PRRD leaving office with high marks

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez - The Philippine Star

For over a week now, people have been seeing electronic billboards along certain parts of EDSA and Mandaluyong with an image of President Duterte above a Philippine map and the words “Salamat PRRD” (Thank you PRRD). Apparently, the digital billboards were put up by ordinary Filipinos who, on their own, contributed funds for the initiative to show their gratitude to the outgoing president. In fact, many people have also been posting individual photos wearing shirts and hoodies with the “thank you” message.

Clearly, these gestures show that President Rodrigo Duterte – with his unique leadership style – was effective and appreciated by a large majority of Filipinos for all he has done for them as president.

No matter what critics may say, there is no denying that many of the projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program of the Duterte administration will have long-lasting impact on the lives of people across the nation, as these roads, bridges, seaports, airports and railways play a major role in the development of the Philippines which had difficulty attracting foreign investments in the past due to complaints about poor if not lacking infrastructure to support growth and expansion plans of investors.

Under the modernization programs of the Department of Transportation, more than 200 airport and aviation projects were completed, with modern terminals and facilities built for airports that include the Clark International Airport, the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and the Bicol International Airport in Albay that has been dubbed as the country’s “most scenic” gateway.

Transportation Secretary Art Tugade gets credit because despite all kinds of criticisms and roadblocks he faced, he just kept going. Under his watch, railway projects that have been languishing were completed. Commuters were also very relieved when the MRT Line 3 was rehabilitated and the LRT East Extension (serving those from eastern portions of Metro Manila and Antipolo) was completed.

Former DPWH secretary and now senator Mark Villar also did well with the completion of expressways that have significantly lessened travel time, with the TPLEX (Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway) among the most notable. Under the Duterte administration, approximately 26,500 kilometers of roads and 5,500 bridges have been built nationwide, while 145,000 classrooms and 2,000 school buildings have been constructed in the last five years.

Education being the great equalizer, underprivileged students will benefit from Republic Act 10931 that allows qualified students to enroll in any state college or university without having to pay tuition and other fees.

Overseas Filipino workers were not forgotten, with the Department of Migrant Workers created to address the concerns of OFWs. During the height of the pandemic, free repatriation and financial assistance were provided to workers who lost their jobs. Aside from an OFW bank, a hospital in Pampanga was also built specifically to cater to the medical needs of OFWs and their families.

So affected is he by the plight of our OFWs that the President was ready to break relations with a country to make sure justice is served, like the time when a domestic helper was killed and kept in a freezer by her employers.

In so many ways, he made it loud and clear that the Philippines is a sovereign nation that must be respected no matter what, brooking no interference or intervention from foreign groups or entities.

It is perhaps only during the time of Duterte that one would see a police general with a reputation for being “astig” (tough guy) publicly breaking into tears while expressing his gratitude to the President for covering their backs and looking after their welfare. Every single Philippine military official who came to Washington, D.C. and dropped by the embassy had only the highest praises for President Duterte for beefing up their defense capabilities with much-needed equipment such as missile frigates, anti-submarine helicopters, multirole jets, high powered firearms and truck mounted Howitzer systems, plus almost doubling their outdated salaries.

No less than outgoing senator and former PNP chief Ping Lacson thanked the President. “On behalf of all retired and active military and uniformed personnel, I thank President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for looking after our welfare like no other Commander-in-Chief before him ever did,” he tweeted.

We give credit to Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez and the rest of the economic team for steadfastly keeping the economy in the right place with a strong fiscal position amid the pandemic. The passage of the TRAIN law has benefited many Filipinos in terms of reduced income taxes, while key reform measures have made the Philippines more competitive as an investment destination – with international analysts commending our resilience amid global uncertainty.

After initial challenges, the COVID-19 vaccination rollout has proved to be successful, with the Philippines ranking high in Nikkei Asia’s Recovery Index (No. 33 out of 121 countries) with a marked decrease in daily COVID-19 cases, outranking developed countries such as Japan, Canada, Italy, UK, Switzerland, US, Singapore and many others. As a matter of fact, I received so many messages thanking the President for the free vaccination which continues to this day.

One can say that the President has been to the deepest valley with the challenges that he faced during his term, among them the COVID-19 pandemic and now the impact of the war in Ukraine. Critics can keep trying to denigrate or diminish what have been accomplished during his watch – but President Duterte will leave the presidency at the top of the mountain because he has undoubtedly done extremely well – the only Philippine president to end his term with unprecedented high trust and approval ratings.

Salamat po, Mr. President!

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Email: [email protected]


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