President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. presented a roadmap for recovery from the pandemic’s crippling effects and highlights of his governance agenda in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA). He also asked Congress to enact into law 19 bills that reflect his administration’s priorities.
Sound fiscal management shall address the pandemic’s “economic scarring” effects and “also to prepare future shocks.”
Investments will be promoted through the incentives offered by the CREATE Law, the new Public Service Act and updated Foreign Investments Act. These will be directed toward ecozones – especially those outside Metro Manila – in which “strategic industries” like health and medical care, high-tech manufacturing and emerging technologies will be promoted.
Congressional concurrence is also being sought for the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy that seeks to attain the following “headline goals:” real GDP growth of 6.5 to 7.5 percent in 2022 and 6.5 to 8 percent from 2023 to 2028; nine percent or single-digit poverty rate by 2028; three percent national government deficit to GDP ratio by 2028; less than 60 percent government debt to GDP ratio by 2025; and income per capita of at least $4,256 by 2024, thereby raising the country to upper middle-income status.
Speaking in Filipino, President Marcos then emphasized the urgency of ensuring abundant food supply at reasonable prices. Government shall purchase farm inputs at bulk rates and provide farmers with financial and technical assistance, while fortifying value chains from farmers to consumers. Kadiwa centers offering reasonably priced food products will be revived.
His announcement on “no more lockdowns” drew loud applause as did his reiteration of government policy on the resumption of face-to-face classes from grade school to college. Vaccine rollout and booster programs shall be pursued vigorously. Health care facilities shall be upgraded.
Specialty treatment centers for heart, kidney, lung and other diseases shall be established in other regions outside of Metro Manila, while rural health units will be deployed to enhance primary health care in the countryside. A Center for Disease Control Prevention and Vaccine Institute shall be established. Cheaper drug availability shall be ensured. Cartel-like practices of pharmaceutical companies will be probed and deterred.
Quality of education shall be a major focus; emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) strand shall improve the competitiveness of Filipino youth. English proficiency shall be enhanced further as this is the strength of Filipinos in overseas job markets. The new Department of Migrant Workers shall ensure equitable and humane treatment of Filipinos employed abroad.
Internet connectivity shall enable digital transformation across all industries. Infrastructure development shall be pursued through a Build Better More program that includes upgrading of world-class railway, maritime and air transportation facilities.
President Marcos vowed that he “will not preside over any process that will abandon even one square inch of territory of the Republic of the Philippines to any foreign power.”
He ended on a note of optimism, declaring emphatically: “We will endure. Let our Filipino spirit remain forever undimmed…The state of the nation is sound.”