President “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. delivered his second state of the nation address on July 24, an hour-long speech that detailed his government’s accomplishments and future plans.
On Monday (July 24), President Marcos delivered his second State Of the Nation Address (SONA). An estimated 2,000 guests attended the event, with the Philippine National Police on high alert.
Despite the obstacles, the SONA pushed through, with Marcos delivering a speech that lasted an hour and 11 minutes. This was considerably shorter than the speech he delivered last year, which lasted an hour and a half, as per a report from CNN Philippines.
The speech detailed his government’s accomplishments, goals, and priority measures for his second year as president.
“One year ago today, I stood here before you, setting forth the plans we have to improve the economy, bring jobs to our people, improve the ease of doing business, recalibrate our educational system […], lower and rationalize energy costs, boost agricultural production, enhance healthcare, and continue social programs for the poor and the vulnerable,” stated the president at the beginning of his speech.
“Let me now report to the people on the successes we can now claim to and also the challenges we continue to face,” he continued.
The full recording of his speech is now available online, but below are some of its key highlights:
Marcos stated that the Philippines experienced 7.6% economic growth in 2022, which he claims is the country’s highest in 46 years. This comes good news amid widespread inflation, which Marcos pointed out as the country’s “biggest problem.” The situation worsened due to challenges posed by the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and Ukrainian war, among other issues. He vowed to remedy the problem with new policies in the coming years.
The president also emphasized his government’s goals of transforming the Philippines into a welcoming “investment destination.”
“We must ensure that an enabling business environment is in place; that there is peace and order, and that the rule of law governs,” he elaborated.
Energy was another major focus in the speech, as Marcos highlighted a variety of accomplishments and future plans concerning the country’s energy production.
The president announced that his administration has provided electricity to half a million homes since the beginning of his term. This is mainly due to his government opening eight new power plants, which have reportedly supplied an additional 1,174 megawatts. Marcos intends to push for 100% full house household electrification by the end of his tenure.
Aside from that, the president also discussed his plans to further promote renewable energy. He hopes that it can contribute to 35% of the power mix by 2030, and 50% by 2040.
“To date, we have over a thousand active projects spread all over the country: 299 of these are solar, 187 are wind, 436 are hydroelectric, 58 are biomass, 36 are geothermal, and 9 are ocean-powered,” he shared during his address.
Marcos also pointed out the current issues in the energy sector, mainly the delay of 68 power grid connections. He promised to conduct performance reviews with the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to resolve the matter.
“We look to NGCP to complete all of its deliverables, starting with the vital Mindanao-Visayas and the Cebu-Negros-Panay interconnections,” he continued.
Marcos discussed how the government welcomed the 28.4 million students that returned to school this year. He stated that learning recovery would be at the forefront of his government’s educational efforts. In line with this, they plan to constructing new schools and facilities to address classroom shortages. Marcos states that these additions will be able to handle hybrid learning, more advanced technology, and potential calamities.
Marcos’ government will also be readjusting the new K-10 curriculum to keep it “relevant, responsive, and at par with international standards.”
Adding to this, the president vowed that students will be able to attain education or training despite financial constraints. “We have activated social safety nets, such as skills development training and youth employment programs. Deserving and talented students [..] will not be left behind in this education agenda,” he explained.
The country’s healthcare system was another salient point in Marcos’ speech. He shared that PhilHealth’s “Konsulta Package” now offers 21 different kinds of medicine, 13 types of laboratory services, and 156 kidney dialysis sessions for free.
Additionally, the government launched a pilot Food Stamp Program (FSP) to fulfill the nutritional needs of a million foodless Filipinos. According to the president, they’ve also established other programs to better address the stunting and malnutrition found in many vulnerable Filipino children.
Marcos vowed that healthcare workers will receive health emergency allowances (HEAs) for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other previously withheld benefits. This comes after the Department of Health ordered the release of ₱1.3 billion for the aforementioned HEAs.
Agricultural concerns were also significant points of discussion during the speech. Marcos promised to boost production “through consolidation, modernization, mechanization, and improvement of value chains” as well as “timely and calibrated importation.” His government’s “New Agrarian Emancipation Act” also recently wrote off ₱57 billion in farmer debt to strengthen food production.
The president issued a firm warning to address the rampant smuggling problem within the country. “We will not allow this kind of trend. Those smugglers and hoarders’ days are numbered. [Kaya hindi natin papayagan ang ganitong kalakaran. Bilang na ang mga araw ng mga smugglers at hoarders na ‘yan],” he announced.
The Drug War
Marcos also discussed his new strategies for dealing with the country’s war on drugs.
“It [campaign against illegal drugs] is now geared towards community-based treatment, rehabilitation, education, and reintegration,” he shared. “Unscrupulous law enforcers and others involved in the highly nefarious drug trade have been exposed. I will be accepting their resignations.”
That said, the current administration is facing criticism due to their disengagement with the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into Duterte’s bloody anti-drug operations. According to Marcos, the Philippines cannot cooperate as it’s a “sovereign nation and […] not [a colony of] former imperialists.”
Oppositional senator Risa Hontiveros has openly expressed her disdain and disappointment over the recent decision.
“This is an important first step in achieving justice for the victims, the widows, and the orphans of the war on drugs,” she declared in a recent statement. “My hope is that the President and the agencies of the Executive will cooperate with the investigation of the ICC so that true justice is obtained.”
Despite the scope of his speech, Marcos missed touching upon or expounding on certain issues that the country faces today. For instance, Inquirer articles pointed out the lack of attention towards the mining and fishing sectors.
Mining operations have yet to receive decisive actions from Marcos’ administration, despite protests from affected communities, namely Sibuyan Island in Romblon and Brooke’s Point in Palawan.
Pamalakaya, a group of fisherfolk, called out the president’s failure to directly address the country’s rising tensions with China over the West Philippine Sea.
“With our national interests paramount, we will always pursue constant dialogue and diplomatic approaches to the resolution of any issue that may arise. So the initial results of our efforts inspire confidence. Let us continue to be relentless in our aspiration of peace and progress,” stated Marcos, though he didn’t elaborate further.
Dr. Carmel Abao, the chairperson of Ateneo de Manila University’s Political Science department, likened the recent speech to a technical report.
“That’s not the State of the Nation. You just need to go outside, there is still so much poverty,” she shared in an interview with ABS-CBN news. Dr.Abao added that, while the speech had statistical data, it didn’t specifically address why certain policies worked and others didn’t.
“They will bombard you with figures that you cannot question. The challenge now is to be more critical […] What exactly is the state of the nation?” she elaborated.
Banner photo via Instagram @bongbongmarcos.