President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) at Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City earlier today at 4:00 PM. The 2020 SONA was aired on state television channel PTV-4, as well as on other known media outlets such as CNN Philippines, GMA News TV, and TV5. 17 cabinet members were physically present during the said event and a limited number from the Congress were inside the venue, while Vice President Leni Robredo was present through livestream. The highlights of his speech are discussed in the following paragraphs.
The president started his speech with the effects of the global pandemic on every nation and expressed his grief over the lives lost due to COVID-19. At the beginning of his SONA, President Duterte claimed that he was a victim of the Lopez family during the 2016 presidential elections, in which his ad campaign was not aired on their channel. He also accused Sen. Franklin Drilon of taking advantage of the ‘pre-occupied’ government by throwing accusations to Davao city Mayor Sara Duterte and son for political dynasty.
He later shared his administration’s accomplishments for the past four years, which include the following: (1) 4.3 million families benefited from the Pantawid Pamilya Program; (2) 92 million families benefited from the Social Amelioration Programs; (3) 75 Malasakit Centers nationwide were established to protect the health of the marginalized; (4) Salary Standardization Law of 2019 was imposed for government employees; (5) the National Economy Sports Law was passed to provide training and support to student athletes; (6) financial assistance were given to jeepney drivers; (7) infrastructure projects were proposed from the Build Build Build Program; (8) Executive Order 100—also known as the University inclusion—was issued to avoid discrimination; (9) Executive Order 104 that imposed price ceiling on 133 drugs and medicines was passed; (10) 93 testing laboratories were accredited nationwide; and (11) the country’s credit rating increased to A minus.
Duterte also pleaded with the Congress to pass the CREATE Act and mentioned the Build Build Build projects that could help yield economic benefits. Retooling for OFWs and scholarships was also included in his requests. The president asked the help of banks—that they give loans to SMEs without charges. On the issue of local travel, he urged the nation to do local trips once the system is back in place. Protection for consumers was also mentioned as the issue of online scamming is rampant nowadays. Moreover, the president is pushing for government agencies to switch to electronic transactions to eliminate long queuing and waiting time for the public.
President Duterte has always been determined to acquire a vaccine as soon as it is available. Earlier today, he updated the public about his recent conversation with President Xi Jinping, stating that he pleaded China’s president to be considered as one of their first recipients to gaining access to the COVID-19 vaccine. On the issue of education, the president sees to it that face-to-face learning will not happen to ensure the safety of the students. He clarified that he will not allow it until January, assuming that by September, the Philippines has already acquired the vaccine. Modular and blended learning, in accordance with DepEd’s proposal, will continue to persist until the said vaccine is available. Television frequencies that are also reverted back to the government’s hands will be used for education and learning. Duterte advised telecommunication companies to ameliorate their services by December 2020, and warned them of the possibility of being seized if they do not do so.
In the latter parts of his speech, amendments to specific laws were also brought up by President Duterte, such as the push for death penalty by lethal injection, as well as the modernization of the Bureau of Fire Immigration. He is also urging the congress to pass the National Housing Bill and the Advance Nursing Learning Act. For agricultural developments, President Duterte is proposing the following laws and policies to be passed and implemented: (1) the National Land Use Act; (2) the settlement of Boracay Island Authority (BIDA) for the Boracay showcase; (3) the use of Coco Levy for farmers, for the development of the Coconut Industry, and for the establishment of Coconut Farmers’ trust fund; and (4) making use of the 66 billion available agricultural stimulus fund.
Lastly, the president will not allow for the return of US military bases in Subic, as it will put the country into a higher risk should the Philippines be involved in war just like in the Second World War. President Duterte ended his SONA by appealing to the Filipinos to put their faith in the government to fight against COVID-19, and to unite and care for each other.