After SONA, keep close watch on food, prices

Published July 29, 2020, 10:25 PM

by Manila Bulletin

The President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday listed 21 priority bills he asked Congress to  enact  in this second regular session of the 18th Congress. .

He again  asked  Congress to  approve  a bill  reviving  the death penalty  for drug crimes.  He proposed three  housing-related  bills,  a bill on retirement and pensions for uniformed personnel,  a  coconut levy trust fund, rural, agricultural, and fisheries development financing systems, a proposed Internet transaction act, modernizing  the Bureaus  of Fire Protection and Immigration.

He  asked  for the approval of  two financial reform  measures—the CREATE  Act  (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives) and   FIST Act (Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer).  There  were  three  bills  to strengthen the county’s  health care resources—on advanced nursing education, formation of a medical reserve corps,  and creating a national disaster prevention authority.

What the country wanted most to  hear  from him were his plans for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  He  thanked  Congress for the  Bayanihan  to Heal as One Act, which had   provided  funds to help  victims of the pandemic, and asked  Congress  for  a second  Bayanihan  Act.

it will be up to  Congress to study   the President’s  bills  and enact those it deems  truly important for national development  and progress.   Many  of  the  bills  are  for  long-range programs to improve the structure of the government.

Now  that  the SONA has been  delivered  and  administration  bills submitted  to Congress, the nation’s attention   will  once again shift to more immediate needs, problems,  and issues.

Food is the most basic of these needs.  We thus welcome Secretary of Agriculture William Dar’s assurance last week that  the  Philippines has enough food on hand to last not only up to the end  of  this year but even up to the first  quarter  of 2021.  Philippine rice production  was  up  6.8 percent in the second quarter, he said,  while the supply outlook for all other  agricultural commodities  was described as “favorable.”

The  Bangko  Sentral  ng  Pilipinas, meanwhile,  said inflation is likely to stay  benign – averaging  2.3 percent for 2020  and 2.6 percent for 2021. These are reassuring  words  indeed, considering  the  6.7 percent  rate that  inflation reached in 2018.

The ongoing pandemic   kept   people  inside  their houses these  last four months,   stopped most  business and  industrial operations,  and  caused the loss of income for many people. We  cannot  now  add  to their heavy burden  the problems  of  food shortage and  high prices.