JV Ejercito urges PBBM: Let first SONA be about economic recovery, Covid-19 response

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito on Monday, July 18 said he wishes to hear President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. highlight his plans for the country's economic recovery and pandemic response in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25.

“I hope to hear some specifics on the direction he wants to take for the country. His inauguration speech was inspiring but his SONA needs to flesh out the details of his plan to address the challenges we face,” Ejercito said in a statement.

“He needs to come up with a plan that balances the need to protect our people from the current and future pandemic and the urgency of reviving our economy in the face of mounting debt, external pressures and inflation,” the returning senator added.

The lawmaker further said he expects Marcos to discuss a comprehensive economic plan that will go beyond proposals to raise existing taxes and levy new ones.

“There have been talks about raising taxes. This cannot be a stand-alone plan; rather, it should be part of a comprehensive economic blueprint that I hope will be discussed in the SONA,” he said.

Likewise, he emphasized the need to anchor the country's pandemic response on the Universal Healthcare Law.

Ejercito was the principal sponsor of the measure during his first term in the Senate. He recently filed an amendment to the law, seeking an adjustment in the current PhilHealth contribution scheme.

“In fighting the pandemic, I hope the President anchors his strategy on the effective implementation of the Universal Health Care law so we can strengthen our healthcare system and provide our people with affordable and accessible healthcare,” he said.

Ejercito is also pushing for the establishment of new specialty healthcare facilities in all regions of the country, as well as the protection of barangay health workers.

Aside from economic recovery and recovery, Ejercito said he hopes the President will bare his plans to strengthen the Duterte administration’s Build, Build, Build program, his predecessor’s flagship infrastructure initiative.

He noted that during the campaign, Marcos vowed he will improve former President Duterte’s infrastructure program.

“In the SONA, I hope he unveils his infrastructure development program…Specifically, this should include infrastructure projects that will modernize our transportation system, strengthen our tourism, and more importantly, allow for the efficient movement of people and goods,” he said.

Another issue he wants to hear Marcos tackle in his SONA is his plans for the country’s agriculture department. 

Marcos, who is concurrently serving as the Secretary of Agriculture, should elaborate on his plan for food security amidst the threat of an impending food crisis in the country.

“There have been suggestions to the effect that government should declare a State of Agricultural Emergency to allow government to address the impending food crisis,” the senator noted.

“In principle, I am amenable to this but only if such is part of a comprehensive plan to ensure food security and there is legislative oversight,” he said.