Aquino attacks predecessor, aims for economic growth


The new Philippine President Benigno Aquino made his first state of the nation address to parliament in Manila on Monday. He set out the goals for his government, which present significant challenges.


Aquino's priority is to end the Muslim insurgency in the southern Mindanao region.

He aims to revive peace talks with Muslim separatist rebels in September.

The rebellion, led by the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has killed more than 150,000 people in the impoverished region since 1978.

Aquino's predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, failed to sign a peace treaty with the MILF despite being in power for nearly ten years.

The president also talked tough on corruption announcing the setting up of a Truth Commission to investigate Arroyo's alleged wrongdoings.

Aquino said the budget deficit in the first half of the year had ballooned to 196.7 billion pesos (3.3 billion euros) because of over-spending and poor revenue collection under Arroyo, who stepped down on 30 June.

"Our solution: public-private partnerships," he said. "From these public-private partnerships, our economy will grow and every Filipino will be the beneficiary. There are so many sectors that could benefit from this."

He identified one of the potential projects as a railway from Manila to the north of the country.

The president promised that as well as being cleaner, the new government would be more efficient and therefore more attractive to investors.

In the Philippines, Aquino is enjoying a grace period. According to a Pulse Asia survey released on Monday, 85 per cent of Filipinos trust him.

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