By Filane Mikee Cervantes
DATA DRIVEN. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers first State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on Monday (July 25, 2022). Marcos’ SONA lasted for one hour and 14 minutes. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)
MANILA – In an hour-long speech, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivered a “data-driven” State of the Nation Address (SONA) that laid out his plans for the Philippines for the six years.
Marcos’ first SONA was one hour and 14 minutes long that tackled the government’s agenda on economic recovery, Covid-19 pandemic response, resumption of face-to-face classes, as well as the legislative priorities for his administration.
His notably most applauded statements in his speech were about bringing the much-needed health facilities beyond Manila, and not surrendering even a square inch of the country’s territory, referring to Manila’s ongoing territorial dispute with other littoral states over the South China Sea.
“Para mailapit natin ang healthcare system sa taumbayan nang hindi sila kailangang pumunta sa sentro ng kanilang bayan, lalawigan at rehiyon. Maglalagay tayo ng mga clinic at Rural Health Unit na pupuntahan ng mga doktor, nurse, midwife, at med tech isang beses sa isang linggo — nang sa gayon, magiging mas madali sa may karamdaman na magpagamot nang hindi na kailangang magbyahe nang malayo (We will bring the health care system closer to the people so that they will no longer have to go to the centers of their town, province, and region. We’ll put up clinics and Rural Health Units [RHUs] to be visited by doctors, nurses, midwives and med techs once a week — it would be easier for the sick to be treated without having to travel far),” Marcos said.
Marcos also focused on the theme of continuity, as he vowed to continue his predecessor’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program but with a new focus on developing the country’s railway system, as well as tax administration reforms of the previous administration.
Marcos directed the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to build upon already existing lines by modernizing old railway systems.
“Full speed ahead! Improving our railway system, along with modernizing existing airports and seaports, will maximize our strategic location in the Pacific. And connect our many islands,” he said.
Over 1,300 guests graced the event to witness first-hand the President’s address inside the newly-renovated plenary hall from lawmakers, Cabinet officials, members of the diplomatic corps, and other guests.
Consistent with his wish for a simple SONA, his guests wore Filipiniana and barong that would reflect the Philippines’ rich culture, heritage and tradition.
Among the remarkable attendees were Vice President Sara Duterte who wore a tribal outfit in honor of the Bagobo Tagaba tribe of Davao City, and Sen. Robinhood “Robin” Padilla wearing a Francis Libiran-made attire composed of fine Inaul fabric woven by the Maranaos of Mindanao.
Among the SONA performers was a group from Marcos’ home region of Ilocos sang the national anthem.
The first SONA was directed by film director Paul Soriano.
Around 20,000 police personnel were deployed to ensure security within the immediate area surrounding the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City, as well as Commonwealth Avenue, the road that leads to the complex.
Batangas Rep. Ralph Recto described Marcos’ first SONA as “data-driven”, considering that others before him had used words to conjure the future, while he painted it using numbers.
“And that makes his SONA brave, not boring, because when you set specific targets — on growth, jobs, debt, inflation — then you set up the goals by which your administration will be measured. May resibo ang mga pangako. Hindi motherhood statements (Promises have receipt. Not motherhood statements), but calculable key result areas,” Recto said.
Recto said the President was also correct in predicating all his programs with a plan on how to revitalize the economy because only a strong one would yield the resources and revenues that would finance the rebuilding of the “Covid-ravaged” nation.
“His speech was structured in such a way that before he dazzled us with programs, he gave us a fiscal reality check,” he said.
Newly-elected Speaker Martin Romualdez, for his part, said Marcos has clearly spelled out a roadmap of governance in his six years of office in his first SONA.
“His message was crystal-clear: the main focus of his administration will be economic recovery, with agriculture as the major engine for growth and employment,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez said the prospect of economic recovery looks bright with Marcos’ plan to impose tax administration reforms and observe sound fiscal management.
He also agreed with his plan to prioritize government spending on items that will immediately address the economic scarring caused by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, around 20,000 Marcos supporters from Metro Manila and nearby provinces packed the IBP Road in Quezon City during the “Kilos Suporta para sa Pagbangon at Pagkakaisa – PBBM SONA,” based on crowd estimates from event organizers.
The attendees — all clad in red BBM shirts, face masks, and caps — cheered for the President and flashed his signature peace sign.
“We are here to show our support for President Bongbong Marcos as he delivers his first SONA. He wanted us to listen to his programs and here we are, heeding his call,” said Malayang Quezon City president Edwin Rodriguez, one of the organizers of the event.
Vice President Sara Duterte called on administration supporters to help the president fulfill the programs he had cited in his maiden SONA as she met with pro-Marcos groups that gathered along IBP Road.
“Sana, magtulong-tulong tayo sa pagpapatupad ng lahat ng nilatag ng Pangulo ng ating bansa (Hopefully, we will be united in executing the plans outlined by the President of our country),” she said. (PNA)