natin ang karapat-dapat upang maging permanente ang malawakang transpormasyong natatamasa na ng ating lipunan," he said.
Aquino's remarks are in apparent response to the Pulse Asia survey showing Vice President Jejomar Binay leading the presidential race if elections were held today.
The administration Liberal Party’s presumptive bet, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, lags in the survey. Binay, while a member of the Aquino Cabinet, heads the LP rival United Nationalist Alliance.
Binay is reportedly planning to form his own party as a vehicle for the 2016 presidential elections.
Aquino did not make any announcement for laborers but chose the occasion to defend his economic record , pointing out that his projects in the Technical Educational Skills Development Authority has led to the creation of jobs in the semiconductors and electronics industry.
He noted that previously, there were many vacant jobs because of a mismatch of skills between graduates and the jobs available. He said his administration worked with business leaders to fix this.
"Sa simula pa lang po ng ating panunungkulan, tinukoy na natin ang tunay na mga problema, upang makapaglatag ng tamang solusyon. Halimbawa po: Noon, laging inire-report sa atin ni Secretary Linda (Rosalinda Baldoz) na maraming naiiwang bakanteng trabaho sa Phil-JobNet dahil sa job-skills mismatch," he said.
The President reiterated they are working on inclusive growth, noting that under his watch, the number of Filipinos below the poverty line declined by 3 percentage points or over 2 million Filipinos.
"Lahat po ng mga proyekto't programa natin sa tuwid na daan—mula sa agrikultura, sa imprastruktura, sa turismo, hanggang sa serbisyong panlipunan—ang bawat inisyatiba natin nitong nakaraang mga taon, ayon sa NEDA, ang nagbunsod upang bumaba ng three percentage points ang bilang ng mga Pilipinong nasa ibaba o nasa ilalim ng poverty line mula noong 1st semester ng 2012 patungong 2013."
"Baka mayroon nga pong nagtatanong: Hindi ba't napakaliit ng three percentage points na yan? Ang sagot po natin: ang katumbas ng three percentage points, nasa 2.5 million na Pilipino na naiangat lampas ng poverty line," Aquino said.
He also took a swipe at his predecessor again, noting that the Arroyo administration's policies led to more unemployment.
"Kung tutuusin nga po, puwedeng noon pa man ay nagawa na ang mga pagbabagong ito sa ating bansa. Subalit dahil sa mga pinunong mas inuuna ang sariling interes, matagal tayong nasadlak sa malubhang kahirapan at katiwalian," he said.
On Tuesday, Aquino was non-committal to labor workers' concerns in a dialogue his cabinet hosted in Malacañang.
In a statement, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said the President's focus on electronics and semiconductor industries "underlines the administration's determination to focus on generation of more jobs in the manufacturing and high value added sectors where innate Filipino skills, ingenuity and talent will receive full recognition."
"The administration is intensifying job generation by promoting expansion and new investments in manufacturing and high value added industries that will create more high quality jobs. Chronically high unemployment is being addressed through targeted skills training programs by TESDA and DOLE's job matching programs," he said.