MARCOS SET TO UNVEIL NATION’S GOALS AT HIS FIRST SONA: Economy, food supply, pandemic, rising costs of goods top agenda

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief

MANILA — In only about a month in office since his solemn inauguration last June 30 at the National Museum, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. will face the entire nation again, this time in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on July 25.

After meeting his Cabinet as a group at least three times in Malacanang and individually with some Cabinet members and officials, Mr. Marcos is widely expected to unveil his short-term and long-term plans for the nation under his six-year administration during the SONA after reciting the state of the nation, including challenges that his administration will have to face.

The nation, sources said, is expected to hear Mr. Marcos’ definitive economic agenda, his action plans on the looming food crisis, growing inflation, soaring prices of prime commodities, jobs generation and the COVID-19 epidemic. (See related stories.)

At press time,  Marcos was said to be writing his own speech for his first SONA, said Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez who added the president is expected to outline his plans for the economy as well as for the government’s COVID response.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police and the Quezon City government  reversed its earlier decision to prohibit cause-oriented groups from holding protest rallies during the first SONA of President Marcos Jr.

Retired Gen. Elmer San Diego, head of the Quezon City Department of Public Order and Safety (DPOS), said both progressive groups and supporters of Marcos Jr. will be permitted to hold separate peaceful gathering and rallies.

Lawmakers in Congress are eager to hear President Marcos  delivering his first SONA, it was learned.
Prior to the SONA, the Senate is expected to elect Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri as Senate President while Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez as speaker of the House of Representatives.
Apart from Congress members, officials and the diplomatic corps are expected to troop to the Batasang Pambansa where Mr. Marcos will deliver his SONA.

For returning Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and Rep. Joey Salceda, the top issues they want the President to discus are values, the Covid-19 pandemic, and inflation.

“Most of these are caused externally except for the values. Di natin kontrolado yan (We cannot control that). But how do we react?,” Cayetano said

Salceda said Marcos’ commitment that the P20 per kilo price of rice is possible is a grand promise that must be addressed.

“Among presidential candidates, only President Marcos has set aspirational goals and grand national ambitions …P20 per kilo of rice as possible…it is an aspirational goal and very difficult to achieve, but this objective, coupled with the President’s decision to be Agriculture secretary, shows how seriously the new President treats food security issues,” Salceda said.

“He will likely focus on three key areas in agriculture: yield for main or staple crops, lower input costs, more direct delivery to end-users to reduce consumer prices of food and modernization of value chains and logistics for agriculture,” he added.

Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. said he is sure that hopes of the Filipinos will be high during President Marcos’ SONA.

“Umaasa tayo na mababanggit sa SONA ng Pangulo ang plano para sa patuloy na pagpapalakas ng infrastructure spending ng gobyerno na sinimulan ni (We are expecting that the President will mention in his SONA at strengthening of infrastructure spending of the government that was initiated by) former President [Rodrigo] Duterte. We will wait for his pronouncements on his plans and legacy projects that will catch us up to existing and future needs — specifically for health and education facilities, and traffic and flood mitigation projects,” Revilla said in a statement.

Revila said he is also looking forward to hearing President Marcos’ pronouncements on food security and agriculture which the latter currently leads.

“With his goal of inclusive growth and prosperity for all, I am certain that his plans will allay the fears of Filipinos who only want a better and brighter future. Manalig tayong sa kanyang pamumuno ay sasama tayong babangon muli (Let us believe that through his leadership, we will rise up again),” Revilla added.

Senator Jose Jinggoy Estrada is planning to set the President’s SONA as a guide to contain the administration’s priority measures on how to realize his campaign promise of “Bangon Bayan Muli”.

“I look forward to hearing our President’s vision of the future, his plans for the country post-Covid-19 and how to fuel the full recovery of the national economy after the onslaught of the pandemic,” Estrada said, hoping that Marcos will also discuss job generation and assistance for the workforce and also the unemployed.

Meanwhile, House of Representatives Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza expects the Lower Chamber to be at full capacity during President Marcos’ first SONA which was never allowed since 2019 because of the Covid-19 spread.

The SONA is an annual constitutional obligation of the President to report on the status of the country and unveil the government’s agenda until the next year.

At press time, Mendoza  said 70 to 80 percent of those invited to the SONA led by Vice President Sara Duterte have confirmed their attendance.

“We sent out mga around 1,360 invitations, so we’re just waiting for the confirmation. Pero around 70 to 80 percent nagconfirm na (Around 70 to 80 percent have already confirmed their attendance),” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said former President and Speaker now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and former President Joseph Estrada have confirmed their attendance, while former President Rodrigo Duterte and former Vice President Leni Robredo have yet to send their replies.

Mendoza said that President Marcos preferred a simple SONA.

“Ang gusto ng Malacañang, ng Pangulo ay maging simple at more on traditional (ang SONA). Walang glamor, basta simple lang (Malacañang and the President want a simple and more traditional (SONA). No glamor, just simple),” he said.

He said among the SONA performers is a choir group from Ilocos Norte which will sing the national anthem.

Film director Paul Soriano will lead the filming of the event. (alfred.gabot@gmail.com)

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