Work isn’t over: Duterte’s to-do list for final year in office

Published July 26, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Genalyn Kabiling

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (Photo from the Office of the President)

The pandemic is raging, the country is in recession, and many people remain hungry and unemployed. Faced with these urgent concerns, President Duterte has accomplished much to address these problems but intends to do more in the closing strength of his presidency.

Ahead of the President’s sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA), Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar recognized the administration still has plenty on his to-do list, from addressing the coronavirus outbreak, stimulating economic recovery, to fighting illegal drugs and corruption in the country.

“We have accomplished so much from when President Rodrigo Roa Duterte started his term, and we will accomplish more in his last year in office,” Andanar said.

“As we continue addressing and responding to a multitude of societal problems amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we will use our remaining year in office by focusing heavily on continuing to respond to COVID-19 and restarting our economy through continued infrastructure project implementations and socio-economic reforms,” he added.

Duterte, elected in office on a promise to end drugs and corruption in 2016, will bow out of office next year. His presidency has encountered a mix of hits and misses from growing the economy, keeping peace and order, to responding to disasters and other emergencies.

The government managed to boost economic growth and generate jobs but when the pandemic hit in 2020, its hard-fought gains were nearly wiped out.

The local economy contracted as the pandemic lockdown weakened consumer and business activities. Lives and livelihood of Filipinos were affected as the government imposed movement curbs while strengthening health care systems. Hunger incidence has risen as more people were displaced from work amid the sluggish economy.

As of July 21, the country’s cases of coronavirus reached more than 1.5 million, which comprised of 47,996 active cases and 26,844 deaths. The country remained under quarantine restrictions, including strict distancing protocols, to curb the rise of the more contagious Delta coronavirus variant.

In a bid to stimulate economic growth, the government is banking on the infrastructure programs, national budget, and the Bayanihan measures to accelerate the country’s return to normal. Over ₱2.7 trillion have already been spent on pandemic response and recovery efforts.

The government wants to pursue a safe new normal by reviving the economy, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and other businesses as well as generating more jobs while strengthening health care systems.

Another target set by the government is to bring down hunger incidence to pre-pandemic level, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

A recent survey showed hunger incidence soared to 16 percent or around four million families after the pandemic hit the country. Before the pandemic, the hunger level was recorded at eight percent or 2.1 million in December 2019.

“The more we open up the economy and get more people back to work, the more we will be able to drive the hunger numbers down,” Nograles said during a recent pre-SONA virtual presser.

“In the fight against hunger, government cannot do it alone, we need the help of private sectors, civil society, non-government organizations, the academe,” he said.

The government is also pinning its hopes on the vaccination drive to boost the people’s protection in the health crisis. As of July 20, more than five million people have been fully vaccinated. The country has more than 28 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including the latest shipment of over 500,000 Pfizer jabs.

The government aims to inoculate majority of the people to eventually reach herd immunity.

Nograles said the arrival of more vaccines would create “more confidence against the virus, more confidence in terms of consumer spending, more confidence in terms of business activities.” “We’re still on track in terms of our timelines for vaccination, in terms of population protection, in terms of herd immunity,” he said.

Andanar also appealed to the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The country’s vaccine supplies include Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Sputnik V, and Johnson & Johnson’s Jansen.

“As we promote our overall development and progress, we ask for the support of all Filipinos’ and their adherence to our call of observing health protocols and getting vaccinated,” Andanar said. “It is only when all of us are doing our part that we see us recovering as one nation,” he added.

The Palace earlier said it was hopeful that as more people become fully vaccinated, the nation can enjoy a “maskless” Christmas this year.

Apart from pandemic response and recovery, the government is committed to continue the fight against illegal drugs and corruption.

“Simultaneously, we will further cement our election promise of making efforts to end criminality, illegal drugs, and corruption, while ensuring that peace, security, and order are being upheld and promoted,” Andanar said.

In his campaign for the presidency in 2016, the President promised to eliminate the problems of drugs and corruption in three to six months. A year into office, Duterte admitted he was mistaken to place a deadline given the magnitude of the problems.

The President’s war on drug has left many people arrested and drug laboratories dismantled but also killed thousands with critics alleging abuses committed by government forces. An International Criminal Court has been asked to start a probe into the alleged crimes against humanity linked to the Philippines’ drug war.

Duterte, however, remained unfazed about attempts to put him on trial abroad for the alleged crimes against humanity related to his war on drugs. He prefers to face allegations in a court in the country rather than abroad, saying he would get justice before a court filled with “white people.”

The pandemic response and recovery as well as drug war will keep the President busy in his final 12 months in office as he cements his “pamana ng pagbabago” (legacy of change).