(Eagle News) — President Rodrigo Duterte touted his administration’s accomplishments in his last State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 26, amid the challenges while reiterating the need to sustain the government’s gains even after he steps down as the country’s chief executive in 2022.
In his sixth SONA, the President noted the country’s economic gains prior to COVID-19, such that the Philippines was “poised to leapfrog” into the company of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
“Thanks to Congress and revenue-generating agencies, our tax reform sustained our economic growth from the third quarter of 2016 to the fourth quarter of 2019, which made the Philippines one of the fastest growing economies in Asia until the pandemic surged,” he said.
He said his going after water concessionaires was also something he could boast to his children.
While he did not name the companies, the President publicly engaged Manila Water Company Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. and took them to task for contracts he said were not “fair” to consumers.
Manila Water Company Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. apologized and ended up discussing new pacts with the goverrnment.
“Now there’s a new contract, I have not thoroughly digested. ‘Pag nandyan na ‘yan [Once it’s there], then I will sign, but I will not forget in telling them the crime is there already, and any Filipino would want to go after you,” President Duterte said.
The President noted the “continuous upgrading of our defense capability” shall also ensure the Philippines could uphold its sovereignty from external threats.
“Indeed I am proud of the accomplishments of our troops in securing our nation from all threats…,” the President said.
He said, however, that peace and security were not just a “military concern.”
With the creation of the National Task Force to end the Anti-Communist Conflict, he said the Philippines has made strides to address the root causes of the Communist conflict by empowering Filipinos who were being recruited.
Through the NTF-ELCAC, he said the Philippines invested in farm-to-market roads, health stations, livelihood, among others.
Because of these interventions, more than 17,000 former Communist members have surrendered to government, he said.
He said he has directed all concerned agencies to complete all flagship projects to be completed within his term, especially those projects that will speed up economic development outside of Metro Manila.
As for the gains in his foreign policy, he touted the return of the Balangiga bells and the return of the garbage from Canada.
He said the Philippines was also successful in dismantling the “heinous kafala system.”
“Because the Filipino is no slave to anyone, anywhere and there is no room for modern-day slavery,” he added.
He said the country also “asserted the ruling of South China Sea in no uncertain terms.”
“We will not close our doors of diplomacy of the tongue because that is how disputes are settled and never by force,” he said.
The President also touted the government’s infrastructure projects under the Build, Build, Build program, including the construction of the new passenger terminal building in the Clark airport.
He said the Metro Rail Transit-3 has also improved, with no unloading incidents reported.
He also cited the Poro Point Freeport Zone in La Union, and the Skyway 3, which he said was made possible with the help of the private sector.
But the President said all this was not without challenges.
He said the pandemic stalled the country’s economic gains, in particular.
Nevertheless, he said the pandemic showed what the Filipino was about.
“Be that as it may, allow me to extend my gratitude to all those who selflessly gave their all in the fight against COVID-19, our health workers and other frontliners, who risked their own safety to keep our essential health services and our food supply chain running,” he said, to applause.
He also thanked the private sector, who he said “came to the government’s aid.”
“I am profoundly thankful for your sustained assistance to fellow Filipinos and amidst the same effects of the pandemic to our respective industries, let me assure you that the government is committed to assessing the private sector to regain the commercial vibrance of the country,” he said.
For the passage of Bayanihan 1 and 2, the President also thanked Congress.
He said testing capacity was limited at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now capacity has been ramped up.
The Philippines, he said, has also received over 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine doses.
He said while the Philippines cannot afford any more lockdowns lest the economy “bleeds” until it reaches irreparable damage, he may have to be “strict” because of the Delta variant.
Changes to governance
Overall, in his five years in office, he said he has made changes to governance.
He said the governance must, however, be sustained.
He noted that a peaceful and prosperous Philippines was no longer a distant dream but was one that was within grasp.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, he said “desperation is a feeling alien to the resilient Filipino.”