Aquino praises ‘proactive’ economic team

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'Everyone is performing his job, proactive and do not have to be pushed everyday,' President Aquino says of his economic team

MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino praised his economic team for being proactive and for giving him the straight facts.    

“Everyone is performing his job, proactive and do not have to be pushed everyday,” he said in an interview aired on ANC July 18, days before he delivers his 3rd State of the Nation Address.   

When asked repeatedly about the economic team’s de facto leader, Cesar Purisima, Aquino said the finance secretary does not give him “reams and reams of documents that hide the facts. I’m given the facts which I can base my decisions on.”

He also shared his trust on Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. “I can count [on him] to ensure that the peso is spent properly. He has my utmost trust and confidence.”

“And [Abad] also has a political sense,” he added.

The budget secretary is a long time friend and political adviser who shepherded Aquino when he was a political neophyte.

In a Rappler report, Abad is considered the “political ideologue” among Aquino’s core group in the Palace, while Transportation Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas can also be counted on for issues that have political and finance issues.  

Economy under Aquino

Under the Aquino administration, the Philippine economy has had wild swings. The economic growth in 2011, his first full year in office, slumped to 3.7% from 7.6% a year before, largely due to two factors: the impact of global economic woes that dampened demand for Philippine-made products, and the the delays in the roll out of key infrastructure projects under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) program, which was earlier designed to help stimulate economic activity.

Most of the delayed bidding for PPP projects are under the Transportation Department. Roxas, who has pushed for the PPP program, assumed the transportation portfolio a year ago and conducted a review of the projects in the PPP line-up.    

Surprisingly, the economy registered a 6.4% growth in the first quarter of 2012, making it the second best performing economy in Asia. The Aquino government targets an 8% growth a year to make it a sustainable and inclusive one.   

The Aquino government has also benefited from the eastward tilt of funds and sentiments in global finance. International rating agencies have upgraded the country’s credit ratings and some foreign funds have been making their way to the local stock market, which was among the best performing in Asia.  

Aquino attributed these gains to the transparency and good governance policy of his administration. 

“Lately, the conversations have been that they (business sector) are happy…The business sector has been asking about how to continue the [economic] reforms and programs after 2016. There is a privileged few before. Now there is a more level playing field. [But] how do we continue what has been happening [is the question I receive from business groups.”

Praises for Almendras  

Among a key factor in keeping and attracting investments, however, is power supply and prices — the turf of Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras.

President Aquino defended again his Ateneo de Manila University classmate who has been at the receiving end of electricity rate hikes and power supply issues, especially in Mindanao.  

“Secretary Almendras as you can see has been treated quite unfairly, I think. Prices in the Middle East brought about by the conditions — be it the Arab Spring or tensions with Iran or what have you — should not be blamed on the energy secretary of the Philippines who has no power to influence those events,” he stressed.

A staunch defender of Almendras, Aquino said the energy secretary is actually not appreciated enough.

“Has he been praised enough for the things that he’s done? Late last year — September, if I’m not mistaken — they pointed out that in terms of electrification we needed close to 36,000 sitios (violage) to be electrified. The estimate was P1 million per [sitio] to get them connected to the grid, and they asked for P1.3 billion last year, which we gave them so they produced 1,520 sitios and the cost was P814 million. So they electrified more than they promised, with less than they asked for,” Aquino stressed.

Almendras has been rumored to be Malacanang-bound. –

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