President Duterte reports major accomplishments in 4th State of the Nation Address

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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte reported to the nation on July 22 significant accomplishments made by his administration aimed at reducing poverty, fighting graft and corruption, and improving peace and security.

In his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) he delivered at the House of Representatives, among the accomplishments he mentioned include the signing of the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act, a legislation that aims to improve service delivery and fight corruption.

He admitted, however, that much has to be done to ensure government’s responsiveness to the people’s needs. The President wanted top government agencies— Transportation Office (LTO), Social Security System (SSS), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Land Registration Authority (LRA), and Home Development Mutual Fund (PAG-IBIG)— to drastically improve their services.

“I reiterate my directive to the government and instrumentalities, including the LGUs and the government corporations: simplify. Nandito ba kayo? Simplify. Just like the others. You can do it electronically,” he said.

The administration’s Build, Build, Build Program has already gained momentum through the efforts of the economic team led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III. Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade have also made major improvements in the country’s infrastructure.

The government has also recently paved the way for the entry of the third telecommunications provider that is expected to break the duopoly of the existing telecommunications companies in the Philippines.

“I challenge this new player to fulfill its commitment to provide fast and reliable telecommunications services to our people, especially in the underserved areas. DICT Secretary Honasan will be the lead man in this endeavor. I hope he is here,” the President said.

To attain national peace and reconciliation, the President said that after almost two decades of peace negotiation, the Bangsamoro Organic Law was finally passed and ratified.

“It is my hope that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority will fast-track the establishment of regional government that will secure a comfortable life for Muslim brothers and sisters, and all indigenous communities in the Bangsamoro Region” he noted.

And to address communist insurgency, the President said that he has taken the helm of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and assigned a Cabinet member to each region to harmonize government efforts in attaining national development and security.

The administration also made major strides in the education sector, President Duterte said, commending the efforts by Education Secretary Leonor Briones and the Department of Education (DepEd).

This year, more Filipino learners have received basic education with over 27 million enrollees from Kindergarten to Senior High School. Out-of-school youth and adult learners were able to access non-formal education through the Alternative Learning System.

To prop up the economy, he reported that almost 86,000 micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have received over P3 billion worth of loans since 2017, thanks to the efforts of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The government was also able to pursue tax reforms to fund poverty reduction programs, the President said, asking Congress to immediately pass Package 2 of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, or the TRABAHO Bill, which shall gradually lower corporate income tax, and rationalize and improve fiscal incentives.

Government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), infamous for high salaries and bonuses paid for their executives and employees, have started to shape up, he said.

As of July 9, 2019, the national government collected more than P61 billion from GOCCs, 32 percent of which, or P16 billion, from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), the President said in his address. GOCCs remitted more than the P36 billion posted in 2017.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC), known as a corruption-ridden agency, managed to collect P585 billion in 2018, according to the President.

The President also raised the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila. With estimated economic losses of P3.5 billion a day due to traffic congestion, the President asked the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and all concerned local officials in the National Capital Region to undertake immediate action to ensure the speedy and smooth flow of vehicular traffic.

He wanted the government to reclaim all public roads that are being used privately.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his 4th State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 22, 2019. KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Duterte wants Congress to act on important legislations, tackle corruption

President Duterte also spelled out a number of legislations he wants Congress to prioritize to realize his vision for the country before stepping down in 2022.

President Duterte, in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa, called on lawmakers to reinstate the capital punishment or death penalty for heinous crimes particularly drug-related offenses and plunder.

“I am aware that we still have a long way to go in our fight against this social menace. Let the reason why I advocate the imposition of the death penalty for crimes related to illegal drugs,” President Duterte said.

The Chief Executive also implored Congress to immediately pass the Package 2 of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program or the TRABAHO Bill, which will gradually lower the corporate income tax as well as rationalize and improve fiscal incentives.

He expects the legislation to energize the country’s micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and encourage them to expand their businesses and hopefully generate 1.4 million jobs in the coming years. MSMEs, he noted, hold the promise of improving the lives of Filipinos.

Congress must also approve a new version of the Salary Standardization Law, which is intended to increase the salaries of national government workers, including teachers and nurses, he said.

“To the teachers, alam mo dito who toil and work tirelessly to educate our young. Kasali na po dito ‘yung hinihingi ninyo. Hindi naman masyadong malaki, pero it will tide you over during this hard time. A little bit bigger than before,” President Duterte said.

There will be additional benefits for solo parents, more health workers in the barangays, and expansion of the Malasakit Centers in the country as envisioned by Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

He also asked Congress to pass the remaining packages of the administration’s Tax Reform Program as well as legislations that would further raise excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol.

At the same time, the President wants a Davao City policy to be adopted nationally in the sale of liquor especially in bars and other establishments.

“Itong ngayon, at 12, everything closes down. Nobody works. I think that we should adopt it. Most of the states, in many states, in many countries, ganun man. Alas dose, sarado na talaga,” he said.

To fight red tape in government, President Duterte urged Congress to review and pass the Government Rightsizing Bill, reconfiguring the existing Metro Manila-centric bureaucracy. Government systems must be streamlined, he said, in order to quickly deliver services to the public.

And for the government to focus on threats posed by natural hazards and climate change, he urged Congress to fast-track the passage of the administration’s version of the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR).

“These reforms would be for naught if we cannot avert of a ‘new poor’ every time a disaster strikes. The Philippine experience has shown that natural disasters— are poverty creators,” he said.

He then called on legislators to pass a law mandating a Fire Protection Modernization Program, which will equip the Bureau of Fire Protection with tools to respond to challenges.

To encourage the entry of more investors, the President asked Congress to urgently pass the National Land Use Act or NALUA within this year. The proposal is a science-based national land use plan that will serve as basis for the LGUs in crafting respective development plans and help disperse economic activities to the countryside.

“Paki lang po. So that we can proceed with the new… We can meet the demands of the new investors coming in. Ang lupa natin ang problema eh,” he stressed.

“The dispersion of economic and business activities to Visayas and Mindanao is not just a campaign promise. It is an economic imperative and a key to our country’s sustainable and equitable development. We will encourage investments that would develop the rural areas and Metro Manila and other mega urban areas,” he added.

The President also renewed his commitment to uplift the lives of coconut farmers in the country through the quick utilization of the multibillion coconut levy fund.

“I once again urge both Houses of Congress to pass a more responsive version of the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund to ensure the accelerated utilization of coco levy funds for the well-being and empowerment of the coconut farmers,” the President said.

“We recognize the urgent need to ensure the sustainability and availability of resources and the development of alternative ones. In this regard, I trust that Secretary [Alfonso] Cusi shall fast-track also the development of renewable energy sources, and reduce dependence on the traditional energy sources such as coal,” the President said in connection with the country’s energy needs.

Before concluding his address, President Duterte underscored the importance of sustaining the gains of a credible national security posture capable of defending the country from external and internal security threats.

“Defense Secretary Lorenzana, together with the gallant men and women of the armed forces, is at the forefront of this fight,” President Duterte said.

“We expect support for legislative initiatives aimed at strengthening defense-related systems such as the proposed National Defense Act, the Unified Military and Uniformed Personnel Separation, Retirement, and Pension Bill, and the revival of the mandatory ROTC in Grades 11 and 12.”

The President also called on Congress to study the postponement of the May 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to October 2022 to rectify the truncated terms of sitting barangays and also provide them with the ample time to finish programs and projects. Also, he suggested for the enactment of the Magna Carta for Barangays.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his 4th State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 22, 2019. SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Addressing corruption

Dismayed by rampant graft and corruption in the government, the President said, “We are our own tormentors—addressing the Filipino people—we are our own demons; we are as rapacious predators preying on the helpless, the weak, and the voiceless.”

“We find corruption everywhere in government with every malefactor watching his cohort’s back in blatant disregard of his oath when he assumed public office.”

Corruption, he said, exasperates and frustrates. “It is also exasperating that there are times when I think that perhaps it is blood that we need to cleanse and rinse away the dirt and the muck that stick to the flesh like leeches.”

Members of Congress are free to investigate cases of corruption and if there is anything wrong in the executive department, legislators have a free hand to open an inquiry anytime, he noted.

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