STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS 2023
BY PAULA ABERASTURI
Marcos’ 2023 SONA was full of promises, but several key sectors were left out.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s second State of the Nation Address served as his way of assuring the citizenry that the government is doing its best to address important issues.
Marcos enumerated his administration’s triumphs in the economic front in the last year. Among these, he highlighted how the country posted a 7.6 percent growth rate in 2022, the highest our nation has seen in 46 years. In fact, the president declared that the country has emerged victorious despite the COVID-19 crisis.
“Nakakita po tayo ng magagandang resulta (We are seeing great outcomes),” he said.
Emphasizing that while there are economic matters that are beyond control, his administration is doing its utmost over matters that can be changed for the better.. Additionally, he exhorted Congress to approve a list of measures with the hope of curbing ination, while warning the public against driving food prices up.
“In spite of the difficulties, we are transforming the economy. We are stabilizing the prices of all the critical commodities,” Marcos noted. He hoped to assure the populace that “ination is moving in the right direction.” He also admitted that ination has “accelerated in recent months due largely to significant increases in international prices of oil and other key commodities.”
The president mentioned some projections for ination, claiming that these have been adjusted upward. However, he failed to lay down concrete plans to tame rising prices.
Recognizing that the country’s main driver for growth and employment remains tobe agriculture, the president continues to hold the Department of Agriculture (DA) portfolio. He has grand plans for the sector but acknowledged that he needs time.
Among the plans for agriculture are to increase production by providing financial and technical assistance to farmers,and investing in scientific research and modernization.
“Our aim is to boost our local agricultural production—through consolidation, modernization, mechanization, and improvement of value chains—augmented by timely and calibrated importation, as needed,” Marcos stressed.
He also bore down on the plight of farmers, who had to suffer lower prices for their produce, due to smuggling and hoarding. He vowed to put a stop to the illegal and immoral practice of agricultural smuggling, hoarding, and price fixing.
The president highlighted the recent approval of the New Agrarian Emancipation Act, which writes off loans of beneficiaries of agrarian reform. Notably, this was the only measure promised in last year’s SONA that became a law.
Lastly, Marcos assured the citizenry that the country is gearing up for the consequences of El Niño such as ensuring food security, and even considering cloud-seeding operations to counter the potentially prolonged drought.
The president spent considerable time narrating his plans for the country’s energy production and his push for renewable energy. His administration targets to raise the share of renewable energy in the power generation mix to 35 percent by 2030, and then 50 percent by 2040. He declared that 126 additional renewable energy contracts were awarded in the past year, as the country opened up investments in the renewable energy sector to foreign investors.
Marcos also stated that the country now has a unified national grid, with the interconnection of the Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao grids.
“The One Grid, One Market’ will enable more efficient transfers and more competitive pricing of electricity throughout the country. However, 68 grid connections are much delayed, according to the [Energy Regulatory Commission] ERC’scount. We are conducting a performance review of our private concessionaire, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines. We look to NGCP to complete all of its deliverables, starting with the vital Mindanao-Visayas and the Cebu-Negros-Panay interconnections,” he said.
The president vows that the country will achieve total electrification by , at the end of his term of office.
PEACE AND ORDER
Marcos proudly announced that the Bangsamoro transition was on its good way. “We are proud of the progress that the Bangsmoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao] BARMM has taken.... Former adversaries are now partners in peace. Its functions have been defined, and its basic laws are now being written. Through the BARMM, we have strengthened the nation’s prospects for finally achieving sustainable progress anchored on a true and lasting peace in the Southern Philippines. We will continue to support the progress of the BARMM, apace with our singular vision for all Filipinos,” he declared.
Additionally, the president said that he shall be issuinga proclamation granting amnesty to rebel returnees, saying: “Through community development and livelihood programs,the Barangay Development and Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Programs have been effective in addressing the root cause of conict in the countryside. To complete this reintegration process, I will issue a proclamation granting amnesty to rebel returnees. And I ask Congress to support us in this endeavor.”
Lasty, the president beseeched Congress to amend the “antiquated” National Defense Act of 1935, to “provide fora change in the military structure of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that is more responsive to current and future non-conventional security threats to the country’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty.”
He also declared that efforts are underway for a functional and financially sustainable pension for military and uniformed personnel.
THE DRUG WAR
The president confirmed that the campaign against illegal drugs launched by the previous administration shall now take a restorative approach. The campaign is now geared towards community-based treatment, rehabilitation, education, and reintegration, with the objective of curbing drug dependence. The administration will relentlessly continue its fight against drug syndicates, shutting down their illegal activities and dismantling their network of operations.
Note however that while the president admitted that the Duterte administration’s drug war led to “abuses,” he was not specific as to what the abuses were. He also failed to comment on the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s resumption of its probe into the drug war.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND SECURITY
The president highlighted the country’s independent foreign policy of “being a friend to all and enemy of none” as the most effective strategy. He stated that he has visited other countries for diplomacy, peace- building, and mutually beneficial purposes.
President Marcos stated that his administration will sustain infrastructure spending at five to six percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and will tap the private sector for partnerships to expand projects.
He emphasized that “our road network plans must link not only our 3 major islands, but all prospective sites of economic development.” He explained that: “(a) the 1,200-kilometer Luzon Spine Expressway Network Program will effectively connect Ilocos to Bicol from 20 hours to just 9 hours of travel; (b) the Mega-Bridge Program, 12 bridges totaling 90 kilometers will connect islands, and includes the Bataan-Cavite Interlink Bridge, the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges, and the Samal Island-Davao City Connector Bridge.”
The administration has also initiated several railway projects, with a total length of more than 1,000 kilometers. Marcos promised that in a few years, travel from Pampanga to Laguna will be reduced “from four hours to just two.”
Marcos declares that they are recalibrating the K to 10 curriculum to ensure that it is always relevant, responsive, and at par with international standards. He assures the public that a student’s financial constraints shall not be a hindrance to his or her education, as they have guaranteed safety nets such as skills development training and youth employment programs.
“Deserving and talented students without the financial capacity to attend school will not be left behind in this education agenda,” he explained.