Tomorrow’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Rodrigo Duterte, his fifth, is both unprecedented and crucial in the midst of the raging COVID-19 pandemic, which, as of this writing, has infected more than 72,000 of our countrymen and claimed more than 1,800 lives, and continuously increasing.

          We say unprecedented as it will be the first-time that our nation will witness a “hybrid” SONA, with reportedly only 50 people to be physically present at the session hall of the Batasang Pambansa when the President delivers his speech, while the rest of officials of the executive branch as well as members of the Senate and House of Representatives will attend via video conferencing.

          It is also crucial in view of the economic downturn and the losses in income and employment of millions of our fellow Filipinos, notwithstanding the fears of those contracting the coronavirus.

          In addition, our nation is also besieged by acrimonious issues such as the closing down of ABS-CBN, the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Law, the continuing West Philippine Sea dispute, the revival of Charter change, and the issues initiated by local government executives, particularly their hope for a greater share in the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA).

          Our country’s economic managers have already projected that the Philippine economy will incur P2.2 trillion in losses this year due to COVID-19. Only God will know the impact of the pandemic on our people and throughout the world.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), for its part, reported that some 7 million of our countrymen, including the overseas workers, have lost their jobs due to the global pandemic. It added that the number of unemployed Filipinos may reach a staggering 10 million by the end of the year.

Truly the worldwide COVID-19 plague is both a perilous health and economic crisis.

A study published by the World Bank, Global Economic Prospects, last June, 2020, foresaw “a 5.2 percent contraction in global GDP in 2020, the deepest global recession” in 80 years, as a result of the coronavirus.

The report also predicts that the global pandemic “will push 70 to 100 million people worldwide into extreme poverty, which is measured at the international poverty line of $1.90 per day.”

The study underscores the following:

“The global recession would be deeper if bringing the pandemic under control took longer than expected, or if financial stress triggered cascading defaults.

“The pandemic highlights the urgent need for health and economic policy action — including global cooperation — to cushion its consequences, protect vulnerable populations, and improve countries’ capacity to prevent and cope with similar events in the future.”       

The prestigious Oxfam International has proposed two things to the international community in order to address the raging global plague: One, “develop a global public health plan and emergency responseto tackle the disease head on”; and two, “create an economic rescue plan to pay for the huge increase in public health and to help ordinary people cope with the huge economic costs precipitated by this virus.”

It is in this setting that this 83-years-old citizen looks forward to President Duterte’s penultimate State of the Nation Address and his proposals to the nation and our people.