President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 24, stressing anew his resolve to eliminate illegal drugs, crime and corruption in the country.
In his two-hour speech, President Duterte also took the chance to push for his legislative agenda and discuss other pressing issues in the country before the lawmakers, judiciary, diplomats, Cabinet and other government officials present at the Batasang Pambansa Complex.
“Today, a multitude of problems confront us. No sooner is one problem solved [when] another surges forth in its place. But we will not be disheartened; we will not be cowed; we will not be overwhelmed,” the President said.
“The Filipino is no stranger or neophyte to situations like the one we face today. We can, and we will, overcome as we did countless times in the past, [but] only if we work together towards a common goal,” he added.
Relentless war on drugs will continue
The Chief Executive said his administration’s fight against illegal drugs, which is one of his campaign pledges, will continue no matter how long it takes and despite persistent criticisms, tagging illicit drugs as “the root cause of so much evil and suffering in the country.”
“The fight will be unremitting as it will be unrelenting. Despite international and local pressures, the fight will not stop until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease, they have to stop because the alternatives are either jail or hell,” he said followed by a resounding applause from the crowd.
Instead of attacking him, Duterte asked his critics to help him by spending their influence, moral authority and ascendancy to educate the people on the negative effects of illegal drugs.
“The government, equipped with legal authority, and you, with the moral ascendancy over the sector you represent, can do so much, and hopefully eradicate this social scourge that plagues us no end,” he stressed.
Peace and order in Mindanao
With regard to peace and security, the President vowed to continue pursuing peace with different rebel groups particulalry in Mindanao.
“But believe me, it will not be for want of trying. And I will persist in our goal of attaining peace [up] to the last day of this administration and maybe even beyond that although in a different capacity,” he said.
He also mentioned the issue on peace talks with communist insurgents following a series of attacks by the New People’s Army (NPA) against government forces.
He also explained that there is rebellion in Mindanao which prompted him to declare martial law.
“I declared Martial Law in Mindanao because I believed that that was the fastest way to quell the rebellion at the least cost of lives and properties. At the same time, the government would be adequately equipped with the constitutional tool not only to prevent the escape of rebels who can easily mingle and pretend to be civilian evacuees only to re-group in another place to fight another day, but also to prevent them from spreading their gospel of hate and violence in the rest of Mindanao,” he said.
Appreciating the sacrifices of soldiers fighting the rebellion in Mindanao, particularly in Marawi City, the President reiterated his continous support for them including assistance to their families.
The President said his administration is also working doubly hard towards achieving a stronger and more credible national defense system for the country to strengthen the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as a deterrence against terrorists, lawless elements, and other threats.
Addressing climate change and impact of mining
The President also talked about the changing climate as well as its impact on food security.
He said he called on legislators to immediately pass the National Land Use Act or the NALUA to ensure the rational and sustainable use of land and other physical resources.
Noting the country’s natural wealth, he called on industrialists, investors and commercial barons to put up factories and manufacturing establishments in the Philippines to process raw materials into finished products.
“At this point in my administration, if possible, we shall put a stop to the extraction and exportation of our mineral resources to foreign nations for processing abroad and importing them back to the Philippines in the form of consumer goods at prices twice or thrice the value of the original raw materials foreign corporations pay for them,” he said.
He likewise urged the nation to protect the environment saying that destructive forms will not be allowed including mining activities.
The President warned to increase tax on mining to compensate for the suffering of affected mining communities.
“I am sternly warning all mining operations and contractors to refrain from the unbridled and irresponsible destruction of our watersheds, forests, and aquatic resources,” he said.
“I am holding all mining companies and its officials responsible for the full and quick clean-up, restoration [and] rehabilitation of all areas damaged by mining activities, and the extension of all necessary support to the communities that have suffered mining’s disastrous effects on their health, livelihood, and environment, among others,” he added.
He also urged mining companies to pay the correct taxes noting that failure to do so “will be your undoing and eventual ruin.”
As a result of damaging earthquakes that hit in Leyte, Surigao, the President called on both Houses of Congress to expeditiously craft a law establishing a new authority or department that will create and implement an enhanced disaster resiliency and quick disaster response.
Reimposition of death penalty
To completely eradicate illegal drugs, criminality and corruption, the President asked Congress to act on all pending legislations to reimpose the death penalty on heinous crimes — especially on the trafficking of illegal drugs.
“We have to act decisively on this contentious issue. Capital punishment is not only about deterrence. It is also about retribution. Make no mistake about that,” he said.
Independent foreign policy
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive mentioned the Philippines efforts to maintain and promote good relations with other countries.
“We have embarked on various initiatives to advance our national interest in the global community. We pursue good relations with all nations anchored on an independent — on an independent foreign policy — and the basic tenets of sovereign equality, mutual respect and non-interference,” he said.
He particularly mentioned the country’s “warmer relations” with China, which was achieved through bilateral dialogues and other mechanisms, “leading to easing of tensions between the two countries and improved negotiating environment on the West Philippine Sea.”
The President also promised to increase assistance to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
“We all know how a large part of our economy comes from their remittances. That is why to ensure that their rights are protected, I ordered the increase of our assistance to OFWs from 400 million pesos to more than 1 billion,” he said.
Fight against corruption
As in his previous addresses, President Duterte also warned government officials and employees that he will never tolerate corruption in his administration.
The government has established hotlines and government centers that receive public concerns such as the Hotline 911 for emergencies and Hotline 8888, the Citizen’s Complaint Hotline.
The government is also rightsizing the bureaucracy through the passage of “The Act Rightsizing the National Government to Improve Public Service Delivery,” said the President, urging Congress to pass the bill immediately.
For the Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs), the President ordered the implementation of the existing Salary Standardization Law pending the review of the Compensation and Position Classification System. He said excessive, extravagant, and unconscionable salaries, allowances, benefits and bonuses at all GOCCs will no longer be allowed.
At the same time, President Duterte appealed to the Supreme Court to seriously consider the national interest and development goals before issuing TROs and injunctions on critical government projects and cases involving government assets.
He urged Congress to thoroughly review the existing procurement laws and come up with legislation that will ensure the prompt delivery of quality goods and services especially medicines and hospital equipment.
Education and healthcare
The government is also investing on education and healthcare, the President said. His administration has sustained investments in higher education and committed to the full implementation of the K to 12 Basic Education Program.
He noted that the administration has widened the reach of skills training and increased the number of out-of-school children and youth who have availed of the Alternative Learning System.
Minimizing public access to tobacco products, the President said he signed Executive Order No. 26 imposing a ban on smoking in public places to mitigate its consequences.
He also renewed his administration’s commitment for full implementation of the Magna Carta of Women to the barangay level.
The Duterte administration is also increasing government spending on infrastructure from 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017 to 7 percent of GDP by 2022, amounting to a total of P8 to P9 trillion or 160 to $180 billion in infrastructure projects.
“We will make the next few years the ‘Golden Age of Infrastructure’ in the Philippines to enhance our mobility and connectivity, and thereby spur equitable growth and development in the country. In other words, we are going to Build, Build and Build,” he said.
The President also directed MMDA and the LGUs of Metro Manila, as well as the LGUs of Metro Cebu and of all the regional centers, to ensure the free flow of traffic.
“Airports, we are building new airports. We might get some money also from China and we will have new airports in the coming days,” he said.
Pro-poor tax reform program
The administration has achieved the first step towards more equitable taxes to fund better services for the people, he said commending the House of Representatives for heeding his urgent certification of the tax reform by passing the first of five packages of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program.
He called on the Senate to support his tax reform in full and to pass it immeditely. The reforms are designed to be pro-poor and its passage is needed to fund the proposed 2018 budget.
In the meantime, the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) are strengthening tax administration and running after tax evaders.
The President announced that he directed the DOF and the BIR to accept Mighty Corporation’s offer of P25 billion to settle its tax liabilities, the biggest tax settlement on record. According to him, it will produce a windfall for government needed to rebuild Marawi and Ormoc.
The Cabinet also approved the National Broadband Plan in March 2017 to begin the work of bringing affordable internet access to every community and improving broadband connectivity in the country, President Duterte said.
Also, the Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Migration Plan has also been launched, the President said, stressing the switch to digital from analog transmission will result to a better TV viewing experience and easy access to information during times of calamities.
He reported that the government-owned Salaam Digital TV, the first Muslim TV in the Philippines, is now already on test broadcasting.
In concluding his message, the President underscored the need to fight corruption, squabbles and bickerings within agencies to provide the public quality public services.
“Believe me, it is much easier to build from scratch than to dismantle the rotten and rebuild upon its rubble. Nevertheless, let us work together and lay a new foundation upon which a better Philippines can be reconstructed. Help me build a better tomorrow,” he said.###PND