It’s all systems go for the sixth and final State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte scheduled tomorrow, July 26 at the Batasan Pambansa, home of the House of Representatives.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, who will host Duterte and invited guests for the SONA, said everything has been put in place for the big event. These include safety protocols against the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID 19) and security measures for all top officials and dignitaries.
“We are ready to receive the President for his much-awaited annual message for the Filipino people,” declared Velasco.
The House leader led a final inspection of the Batasan Pambansa complex on Sunday, July 25.
President Duterte will address Congress in the afternoon and is expected to arrive at the legislative complex before 2 pm on Monday.
In the morning, the Lower House will open its regular session for the third and final leg of the 18th Congress.
“Strict security and health restrictions are in place to ensure the safety of the President, Members and staff of Congress and other invited officials and guests throughout the activity,” Velasco said.
The Batasan complex is currently under strict lockdown, and those attending the SONA on Monday have been shortlisted.
Special identification cards are given to essential congressional staff and SONA attendees, who must present their vaccination cards as proof that they are fully vaccinated, as well as negative results of their RT-PCR and antigen tests, prior to entering the buildings inside the complex.
Inside the House plenary, the President will address only around 300 people instead of the usual 1,450 under the special security and public health protocols.
The flow of traffic within and around the Batasan complex are controlled with police barricades and checkpoints, keeping but the most essential vehicles—including members and staff cars—off the key streets around the complex.
“House officials led by Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza and Sergeant-at-Arms Mao Aplasca have done a good job coordinating with Malacañang and other agencies involved in the SONA,” Velasco said.
The Speaker also inspected the exhibits and a multimedia installation that were set up as part of the tribute to President Duterte by the 18th Congress.
The exhibits at the north and south portions of the plenary highlights the President’s landmark legislations and reform programs during the past five years.
A multimedia installation will receive the President as he makes his way to the plenary. Fronting the installation is a vessel which is an amalgamation of iconic Mindanaoan motifs: the kulintang, the torogan, the sarimanok, and the balangay.
Featured on the multimedia canvas are heartfelt testimonials and messages of gratitude from Filipinos who benefited from the President’s landmark reforms.
During the SONA, Velasco expects the President to look back on the performance of the administration. “I believe that the President will go back from the start of his administration since 2016. We accomplished a lot in that period,” he pointed out.
“Many people thought we were shooting for the stars and that programs such as free tertiary education, accessible health services, environmental rehabilitation, peace and order in communities would never see the light of day. But PRRD proved that under his leadership, this can be achieved,” he said.
He added: “And during the SONA, we expect that PRRD may also ask Congress to pass certain legislative measures within the remaining time that we have.”