The State of the Nation
Message to Congress
Her Excellency Corazon C. Aquino
President of the Philippines
[July 23, 1990]
We gather today at a most crucial time in our history.
Seven days ago, a large portion of our country was rocked by one of the most serious natural calamities we have ever experienced: an earthquake which registered at magnitude 7.7 in the open-ended Richter scale, and intensity 8 in the Rossi-Forel scale near the epicenter. The tremor struck at 4:26 in the afternoon. After 45 seconds, 9 of our cities and 39 municipalities in 15 provinces lay damaged; some, almost totally devastated.
As of this morning, based on the NDCC reports, we have accounted for 899 fatalities, most of them from the Cities of Baguio and Cabanatuan. We have counted 3,061 injured with Dagupan City suffering the worst actual property damage recorded so far is P2.6 billion. But we estimate the total damage to properties to reach from 10 to 15 billion pesos.
I personally visited Cabanatuan, Baguio and Dagupan, sites of the heaviest damage to lives and property. There I saw and experienced for myself the grief that death and loss summon from our hearts.
But it was not sorrow alone that was present in those disaster sites.
Amid the debris, I saw the strength and courage; I witnessed the selflessness and heroism of our people. In the midst of devastation, there is the will to survive; to help others; to rebuild; to start anew.
By the grace of God and the unshakeable faith of the Filipino people, I am confident we shall pull through.
Yes, once again, we face a crisis.
But you and I and the rest of our people are not strangers to this. Since time immemorial, natural and man-made calamities have visited our land – bringing with them widespread death and destruction.
And always, our people would rise from the rubble. We would shake off the dust and wipe the tears. And while we mourn our losses, our hope for the coming of a new day never dies.
Earthquakes can destroy the strongest man-made structures; but, they can never shatter the faith of the Filipino.
To this day, rescue and relief work goes on. But slowly and surely, our countrymen are gearing up for the next important task – that of rehabilitation.
Our people are determined to go back to their normal lives within the next few days. Our farmers want to return to their fields. Our labor force want to return to their workplaces. Our businessmen want to resume the conduct of trade and commerce.
Today they are no longer asking us for gestures of pity. They are asking for assistance – to help them get back on their feet.
I, therefore, come before you today to ask you to work hand in hand with me and the effort to restore the normalcy of our people’s lives.
There is, however, more that I would like to ask of you today. Let me ask you to look beyond rehabilitation and share with me instead the vision of the building of a much stronger nation.
For, while this is a time for grieving, so is this a time to survey the opportunities arrayed before us – the opportunity to grow further in our maturity as a people; to leave the mistakes of the past and build on our strength; to abandon the hatred and the division and to start afresh as a people, tested by suffering, faced with the options for a better tomorrow.
At this point, we must ask; where shall we draw the needed fortitude to maximize these opportunities?
From where I stand, I see four sources. First, our gains over the past four years.
Second, the strength and courage that our people have demonstrated during this calamity.
Third, the avenues for partnership among people and government that we have established;
And fourth, our abiding faith in God who has always cared for us. May I invite you to examine our gains.
Last year, our nation bustled with productive energy.
The 5.7 percent growth in our economy was well within target.
A total of 17 billion 480 million pesos in foreign investments poured into our country, 75 percent more than the previous year, evidence of the continuing confidence of the international community in our economic recovery.
We reduced our foreign debt by 4.3 percent – from 27 billion 800 million dollars in 1988, down to 26 billion 600 million dollars as of January of this year.
Our stock exchanges registered a business volume of more than 22 billion pesos, unmatched in the history of our country’s stock market.
1989 was definitely a banner year.
Some 703,000 Filipinos gained access to new jobs as the unemployment rate in our country went down to 9.2 percent, from the 9.6 percent registered in 1988.
The annual per capita income of our workers rose by 3.3 percent as we moved to ensure that no government worker would receive a salary lower than two thousand pesos; and to increase the minimum wage in the private sector by twenty five pesos per day .
Some 91,349 more Filipino families were able to build homes last year, the fruit of a vigorous housing program with an unprecedented record. Last year’s mark brought the total number of our beneficiaries from 1986 to 1989 to 193,735 families. This shows our ability to provide new homes for an average of 64,578 families every year, surpassing the record of 1975 to 1985, where an average of only 28,543 families were given shelter annually.
Over one million schoolchildren, including those living in remote barangays, benefitted from the 26,406 classrooms. constructed last year.
2,503,794 high school students benefitted last year from our free secondary education program. In addition, one hundred one thousand more young Filipinos were able to attend high school last year. These are the students who cannot be accommodated in our public high schools but whom we assisted through service contracts with private educational institutions.
In February 1986, the lowest paid teachers, or those in teacher level one, were receiving only a measly basic salary of P1,096.00 plus allowances of P350.00.
In recognition of their crucial role in the upbringing of our youth, together we endeavored to raise this pay level. Today, our teachers in the lowest bracket are receiving a total of P3, 1 02.00, plus additional compensation paid from the local funds of the local government units where they serve.
In February 1986, the highest paid teachers, or those in the secondary principal four level, were receiving only a total package of P2,393.00. Today, that has been raised to P7,478.00.
Some 1,407 more kilometers of major roads and 4,890 kilometers of feeder roads were constructed last year. This brings the total number of major roads built from 1986 to 1989 to 3,365 kilometers; and feeder roads, to 18,120 kilometers.
27,530 more hectares of farmlands were irrigated last year, benefitting 18,500 more farmers.
Nearly 7,000,000 more Filipinos gained access to safe drinking water with the implementation of 51,820 water supply projects.
From 2,042 barangays all over the country, among them the remotest, 2,700,000 more Filipinos now enjoy power supply. Last year, we added 349 barangays to this number.
In all of our efforts to sustain the forces in our economy, we have emphasized the use of science and technology. At present we are transferring technology from those who generate them to the end-users, especially in our rural areas.
Thus, we are supporting the widespread use of organic fertilizers in rice culture. This would save us some P241,000,000 yearly if used to replace half of present fertilizer imports. This type of fertilizer will increase farm income by as much as P3,000 per hectare every crop season.
We are also studying the potentials of locally-developed technology using agro wastes, such as coconut husks, com cobs, and coffee hulls, for brick-making, grain drying and power generation. This is called the gasifier-combustor. If one- fifth of these agro wastes replace the 4,000,000 barrels of bunker fuel we now use for power-generation, we could save about $70,000,000 yearly.
Our advances in these areas received further boost from our accomplishments in the peace and order scene.
Last year, over 3,500rebels, from both the communist and secessionist movements returned to the fold of the law. Another 2,500 surrendered during the first semester of this year.
63 ranking communist leaders were neutralized. Of this, 12 were top ranking national leaders of the CPP/NPA.
We have reduced the fighting strength of the CPP/NPA by 19 percent by the end of 1989. And we brought down the number of communist affected barangays by nearly two thousand, or 25 percent of the total number in 1988.
We registered last year a combat fatality ratio of one to two and a half in favor of the government, the highest such favorable ratio in six years.
In all parameters of our counterinsurgency effort, we are ahead. Also in the interest of peace and security, we continued to engage in diplomatic moves to formalize agreements and treaties protecting our interests. We undertook serious efforts to resolve territorial disputes. Our diplomatic missions have kept our lines open with the Organization of Islamic Conference countries. We have consistently used this access to apprise these countries of our accelerated implementation of Autonomy for Muslim Mindanao.
And as the century of Pax Pacifica beckons, we continue to strengthen our foreign relations through our commitments to pluralist democracy, responsible market policies and development diplomacy – all within the Constitutional provisions on national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, the right to self determination, and the commitment to international peace.
These gains would have been meaningless without advances in the area of justice. Here, we directed our efforts over the past 12 months at further improving the investigation and prosecution processes, and at providing our less privileged countrymen with much better access to our justice system.
We initiated the prosecution of civilians who took part in the failed December coup, which cases are now pending in our courts. We also prosecuted and secured the conviction of the accused in such celebrated cases as the murder of Secretary Jaime Ferrer; the murder of NAMFREL volunteers in Quirino; the murder of Fr. Carl Schmitz; and the attempted large-scale smuggling of firearms.
We adopted measures to expedite preliminary investigation of cases by shortening the period for appeal and strictly imposing the period within which cases must be resolved. We have also weeded out corrupt and inefficient prosecutors .
We relentlessly pursued drug syndicates and gambling lords and busted their operations.
We gave 184,208 indigents free legal aid.
And because of the need for suitable and dignified facilities for our judges and other officials in the justice system, we are constructing halls of justice in various parts of the country. Twenty-three of these will be ready for occupancy by the end of this month; 16 more will be completed by the end of the year.
We also advanced our quest for social justice as three hundred forty thousand more Filipino farmers were given ownership of the land they till, 85 percent more than the number in 1988.
In the process, we have distributed 13 times more land to former tenants under our Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program than was distributed from 1965 to 1985.
We also ensured that the lands they now own will become more productive through financial and technical support. Last year, we released P820,250,000 in production loans to farmer-beneficiaries.
This sum brings to 1 Billion 170 Million Pesos the total amount of production loans we have provided to 220,368 farmer-beneficiaries since I signed the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law passed by this Congress in 1988.
Our determination to implement our policy of decentralization found concrete expression when you and I began the process leading to the creation of two Regional Autonomous Governments.
The first to undergo this process were provinces in Southern Philippines where most of our Muslim brethren live. This vesting of political autonomy underscores your firm resolve and mine to continue enhancing the lives of Muslim Filipinos through their more meaningful participation in our nation’s political life.
On November 19 last year, our countrymen from this region cast their ballots, making their voice heard in the proposal to include their respective provinces in the proposed autonomous region. Sulu, TawiTawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao chose autonomy.
In this Autonomous Region, on February 17, 1990, over 600,000 voters went to the polling places once more; this time, to select from 126 candidates the occupants of23 elective positions in the regional assembly. By the first week of this month, all the winners have been proclaimed, thus completing this chapter in their bid for regional autonomy.
The second to undergo this process was the Cordillera region. On January 30, 1990, the proposed Organic Act for the Autonomous Region of the Cordilleras was presented to the voters there. The province of Ifugao accepted membership in the Autonomous Region.
Political and material progress, are however, not the sole measures of democracy’s success. That is reckoned, as well, in the quality of a people’s spirit- in their attitude to the present and hope for the future.
Over the past months, in my continuing visits to the countryside, including the remotest and poorest provinces, I listened to our people and examined their lives. Having watched them so closely, I am encouraged by their resiliency and determination. Spurred by the support given them by government, they have set out to fashion for themselves a new and bright future. They are relying on their resourcefulness and industry, and on one another to improve their lives.
Last year, I felt this resurgent spirit enkindled in the people of Bataan and Bohol, Cavite and Laguna. I saw this again among our countrymen in Negros Oriental, Zamboanga City as well as Cotabato City.
This year, I saw this among the garments and livelihood cooperatives of Bulacan; and among the farmers of the people’s livelihood foundations of Pangasinan and Tarlac.
This is evident too among the people’s organizations of Catanduanes, Pampanga, Romblon, Negros Occidental, North and South Cotabato, Rizal, Iloilo and Camarines Sur.
In many parts of our country, I saw a new determination among our people to work hand in hand with us, to link arms with us, in our effort to translate our democracy into a better life for our people.
As we, however, were making real headway in our socio-economic thrusts, the enemies of our democracy, who comprised some two percent of the military, struck on December 1, 1989, in a futile bid to blunt the impact of the gains of our democracy.
For a few days, these misguided elements waged war against our people, employing a terrifying fear strategy that unmasked all their pretensions to ideological inclinations. Before our people, they attempted to display brute force, hoping to create an aura of armed victory. By December 6, the show was over. True to form, the leaders of the failed coup deserted their men once more to face the consequences of their act.
Once more, our people, and the 98 percent of our armed forces who remained loyal to our Constitution, thwarted the evil design of this band of military adventurists and their civilian supporters.
Once more, we proved that we are a resolute people. While we have yet to fully recover from the consequences of the imprudence of these misguided elements, our resolve to move forward has not been diminished. This failed adventurism has underscored the fact that our restored democracy has gone past its fledgling stage. It has proceeded to mature and is now ready for a more profound expression in our life as a nation.
I am truly encouraged by what our people have proved themselves capable of. They have worked hard with us to give substance to the meaning of participatory democracy, not just in the political arena, but in the realm of our nation’s social and economic life as well.
As President, I have deemed it fitting to enshrine in. a people’s movement the transformation of democracy from concept to reality by our countrymen.
Hindi ako binigo ng ating mga kababayan. Sa pagtawag ko sa sambayanan upang magkapit-bisig, tumugon ang mga kababayan nating tahimik na nagpapatulo ng pawis upang bumuti ang buhay ng kanilang pamilya, kapwa at komunidad.
Ang mga Kabisig nating ito ang nagbigay buhay sa diwa ng EDSA.
Sa lahat ng dako ng ating bansa ay taglay pa rin nila ang diwa ng rebolusyon ng 1986. Patuloy silang kumikilos laban sa kahirapan, kaguluhan, sakit at kamangmangan.
Katulong natin sila sa pagpapabilis at pagpapalaganap ng ating mga programa: sa repormang pansakahan; sa kapayapaan at kaayusan; sa pangangalaga ng ating kalikasan at likas na yaman; sa pagpapatupad ng desentralisasyon; at sa paghango natin sa mga kapos-palad nating kababayan mula sa kahirapan. Kasama natin sila sa pagtulong sa mga biktima ng nagdaang lindol sa Cabanatuan, Dagupan, Baguio at iba pang mga pook.
Binigyang buhay ng mga Kabisig nating ito ang diwa ng ating Saligang-Batas; binigyang halimbawa nila ang tunay na kahulugan ng demokrasya.
The magnitude of our people’s involvement in the business of our nation today is without precedent in our history.
All these find expression in a national movement – a movement that recognizes the silent, enduring crusade of our people; and, their call for participatory democracy.
We shall count on the strength of this partnership as we take the next steps in the building of a stronger nation.
Now, the Filipino people must continue to lead the way.
Many have benefitted from the example of our previous struggles.
Many more stand to profit from what we shall make out of our democracy and freedom. We have proven many things during the past four years.
There is still much that has to be done. Despite the limited time left, we have our gains of four years to build on.
And from where I stand, I see that our nation is ready to take that giant step forward. Many of the needed reforms are in place. Our democracy is tried and tested. Our people are firm in their commitments.
We, in the elected leadership, must lead the way. We must demonstrate the willingness to pay the price, to accept the sacrifice that accompanies these decisions. Above all, we must show the supreme example of unity – unity born out of our shared aspirations for the common good.
May I now invite you to examine the challenges involved in this important step forward.
The Nation’s Agenda: Greater Productivity
First, it is imperative that we take decisive steps to continue enhancing our nation’s productive capabilities.
We recognize the reality that the sufficiency of food on our tables is an important benchmark of the success of our democracy.
We took a crucial step when we launched our national rice action program early this year. Through this program, we expect to achieve a sustained annual growth rate in our production of at least three to three and a half percent in rice, and at least five percent in corn.
We expect, however, that despite the massive resources and support we are giving our rice farmers, we will still experience a heavy toll on our harvest due to the prolonged dry season that we just experienced. Fortunately, our earlier gains in the agricultural sector will cushion the effect of this drought.
The productivity of our industrial sector was increased because of the peace that now characterizes much of labor-management relationship. Our renascent democracy has helped our workers appreciate more deeply the value of the peaceful resolution of conflicts. The number of strikes and lock-outs have significantly decreased. In the process, one billion pesos in workers’ salaries and benefits, and about 5.7 billion pesos in production costs were saved.
We are supporting our drive for greater productivity with a streamlined but responsive infrastructure program that placed special emphasis on our countryside. Of the total 6,297 kilometers of roads we constructed last year, 95 percent were built in the provinces. We have also placed emphasis on infrastructures that would support livelihood in our rural areas. Much of the productivity of our countryside rests on our speedy implementation of our Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. The selflessness of a mature people could provide this program with the much needed boost.
We also need to enhance the productivity by more responsive programs on energy. We recognize the setbacks resulting from the power shortage we all experienced this year. While we have already instituted the remedies necessary to bring our power supply back to normal, we are determined to put in place the needed long-term power infrastructure that will assure our people a permanently stable supply of electricity.
These energy programs must be complemented by our efforts in the areas of telecommunications and transportation. The archipelagic nature of our geography calls for a safer, modern and more efficient system of inter-island water transportation.
We must remember that the highest priority in our quest for greater productivity are our disadvantaged countrymen. If we produce more, those who have less shall have more to partake of. This is the rationale for the many reforms we have implemented to tilt the balance in favor of the less privileged; to tilt the balance in favor of the countryside.
Preserving Our Natural Resources
Our efforts at increased production must be complemented by our reinvigorated drive for conservation. I believe an important expression of our maturity is our exercise of good stewardship over our resources.
I am pleased to report that we marked a milestone last year in our reforestation program. In 1989, we reversed the deforestation trend: we have now planted more areas with trees than the areas wasted by the irresponsible exploitation of our forest resources.
Linking arms with our people and with nongovernmental organizations, we have created a vision of development without destruction.
To underscore this commitment, I directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on June 1, 1990, to blast all roads leading to virgin forests being used by illegal loggers. Furthermore, we have drastically reduced the number of timber license agreements from 142 to 75.
The Population Issue
Our maturity must now also be reflected in our stance on the population issue. I am aware that this is an emotionally charged subject matter that some of us have opted to shelve, or even totally ignore in the past.
We must now face this responsibility squarely and address it as a crucial health issue – a health issue where the well-being of our children, mothers, families- in fact, of our whole society, is at stake.
Here, we would like to give life to Article Fifteen of our Constitution which upholds the importance of our families, and the right of our children to proper care and nutrition.
At stake here, too, is the very application of the principles of our democracy: where our people make the choice; where the final judgment on the morality of their choices is left to the freedom of their conscience.
The magnitude of the rebuilding work that is before us calls for the involvement of many more hands. There is thus a need for greater involvement among our youth, especially in activities where they are given the opportunities to appreciate the value of hard work, love for country, and a mature sense of responsibility.
In calling for this, we uphold the provisions of our Constitution. For we thereby underscore our recognition of the youth’s vital role in nation-building.
For two years now, we have provided our youth with a vehicle for participation in public and civic affairs through the President’s Summer Youth Program. Over 71,000 young people took hands-on jobs in the countryside, in private sector offices and in our government agencies. We exposed them to the realities of life while encouraging them to keep their idealism and advocacy for reforms.
And this month we called on them to march with us in our fight against drug abuse. They have responded well with the launching of the Junior Drug Watch.
I hope that in the coming years, there will be even more participation by them in these activities.
The Fiscal Issues
Our maturity is also anchored on a citizenry whose sense of patriotism is expressed in their honest and active participation in our revenue generation effort. This was evident last year as we increased our tax collection by 35.4 percent: from 90 billion 400 million pesos in 1988 to 122 billion 400 million pesos last year.
The more important expressions of our maturity, however, are the policy decisions we shall make as we adopt innovations in our revenue generation scheme: as we shift the tax burden from our poorer countrymen to the more affluent sectors of our society; as we enhance the equity and progressive character of our income tax measures; as we promote local autonomy through stronger local financing; as we continue to improve our tax administration.
We shall also undertake even more decisive steps towards lowering inflation and bringing down our fiscal deficits. In connection with this, we are intensifying our revenue generation efforts; we are accelerating the sale of government assets even as we take all the necessary measures to minimize public spending.
We will not stop until we bring down the public sector deficit to the more tolerable three percent as a ratio to our Gross Domestic Product. We are determined to bring this ratio further down in the next two years.
Safeguarding Peace and Order
We continue to strive to make compassion a genuine hallmark of our society. But as we take the path of maturity, we see the greater need to balance compassion with the strength of the arms of justice. Painful though it may be, we must look at the options for heavier penalties for plunder; for heinous crimes; for crimes against public order, including rebellion and attempts at seizing the powers of the State;
Our maturity is anchored, too, on the commitment of our soldiers to our Constitutional democracy. While there are still a few within the AFP who continue to hang the sword of Damocles over our people, I am proud to say that, on the whole, the AFP continues to be the protector of our democratic gains. Even as they perform their mandate of keeping peace and order in our land, they are also our partners in our development goals.
I cite in particular our AFP Engineering Corps, whose Engineering Brigades undertake the construction of several vital infrastructures, particularly in the areas threatened by insurgency.
I am pleased to note that even in our peace and order efforts, the partnership approach is applied. The civilian sector continues to play a vital role in our integrated strategy towards the attainment of these goals. This partnership is evident in our various inter-agency councils, such as the peace and order, the regional development, and the national reconciliation and development councils.
Relations With Other Nations
Our maturity is anchored on our ability to earn and maintain a place of honor and respect in the community of nations.
We acknowledge the support of our friends in our economic development thrusts. Last year, we obtained pledges and grants totalling 3 billion 500 million dollars, 98 percent of which have already been programmed or utilized for specific projects.
This place of honor also rests on our credibility before our international creditors. Today, we still suffer from the burdensome legacy of the past. Our foreign debt continues to stare us in the face; and so does the responsibility of servicing all of these debts.
Since the time we inherited these liabilities, you and I have not stopped looking for better repayment terms from our creditors. We have also pushed back the terms for the repayment of the principal. Where opportunities are present, we have taken advantage of them so as to buy back debts at significant and favorable discounts.
I share with you the concern that a significant amount of our country’s foreign exchange receipts flows out to service our foreign debt. I share with you the strong desire to see the day when our precious foreign exchange shall be used instead to fund social development.
It is also my hope, however, that Congress would share with me the concern that any move we take on the manner of debt repayment must never jeopardize in any way our painfully-built good standing with our creditors.
The systematic approach we have adopted over the past four years has been beneficial to our people, to our constituents. This approach has favored our economic growth; price stability; and our renewed access to the international financial market.
Our economy today is one of the best performing among nations with substantial foreign debt. And this has been possible only because our creditors believe that they can count on our word and commitment. You and I must work together to keep it that way.
Finally, we must address the issue of our relationship with the United States of America.
We are determined to chart a new course in our relationship with our long-time ally. I served the notice of termination of our military bases agreement. I have made sure that the provisions of our Constitution have been strictly adhered to. Above all, I have painstakingly endeavored to ensure that the national interest will be upheld whatever the outcome of our future discussions with the United States.
I served that notice of termination knowing the far-reaching consequences of that act. I declared our preparedness to look into other possibilities in our relationship with America. I underscored our desire to keep the friendship, whatever form our partnership may take in the future.
In this historic event, there is a paramount issue to address. This is the question of our ability as a people to live out to the fullest the true essence of sovereignty.
We must ensure that in making the decision as to whether the bases must go or stay, we must unite instead of divide.
Should we become a nation divided after this decision, then there shall be no sovereignty to speak of. To follow our national will, whatever option we might take, we must first agree to rid ourselves of unhealthy division. Only then can we stand up to any foreign nation and say, “This is our people’s decision; we shall pursue it by every means.”
Proposals For Legislation
When the two Houses of our Congress, therefore, meet in this Fourth Regular Session, there are two things I shall ask of you. First, I ask you to consider and appreciate the significance of this time in our history. I ask you to consider the options for a giant step forward that are arrayed before us.
And second, I ask you to address a legislative agenda that will push our democracy further into that level of maturity – a higher level of maturity necessary to the rebuilding of our nation.A good part of this agenda is drawn from initiatives already taken by the two Houses of Congress. In adopting this agenda, we focus on the commonality of our goals and our shared vision for our country and people.
I recognize as well that most of the bills in this agenda have been passed by one of the two Chambers and accordingly transmitted to the other. It is my hope and urgent call that this agenda we have worked out together will be completely enacted during this Fourth Regular Session.
May I now propose the following:
First, to help our countrymen in the disaster areas: the immediate passage of House Bill 31448 appropriating 10 billion pesos for aid, relief and rehabilitation, and for the repair and reconstruction of permanent structures affected by the recent earthquake.
Second, to further hasten our poverty alleviation and countryside agro-industrial development thrusts, the passage of the following measures:
1. Providing small and medium enterprises with capital of less than P5,000,000 with an integrated assistance package and services, including more accessible credit and financing;
2. Strengthening the social amelioration program for the sugar industry;
3. Establishing a Magna Carta for small farmers which seeks to further improve agricultural productivity and income; and
4. Providing for a Code governing the development and conservation of our fishery and aquatic resources.
Third, to further strengthen local autonomy: the immediate passage of the Local Government Code; particularly, the provisions rationalizing the allotment system to increase funds at the disposal of local government units.
Fourth, to further emphasize our concern for protection of the environment, the passage of the following bills:
1. Providing for comprehensive anti-pollution measures, including increased penalties for violations thereof;
2. Increasing charges for the cutting of timber and other forest products to levels that better reflect their economic value; and
3. Updating the 53-year old public land law to conform to new realities.
Fifth, to enhance the equity and progressive character of our tax system, the passage of a tax reform package which includes, among others, the following bills:
1. Increase in personal exemptions from income tax;
2. Imposition of the affluent consumption tax;
3. Provision of ceilings on certain business deductions;
4. Conversion of the ad valorem tax on oil products to specific tax; and,
Gradual phaseout of the gross receipts tax on banks to help cut intermediation cost.
Sixth, to underscore our sovereignty and independent foreign policy:
1. The passage of the law creating the Baselands Development Authority to implement the bases conversion plan which will be submitted by the Legislative-Executive Bases Council; and
2. The passage of a law upgrading our Foreign Service Corps. Seventh, to accelerate the upgrading of our transportation system:
3. The passage of a law increasing the capitalization of the Philippine National Railways; and
4. A law increasing the capitalization of the Light Rail Transit Authority;
And eighth, to strengthen the safeguards of our democracy, the passage of the following measures:
1. A revised bill repealing Presidential Decree 1850 thereby strengthening civilian supremacy over the military;
2. The anti-coup and the anti-plunder bills;
3. A bill providing for a witness protection program;
4. Omnibus amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act; and
5. The passage of electoral reform measures.
Acknowledging The Work of Congress
I join our people in thanking the ladies and gentlemen of both the Senate and the House of Representatives for the continuing legislative support you have given to our nation’s aspiration for greater productivity and reform.
I cite in particular your work on the following legislation of national importance: Republic Act No. 6810 or the Magna Carta for countryside and barangay business enterprises; Republic Act No. 6763 on the construction of concrete barangay roads and multipurpose pavements; Republic Act No. 6849 on the installation of municipal public telephones; Republic Act No. 6826 on the grant of emergency powers to the President; and, Republic Act No. 6948 upgrading the benefits of military veterans and their dependents.
I also acknowledge your help in the passage of the following laws:
Republic Act No. 6846 creating the Abot-Kaya Pabahay Fund; Republic Act Nos. 6938 and 6939 on the Cooperative Code and the Cooperative Development Authority; Republic Act No. 6952 establishing the Petroleum Price Standby Fund; Republic Act No. 6956 modifying the excise tax on certain products; and Republic Act No. 6957 on the financing of infrastructure projects by the private sector.
I look forward to our continuing cooperation as we endeavor to keep the agenda of our nation foremost in our list of priorities.
As President, I reiterate my commitment to institute greater reforms during the next two years of this Presidency. I am aware of the many obstacles strewn in our path by those who wish to waylay our march towards our goals. I wish to assure you and the rest of our countrymen that I shall never be intimidated; there shall be no rest from my work until the task is completed.
But our success would not be possible without unity among us. I therefore ask you, Honorable Senators and Representatives of this our people’s Congress, and the rest of our leaders, to renew with me our commitment to the dream that bound us together in 1986: Democracy, freedom, sovereignty, economic growth, social justice.
Let us join hands with our people as we undertake the task of rebuilding, and as we resume our march towards our goals.
I should like to thank all our friends throughout the world – governments, institutions as well as individuals – for the humanitarian assistance given to our people and the victims of the earthquake.
I intend to properly thank and commend them, along with all those who acted valiantly to save lives, at appropriate ceremonies in the near future.
The National Disaster Coordinating Council is hereby directed to submit to me at the soonest possible time the full list of these friends and these heroes.
May katiyakan ang ating tagumpay kung tayo’y magkakaisa. Kung kaya’t hinihimok ko kayo – kagalanggalang na mga Senador, Kongresista at ang iba pang mga pinuno ng bayan na muli tayong manumpa sa pangarap na nagbigkis sa atin noong 1986: Ibalik at panatiliin ang demokrasya, kalayaan, karapatan, katatagang pangkabuhayan at katarungang panlipunan.
Mula sa halos ganap na pagkawasak na ating naranasan, tayong lahat ay magkapit-bisig upang magampanan natin ang ating tungkulin na itayong muli ang napinsala sa atin nang sa gayon ay makapagpatuloy tayo sa landas tungo sa ating inaasam na mga layunin.
Magkaisa tayo. Magtulungan tayo. Maraming salamat po.