President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. struck a hopeful note in his first State of the Nation Address or SONA on July 25, 2022.
Marcos delivered his speech before a joint session of Congress, with Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and House of Representatives Speaker Martin Romualdez behind him.
“We live in difficult times brought about by some forces of our own making, but certainly, also by forces that are beyond our control,” Marcos said.
“But we have, and we will continue to find solutions,” the President declared.
“I do not intend to diminish the risks and challenges that we face in this turbulent time in global history, and yet, I see sunlight filtering through these dark clouds,” Marcos also said.
“We have assembled the best Filipino minds to help navigate us through this time of global crisis.
“We will endure. Let our Filipino spirit ever remain undimmed.
“I know this in my mind, in my heart, in my very soul that … the state of the nation is sound,” Marcos said.
In his speech, Marcos laid out a clear roadmap toward recovery for the Philippines in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
His 70-minute speech was applauded about 30 times, twice with a standing ovation from over 1,300 officials invited to witness the event at the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City.
The SONA was headlined by his administration’s economic roadmap that included measures to increase revenues by imposing Value Added Tax on digital service providers and ensuring tax compliance by promoting ease of paying taxes.
Marcos said one of his administration’s medium-term macroeconomic and fiscal objectives was to bring down the poverty rate to “9 percent or single-digit poverty rate by 2028”.
“I have instructed the NEDA to coordinate with other agencies and work on the Philippine Development Plan for 2023 to 2028 and to submit to me the complete blueprint and progress of its implementation not later than year-end,” the President said.
Marcos also focused on agriculture and agrarian reform, disclosing his plan to issue an executive order that will impose a one-year moratorium on the payment of land amortization and interest payments for agrarian reform beneficiaries.
He said the tourism industry will also be crucial in achieving economic recovery.
“They say that each brand has a story. As for the Filipino brand, ours is deeply rooted in our rich cultural heritage and the tourism sector plays an invaluable role in the promotion of the Filipino brand.
Tourism is not only an important economic development tool but the abundance of opportunities that the sector creates in terms of regular employment and even job creation at the grassroots level is undeniable,” he said.
On the social protection aspect, Marcos said the Department of Social Welfare and Development will continue cleansing the list of beneficiaries under the 4Ps or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program to ensure that more poor families are able to “graduate” from poverty.
The President said his administration will observe a “balance” between ensuring the health of Filipinos amid the pandemic and keeping the economy open.
He also underscored the need to resume full face-to-face classes as the government makes a renewed push for COVID-19 vaccine booster uptake.
Infrastructure projects—especially those started by his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte—“must not only continue but, wherever possible, be expanded,” Marcos said.
“The backbone of an economy is its infrastructure. We shall confidently build on this firm foundation established by my predecessor. As it is in building an edifice, we must keep the momentum and aspire to build better more,” the President said.
He likewise directed the Department of Transportation to move “full speed ahead” in its efforts to improve roads and transportation systems across the country.
Under the category of “ease of doing business,” Marcos underscored the need to ensure the availability of cheap and reliable energy.
“There is some room to expand our present power supply through existing power sources, but this is only to a very limited extent. We must build new power plants. We must take advantage of all the best technology that is now available, especially in the areas of renewable energy,” he said.
The President also reiterated his foreign policy that the Philippines will continue to be “a friend to all, an enemy to none” but with a stern warning that there will be no giving up of even a square inch of territory.
“On the area of foreign policy, I 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,” Marcos said, earning him a standing ovation from the more than a thousand guests inside the plenary hall of the House of Representatives.
“The Philippines has always been open and welcoming to all our foreign friends and visitors. That is our world view, that is our culture. But let me be clear: We are very jealous of all that is Filipino,” he said.
Monday also enumerated his administration’s priority legislative agenda—19 measures which he hoped Congress would pass, including a national government rightsizing program, the setting up of a medical reserve corps, as well as the creation of a Department of Water Resources as well as a Virology Institute of the Philippines.