No Match Found
On 24 July 2023, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos delivered his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City. He outlined his administration's plans and priority legislation across various sectors, including agriculture, foreign policy, education, healthcare and infrastructure.
Here are some snapshots of his report to the nation.
Despite economic headwinds, the country has maintained its position as one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia and the world, with a growth rate of 7.6% in 2022 — the highest in 46 years. After peaking at 8.7%, inflation has steadily decreased and settled at 5.4% in June 2023 and is expected to reach 2.9% by 2024.
The country's economic transformation agenda is outlined in the administration's Medium-Term Fiscal Framework, which aligns with the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028. The plan supports increasing production, expanding industries, and improving infrastructure in the economy.
“Investments in public infrastructure and in the capacity of our people—through food, education, health, jobs, and social protection—remain our top priority.”
He emphasized that higher revenue collections will be critical to boost public investments, which is why the government is aiming to increase tax and revenue efforts up to 16.9% and 17.3% by 2028. He reported that revenue generation has improved this year. The Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs have both seen increases in collections in 2023, with the former posting record collections of PH₱1.05 trillion, and the latter increasing collections by 7.4% to PH₱476bn in the first seven months of the year. Revenues from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) have also increased since July 2022.
Agriculture is a vital sector in the Philippine economy, providing livelihoods for millions of Filipinos and contributing to food security. The President highlighted the government's efforts to boost local agricultural production through consolidation, modernization, mechanization, and improvement of value chains. These efforts include:
The 8.3-trillion peso “Build Better More” program is currently in progress, with 194 projects under it. Infrastructure spending will be at 5 to 6% of GDP.
The flagship projects cover investments in the areas of physical connectivity, water resources, agriculture, health, digital connectivity, and energy. Physical connectivity infrastructure—such as roads, bridges, seaports, airports, and mass transport—accounts for 83% of the program.
To fund infrastructure spending and some of the nation’s high-priority projects without the added debt burden, the President cited the newly established Maharlika Investment Fund. He explained that it is “pooling a small fraction of the considerable but underutilized government funds”, which “shall be used to make high-impact and profitable investments, such as the Build-Better-More program” and its gains reinvested into the country’s economic well-being.
He assured sound financial management of the fund by hiring a group of internationally recognized economic managers, so that investment decisions will be based on financial considerations alone, with no political influence. The President further guaranteed that “the funds for the social security and public health insurance of our people shall remain intact and separate.”
“We will spare no effort to achieve full household-electrification by the end of my term. One hundred percent (100%) is within our reach.”
Eight additional power plants have been built, bringing to 17 the total number of power generation facilities that have been switched on across the country since last year. This has increased energy production by 1,174 megawatts. Nearly half a million homes have been given access to electricity.
The President also highlighted the Unified National Grid that will interconnect the Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao grids, enabling more efficient transfers and competitive pricing of electricity. He then called on the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to complete their delayed deliverables, starting with the vital Mindanao-Visayas and Cebu-Negros-Panay interconnections.
“Renewable energy is the way forward.”
The government's goal is to increase the share of renewable energy in the power mix to 35% by 2030 and 50% by 2040. To achieve this, the government has:
The government recognizes the need to strengthen the capabilities of Filipinos along with improving the country’s economic situation. This is through the important weapons of education, good health, and employment, allocating a large portion of government funds for these.
Aside from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Education (DepEd), the Technical Education And Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) are helping citizens in need.
The Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) program, Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD), Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) for Social Equity, Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens, and Cash-for-Work for PWDs are just some of the important government programs for them. There is also the Integrated Livelihood Program-Kabuhayan to help small businesses.
Efforts are underway to make the pension of the military and uniformed personnel fully functional and financially sustainable. The Executive branch is working closely with Congress to ease the transition from the old system to the new one, to guarantee that no effects are felt by those in the uniformed services.
Basic education. Marcos stands firm on the government’s education agenda. With the 28.4m learners who returned to school this year, he highlighted learning recovery as a high-priority to address the learning loss among students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 70% of the country’s national budget was allotted to economic and social services, which include the educational sector. DepEd’s MATATAG agenda that was launched in late May focuses on relevant curriculum reforms, provision of education facilities and services, learner’s welfare, and creation of support programs for teachers.
The President stated that the administration is bolstering the country’s school workforce, with 90% of the newly created teaching positions filled, and more administrative personnel hired to relieve teachers of some of their workload.
The lack of infrastructure and classrooms is being addressed, according to Marcos. Aside from constructing new buildings, schools and other facilities are being renovated to be climate-ready and disaster-proof, as well as suited for hybrid and high-tech learning. He cited private sector partners’ continuous support of the DepEd Partnership Assistance Portal that enables the renovation and upgrade of schools.
To keep the country's educational system relevant, responsive, and aligned with global standards, the administration is recalibrating the K to 10 program to strengthen literacy and numeracy skills and instill the virtue of good citizenship and sense of community.
Alternative and higher education. The administration remains committed to safeguarding young people from negative influences in society by making formal education, alternative learning, non-diploma courses, and TVET more accessible. In the last year, more than a million Filipinos graduated from TVET, one-third of whom were TESDA scholars.
Marcos also emphasized how the local higher education institutes (HEIs) are increasingly becoming renowned on a global scale — citing that compared to 15 institutions last year, 52 Philippine HEIs are now listed in the World Universities Rankings.
He asserted that a student's financial situation would not inhibit them from pursuing their education. In response, youth employment projects and skills development training have been established. For qualified students, tertiary education at state universities and colleges remains free. Out of the 4.1m college students who were enrolled last year, nearly half were beneficiaries of the country's free higher education under the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education program.
The President emphasized the need to cultivate “a culture of innovation, working hand-in-glove with a culture of entrepreneurship,” with science and technology, and most importantly, research and development (R&D), at its core.
Accordingly, the administration made science and technology-related scholarships accessible for students from high school and beyond.
Under the Balik-Scientist program, 44 Filipino scientists returned home. They will undertake research across critical areas, supported by enhanced facilities and R&D financing.
The Philippines has sent two additional satellites into space. These will be used to manage traffic, map geohazards, assess security and military risks, forecast storms, monitor soil and water supply, examine population changes, and track weather.
Marcos asserted that science, technology, and innovation will be the driving forces behind the country’s workforce's quality and competitiveness as well as its manufacturing, export, creative, and service sectors in both current markets and untapped ones.
The administration continues to address the problem of job-skills mismatch through enhanced government-industry-labor-academic cooperation and ongoing reskilling and upskilling training initiatives.
In the case of the maritime industry, maritime education has been improved, and the European Union’s concern regarding the standards of training of Filipino seafarers has finally been resolved. With these and the steady supply of competent Filipino seafarers to foreign merchant marine vessels, the country further solidifies its position as a “global maritime hub”.
In the healthcare sector, the administration is expanding the country's medical and nursing programs in order to address the need for healthcare professionals as well as contribute to the pursuit of universal healthcare. The government is offering nursing graduates assistance so they could pass the board exam, acquire their licenses, and join the pool of healthcare professionals.
Health is now touted as the government’s second weapon and thus the government is refocusing its health priorities, applying the lessons learned from the pandemic and addressing the weaknesses that it has exposed.
Malnutrition has been a problem in the Philippines for years. According to the Department of Health (DOH), at least 21.6% of infants and toddlers nationwide are stunted. To address hunger and nutrition-related issues, the government has introduced convergent programs like the Food Stamp Program (FSP), which aims to provide nutrition assistance to the million most food-poor Filipinos. Beneficiaries receive monthly electronic benefit transfer cards worth PH₱3,000 in food credits. They can use these credits to buy certain food items from authorized or recognized merchants approved by the DSWD.
The FSP complements other nutrition continuity programs, such as the First 1,000 Days program that ensures nourishment for the first three years of the child’s life, the Supplemental Feeding Program for children attending daycare centers, and the K-to-6 Program where Kindergarten to Grade 6 public school students, who are suffering from severe wasting, are fed.
Many Filipinos struggle with access to proper and affordable healthcare. President Marcos Jr. emphasized the need for a stronger healthcare system and highlighted priority structural enhancements. These include:
In order for the Philippines to be perceived as an attractive and reliable investment destination, the President wants to have an enabling business environment that creates investment opportunities.
Building on institutional reforms of recent years, the government has created “green lanes” for strategic investments, and expedited the business processes in various sectors and investment modalities. Also, the CREATE Law has made corporate tax and incentive schemes equitable and business-friendly. He noted, however, the need for more structural tax reforms.
“Digitalization is the call of today; not of the future—but of the present. It is here. It is needed, and it is needed today.”
Vital frontline services and back-end functions will be digitalized for better service to the people. Digitalization will support the government’s data-driven and science-based planning and decision-making. It is also their tool against many forms of graft and corruption.
The President claimed that digitalization, in conjunction with the government’s streamlining efforts, has significantly boosted efficiency. Notable examples are in the areas of government payments, company and business registrations, issuance of permits and licenses, loan applications, and revenue collection.
All digitalization efforts will be linked to payment systems, which account for 42% of the total retail payments made in 2022, whether by businesses, individuals, or by the government. The aim is to meet Bangko Sentral’s target of 50% of total retail payments by this year.
The eGov PH app has also been launched. It is envisioned that all key government services are to be integrated into this single and centralized mobile app.
The National ID system will be at the core of this digitally transformed network of government services, with 87% registration rate. This has already been integrated into the eGov PH app, and can be accessed by citizens.
The President called on all government offices to ensure that their vital services are digitalized immediately.
The number of Filipinos going abroad as the global economy begins to recover has grown by 62% in 2022. Remittances from Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are still at an all-time high, with an economic contribution of US$32.5bn, or nearly PH₱1.8 trillion, in the last year.
The administration, according to Marcos, is constantly engaging with its allies in the global community to ensure the welfare of OFWs.
He also emphasized that other nations have expressed interest in exploring bilateral labor collaboration with the Philippines in various fields. Recently, the administration entered into agreements with Singapore, Austria and the Canadian state of Alberta.
The President touched on the deployment issue in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and reaffirmed that it had been rectified. Seventy thousand (70,000) OFWs have already been deployed to Saudi Arabia for employment. And roughly 14,000 OFWs who lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia due to the pandemic are having their unpaid wages and other relevant claims reviewed. The Crown Prince reportedly made a personal commitment to the President that the outstanding claims of Filipino workers would be reimbursed.
Continued employment has also been guaranteed to approximately 50,000 workers aboard EU vessels, and that many more will be deployed on these ships. According to Marcos, this demonstrates that education and training in the country as well as skills must always be in accordance with the high, stringent and dynamic global standards.
The country's geographic location and topography, combined with human activities such as deforestation and pollution, make it highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural disasters brought about by rising temperatures and extreme weather.
The President emphasized that climate change is an important criterion in the country's overall national policies. This will be reflected in the following action plans:
Following the progress of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Marcos expressed his pride in the fact that the government's former adversaries are now its allies in peace.
“Through the BARMM, we have strengthened the nation’s prospects for finally achieving sustainable progress anchored on a true and lasting peace in Southern Philippines.”
He has pledged his continuous support for the development of the autonomous region.
Marcos announced that he will be extending amnesty to rebel returnees and he urged the Congress for cooperation in this endeavor.
He said that the community development and livelihood initiatives as well as the barangay development and enhanced comprehensive local integration programs have been effective in addressing the underlying causes of conflict in the rural areas. In addition, capacity-building and social protection must be incorporated into the reintegration process.
The President stated that the government's anti-drug campaign remains in full force but has "taken on a new face" that is centered on treatment and rehabilitation.
He expressed that he would accept the resignations of law enforcement officers and authorities who are involved in the drug trade, stressing that he would not condone corruption or ineptitude in his administration.
The President called on Congress to support the following priority legislations:
1. The Essential tax measures under the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework:
2. Amendment of the Fisheries Code. Updates to incorporate and strengthen science-based analysis and determination of fishing areas, strengthening the sustainable development of the fisheries sector.
3. Amendment of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act. Amendments to make the legislation more effective in prosecuting large-scale agricultural smugglers.
4. Amendment of the Cooperative Code. Changes to streamline the formation of cooperatives to help farmers and fishermen increase production.
5-6. New Government Procurement Law and New Government Auditing Code. To ensure transparency in the procurement process, the Acts will push for the modernization, standardization and regulation of the government’s procurement activities and auditing processes.
7. Anti-financial accounts scamming. Endorsed for Senate approval, the Act will regulate the use of bank accounts and e-wallets and prohibit cyber schemes and financial crimes such as acting as money mule, performing social engineering schemes, and committing economic sabotage.
8. Tatak-Pinoy (Proudly Filipino) law. Mandates government agencies to collaborate with the private sector to develop a comprehensive strategy focused on the expansion and diversification of the productive capabilities of local enterprises.
9. The Blue Economy law. Under initial deliberation, the Act seeks to create a structure for the sustainable development, management, and preservation of the marine and water resources of the Philippines.
10. Ease of paying taxes. Provides regulations that aim to streamline the tax payment process, improve taxpayer compliance, and strengthen government finances.
11. Local government unit (LGU) income classification. Proposes to establish a system of automatic income classification of LGUs into six income classes that accurately reflect their financial capacity and position in order to empower LGU’s with the financial capability to take on developmental initiatives.
12. The Philippine Immigration Act. Aims to modernize the current legal framework for immigration policies by updating the powers and structure of the Bureau of Immigration (BI), streamlining the process for issuing Philippine visas, and improving exclusion and deportation proceedings.
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