Mar Roxas: 'The best is yet to come'
Kathlyn dela Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA - Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Mar Roxas on Wednesday trumpeted before members of the business community the economic achievements of the Aquino administration, boasting that among the five presidential candidates, he is the only one standing on a platform of continuity.
It was a homecoming of sorts for him, Roxas said, by presenting himself before the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), having served in the Cabinet under three presidents, and as a congressman and a senator.
Earlier this month, one of Roxas' rivals, Senator Grace Poe, was also invited to the same business forum where she likewise bared her economic platform.
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"The country right now has gone from diaper to short pants. The question before us as a nation is how do we get from short pants to long pants, and who is the best person that can take us through that transition," said Roxas, who appeared at ease while addressing the members of the MBC and MAP.
Roxas started his speech by enumerating the country's accomplishments under the six-year leadership of President Benigno Aquino III, noting that what was once referred to as the "Sick Man of Asia" is now called "Asia's Bright Star."
He cited the country's average gross domestic product (GDP) over the last six years, which is 6.2%. Unemployment rate is now down to 5.8%, self-rated hunger down from 23.4% to 11%, and number of out-of-school youth from 2.9 million to 1.2 million, he added.
He also cited improved tax collection efforts, with the money used to fund more infrastructure and social services. He said the government invested in the Filipino people and closed the student to teacher, textbook and classroom gaps.
"How did we do these? These did not happen by a miracle, these did not happen in a wink of an eye. These took all of us. All of us collectively put a good, clean, decent government in place in 2010, and that government, holding true to the precepts of good governance, of 'Daang Matuwid,' enabled you, the private sector, to attain all of these accomplishments," Roxas said.
"These are all examples that have been talked about over the last five years, and the reason I bring them up is because unlike all other candidates, I am the only candidate that is standing on the platform of continuity. Ituloy. Typically, when it's election time, palitan, tanggalin, patalsikin... But we, in 'Daang Matuwid,' are running on the platform of continuity."
According to Roxas, he will continue to grow the economy based on three pillars, namely manufacturing, tourism and agriculture.
He claimed a Roxas administration will provide more job opportunities and double the number of tourists entering the country, from 5.4 million to 12 million. His government will invest in human capital, and improve education quality and Internet penetration, he added.
Roxas said he will provide P100,000-scholarship to each valedictorian of all public high schools nationwide, stressing that poverty should never be a limit to the education the youth can get.
"We're gonna make sure that none of them are limited. If they are the best and the brightest Filipinos we can produce today, they will not be limited in what they can attain," he said.
If he becomes president, he said he will also mandate buses plying Metro Manila routes to use compressed natural gas (CNG) to minimize pollution. He will also push for a fixed salary for bus drivers so that buses will not compete with each other, which, he said, contributes to heavy traffic.
The administration bet also emphasized the need to build an international airport outside the city and a high-speed rail system that will connect Metro Manila to Clark. Roxas also said he will implement "justice ecozones" across the country.
"I believe government is an enabler, government is your ally to help you grow, to help you be productive and successful, because your success is our economy's success, is our people's success," he said. "I invite all of you to join me in that task, to join me in that journey as we grow from short pants to long pants, as we move our country to modernity, to maturity and to greater opportunity for all."
NO QUESTION OF TRUST
During the business forum, Roxas also dismissed questions on whether the President truly trusts him, after he was snubbed in the planning of the Special Action Force (SAF) operation in Mamasapano on January 2015, which left 44 troopers dead.
Roxas stressed that Aquino did instruct then suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima to inform him about the anti-terror operation but Purisima ordered former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas to keep him out of the loop.
"How can you say that he didn't trust me eh he said, 'This is the guy upon which Daang Matuwid will continue,'" Roxas pointed out.
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Roxas also belied accusations that the Aquino administration has been selective in its anti-corruption platform. He said many LP members have also been affected by the anti-corruption stance of government.
He, however, mentioned a former Ombudsman and Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice induced to resign for being "not anti-corruption" and for "lying on his SALN," respectively, pertaining to Merceditas Gutierrez and Renato Corona. He also took note of the three senators--Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla--facing trial over the pork barrel scam.
"I'm not loyal to PNoy as a matter of political backscratching. He's a decent guy, he has worked hard. We've been through a lot, many times unfairly criticized. But I mean, you guys everybody here, look at your bank accounts, look at the value of your land, look at the economy, look at the number of people who have moved out of the poverty line, look at the infrastructure that has been built. We have come a long way, and I just want to say: The best is yet to come," Roxas said.