The Biggest Highlights From President Bongbong Marcos' First SONA
On Monday, July 30, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. delivered his first State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City. As always, the speech contained some of the President's key promises, sound bites, and proposed measures during his administration.
Here are the highlights.
On Macro-Economic Targets
President Marcos reiterated what his economic team, led by new Department of Finance Chief Benjamin Diokno, previously stated a few weeks back. "The economy is expected to grow by 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent this year as we continue to reopen the economy while considering the recent external developments," Marcos said.
He also hopes to reduce poverty incidence to single digits by the end of his term and bring the Philippines to an "upper-middle income" status by 2024.
The President said he wants to turn the Philippines into an investment hub. "Our country must become an investment destination, capitalizing on the corporate recovery and tax incentives for enterprises through the CREATE Law, and economic liberalization law such as the Public Service Act and the Foreign Investments Act."
Marcos also claimed that he was working with the National Economic and Development Authority for the new Philippine Development Plan for 2023 to 2028 with a deadline for submission at year's end.
On Energy Solutions
Marcos openly discussed the possibility of reviving power plants in the Philippines. "We must build new power plants," said the President.
He continued: "I believe it is time also to re-examine our strategy towards building nuclear power plants in the Philippines. We will comply of course with the International Atomic Energy Agency regulation for nuclear power plants as they have been strengthened after Fukushima."
On the Tax System
"We will implement a sound fiscal management. Tax administration reforms will be put in place to increase revenue collection," he told the nation. "Expenditure priorities will be realigned and spending efficiency will be improved to immediately address the economic scarring arising from the effects of COVID-19 and also to prepare for future shocks."
The President also noted that he will impose new value added tax on digital services, which should generate about P11.7 billion next year.
"Tax compliance procedures will be simplified to promote ease of paying taxes," Marcos added.
Marcos addressed issues on food supply, as well. He said he is coordinating closely with the Department of Agriculture for increased production of products next season. The President is keen on lowering the price of goods, too.
His government will also focus on establishing a network of farm-to-market roads, modernization, and financial and technical aid for farmers and fisherfolk.
"Magbibigay tayo ng pautang habang mas ilalapit natin sa sektor ng agrikultura ang hindi gaanong mahal na farm inputs na bibilhin nang bulto ng gobyerno," Marcos explained. "Ang mga pautang at financial assistance sa mga magbubukid at mangingisda ay magiging institusyon at patakaran ng aking administrasyon."
On Agrarian Reform
In his speech, the President touched on the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. He said that he wants a one-year moratorium on amortization and interest payments. "Congress must also pass a law that would emancipate the agrarian reform beneficiaries from the agrarian reform debt burden."
Marcos also hopes to redistribute lands to landless agriculture graduates and war veterans. This includes some 52,000 hectares of the state's unused agricultural lands, which should go to retired war veterans, as well as to retirees from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police.
On Social Welfare
"Utos ko sa DSWD ang mabilis na pagtugon sa pangangailangan ng mga biktima ng kalamidad at iba't ibang krisis," said Marcos.
He also hopes to simplify the process for crisis victims trying to obtain aid. "Dahil hindi naman dapat dadagdagan pa ang hirap na nararanasan ng ating mamamayan," he pointed out.
Among other things, Marcos also wants to strengthen the Philippines' violence against women and children programs through counselling and more.
On Foreign Policy
He reiterated what he said during his inauguration address, saying that the Philippines "shall continue to be a friend to all and an enemy to none.”
Marcos claimed: "I believe it is time for our children to return to face-to-face classes." The President, however, stressed that booster shots must be rolled out first.
He also advocated for better teaching materials to be used in schools. "Our children must always be equipped with the best that we can provide. Ang edukasyon ang tangi nating pamana sa ating mga anak na hindi mawawaldas."
The President also told members of Congress that he wants to institute a program for refresher courses for teachers. This should help them "stay abreast of the rapid growth in technology especially in this post-pandemic world."
For our medium of instruction, Marcos hopes to maintain the advantages that we have "established as an English speaking people."
Marcos emphasized a need for tourism "branding" to be upheld.
"To foster the Filipino brand is to spark our sense of pride and reaffirm our strong sense of identity. It is time to welcome the rest of the world with an enhanced Filipino brand that is unique, attractive and creative," Marcos said in his speech.
In terms of other improvements to the industry, the Marcos government will look into road improvements for easier access to tourist destinations, upgrades to airports, and the addition of new international airports in various regions.
President Marcos will be capitalizing on the gains of former President Rodrigo Duterte's "Build, Build, Build" initiatives.
“The backbone of an economy is its infrastructure. The infrastructure program of the Duterte administration must not only continue but wherever possible, be expanded,” he said. “The planned expansion of infrastructure projects would be possible if we continue to encourage the participation of the private sector.”
Marcos also discussed the possibility of taking on more railway projects and an expansion of the Public-Private Partnership. Infrastructure development spending will be sustained at five to six percent of the country's gross domestic product, as well.
“My order to the Department of Transportation or DOTr is really very simple: full speed ahead.”
On Migrant Workers
“We shall automate the verification of contracts and issue secure overseas employment certifications that you can keep on your smartphone. I call on the Department of Migrant Workers and the DICT to make this a top priority.”
“Tinatawagan ko rin ang Department of Foreign Affairs na makipagtulungan sa Department of Migrant Workers na tiyaking ang lahat ng mga diplomatic post ay tutulong na agarang maibalik sa trabaho ang mga ating overseas Filipino workers na nawalan ng hanapbuhay nitong nakalipas na ilang taon.”
Will there be any more added community restrictions in the near future? Chances are, there won't be much. Marcos said: "hindi na natin kakayanin ang isa pang lockdown."
The current alert level systems stays at least for now, but the President reiterated that he is studying other ways these classifications can be improved, should there any more new variants that arise. Marcos also hopes to focus on encouraging vaccine literacy and information.
President Marcos also called on the Philippine Competition Commission to make sure pharmaceutical companies' prices for medicine remain balanced. The President wants to establish the Philippines' own Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, as well.
Priority Legislative Measures
- National Government Rightsizing Program
- Budget Modernization Bill
- Valuation Reform Bill
- Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act
- E-Government Act
- Internet Transaction Act
- Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery
- Medical Reserve Corps
- National Disease Prevention Management Authority
- Virology Institute of the Philippines
- Department of Water Resources
- Unified System of Separation, Retirement, and Pension
- E-Governance Act
- National Land Use Act
- National Defense Act
- Mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and National Service Training Program
- Enactment of Enabling Law for natural Gas Industry
- Amendments to Electric Power Industry Reform Act
- Amendments to Build-Operate-Transfer Law
"The state of the nation is sound"
President Marcos ended his speech by saying:
“I do not intend to diminish the risks and the challenges that we face in this turbulent time in global history, and yet, I see sunlight filtering through these dark clouds.”
“We have assembled the best Filipino minds to help navigate us through this global crisis that we are now facing.”
“We will endure. Let our Filipino spirit ever remain undimmed.”
“I know this in my mind, I know it in my heart, I know it in my very soul: the state of the nation is sound.”