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Economic growth, unemployment set to be top agenda for Aquino

Economic growth and tackling unemployment are set to be top of the agenda for Philippine President Benigno Aquino when he delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday (July 28).

MANILA: Economic growth and tackling unemployment are set to be top of the agenda for Philippine President Benigno Aquino when he delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday (July 28).

It comes amid a dramatic drop in approval ratings for Aquino as well as three impeachment complaints.

Market vendor Emy Barocha only wants to hear one thing from Aquino when he delivers his state of the nation address.

"I hope he will say something on increasing basic wages. We need more to be able to afford to buy our everyday necessities. Despite the country's high economic growth, many Filipinos say their quality of life has worsened," said Barocha.

Though the Philippines economy grew at a better than expected 7.2 per cent in 2013, unemployment is at 7.3 per cent and remains the highest in Southeast Asia.

Last month, the country's inflation rose to 4.5 per cent, its highest level in more than two years.

"Life is harder now. Many are going hungry because they cannot afford to buy food,” Monette Danao, a market Vendor said. “We are poorer now than before and the soaring prices are not helping."

The government admitted that poverty alleviation and job creation remains big challenges but added that is making headway.

Herminio Coloma, Secretary, Presidential Communications Operations Office, said: "The results are quite tangible. We have already attained our ambition to attain investment grade ratings and we have transformed the Philippines from being the sick man of Asia to one of Asia's brightest stars."

In his second last State of the Nation Address before he steps down in 2016, Aquino is also expected to defend his administration's stimulus program despite a high court ruling that it violated the country's constitution.

Known as the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a portion of the US$33-million worth of public funds illegally went to the government's allies in Congress. Aquino is now facing three impeachment complaints at the House of Representatives on accusations he betrayed public trust.

With Aquino's popularity and trust ratings falling to record lows over the alleged misappropriation of state funds, analysts say the he will now have to clearly show how the program was able to improve the lives of 90 million Filipinos as the military calls for calm, amid rumours of a possible coup.

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