Manila, Philippines - In his New Year's message on Monday, December 31, President Benigno Aquino III appealed to Filipino voters to be critical in choosing the country's next leaders in 2013.
"2013 is a critical chapter in our crusade for long-term development and clean governance. In this new year, we need to have stronger unity. I hope that the Filipino public will be more critical in installing its leaders," he said in Filipino.
Voters will be casting their ballots for senators, members of the House of Representatives, local officials and partylist representatives in the midterm elections in May 2013. Aquino's political party - Liberal Party - has fielded its respective candidates.
Aquino said the sustainability of his reforms will depend on who will be elected.
"These leaders will be the ones to answer our call to pursue the nobility of public service; these leaders will be the ones who will push through with the reforms we started," he said.
He added that it is important for people to consider what direction they would like the country to go to - to move forward or go back to the time when corruption blocked progress.
Aquino stressed that that the new heights the country reached in 2012 mark only the start of bigger things. He mentioned the 7.1% growth of the gross domestic product in the 3rd quarter, the highest in Southeast Asia and the highs achieved by the Philippine Stock Exchange (the PSE broke records 38 times).
He said other accomplishments in 2012 include the signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement and the passage of laws. Aquino signed the reproductive health bill and sin tax bills into law in 2012.
Vice President Jejomar Binay also hoped that 2013 will fill the country with a "renewed sense of joy," adding that 2012 saw how Filipinos proved their resilience amid tragedies.
Thousands of Filipinos in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley lost their loved ones and homes as Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) ravaged parts of the country in December.
"The year 2012 showed how we Filipinos continue to stand firm and remain hopeful in spite of the tragedies we face and humble in the face of victories. I pray that the coming year will fill us with a renewed sense of joy, guided by the grace of God as we continue our journey towards a more prosperous Philippines," he said.
Crackdown on illegal firecrackers
For tonight's revelry, Aquino has ordered the Philippine National Police, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Bureau of Fire Protection to monitor the compliance of stores selling firecrackers.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the agencies are checking if the laws and local ordinances are being followed by those who sell firecrackers.
He added that DILG Undersecretary Rafael Santos has also been tasked to inspect if the stores have the proper permit and license to sell firecrackers.
"Having a license means it's a privilege to sell [firecrackers], so we have to check if they are following the laws on what kinds and sizes of firecrackers are allowed to be sold," he said. - Rappler.com