Aquino takes a dig anew at Arroyo
MANILA, Philippines - It's not easy being President, particularly if you're responsible for the well-being of 95 million people, President Benigno Aquino told schoolchildren Tuesday.
"Now, is it hard to be president? I'll leave it to your imagination, ano," Aquino said in a forum with students of The Learning Tree Child Growth Center, Inc. at Sikatuna Village in Quezon City.
The President said among his concerns are 10 million Filipinos overseas, particularly those caught in crises. "In Israel, di ba, there was a flare up on the Gaza Strip. In the Gaza Strip, we have a 120 Filipinas. In Israel, we have 41,000. If, 'di ba, parang 'yung aerial attacks by Israel on the Gaza strip would put in danger the 120 of our compatriots there," he said.
He added that 1 in every 4 seafarer worldwide is a Filipino. "Now, if the Somali pirates capture one of these ships that traverse their coastline or the Indian Ocean, chances are there will be a Filipino involved."
Aquino said he has to ensure that the country's basic needs are met. "We have to feed the 95 million Filipinos. We have to make sure the electricity is always there and it is a job na talagang 24/7."
He again criticized his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. "Maraming pinamanang problema sa akin."
Aquino said the Arroyo administration left behind huge debts and mismanaged the National Food Authority (NFA).
"For instance, iyung NFA which is vital to our farmers, binaboy iyung patakbo. Noon minana ni Ginang Arroyo iyan, about roughly a little over P12-billion pesos ang utang. By the time she left it to me, it was P177-billion pesos na utang na loan ng NFA. Kailangan nating bayaran iyon," the President said.
"Siguro ay palagay ko, pwede mo naman -- madali mo nai-magine kung gaano kahirap itong trabahong ito," he told the student who asked him if being a president is difficult.
Aquino mentioned some achievements that his administration has achieved so far.
"Example ko sa inyo sa Public Works and Highways, pagkatagal-tagal sila ang ini-image natin parang pinaka-corrupt. Suddenly they are producing ... a project 100 days ahead of schedule and below budget," he said.
He added that while the national budget can only build roughly about 8,000 new classrooms a year, around 66,800 have already been built in the last 3 years.
"[Health Secretary Enrique] Ona says that, by the end of next month, there will be no municipality that will not have a doctor," he said. "We deployed something like 30,000 nurses because one of the problems of our country was, especially in rural areas, 40 percent never get to see a health professional. Now, we're sending 'yung nurses (who) need work experience. We need health professionals. So we have deployed at least 30,000."
Aquino said the Conditional Cash Transfer Program is also helping around 3.1 million Filipino families to send their children and keep their children in school. "The children will have a marketable skill by the time they finish high school."
"So, at the end of the day, regardless of the challenges, we're kinda - hindi ko naman sasabihin mayabang na kami," the President said.
"'Nung una, talagang 'ano pa kaya ang iniwang problema sa ating (hindi pa) nadidiskubre?' Talagang para bang ang bigat ng dinadala. Ngayon, may mga problema, may mabibigat na problema pero oras lang ang pinag-uusapan doon sa solusyon. May confidence na na maso-solve natin lahat ito in due time," he added. - report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News