State of the Nation Address

SONA 2023

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Recap of the 2023 State of the Nation Address

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.

Economic priorities

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.

Multipronged efforts on the agriculture sector

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:

  • Improving access to food through the KADIWA program that provides inexpensive, fresh and high-quality food commodities directly to consumers, particularly low-income families (over 7,000 KADIWA stores are available nationwide, providing assistance to 1.8m families)
  • Enhancing production by amending the Fisheries Code to strengthen science-based analysis of fishing areas, accelerating cooperative formation, continuing agrarian reform, expanding knowledge and use of new agri-tech, distributing hybrid and high-quality seeds, using locally manufactured bio-fertilizers as part of the balanced fertilizer strategy to reduce dependence on the more expensive and imported fertilizers, giving out more than 28,000 modern machinery and equipment, and fighting smugglers and hoarders
  • Expanding agricultural infrastructure with farm-to-market roads (FMRs) planned using Geo-Agri map of FMRs of the entire country, additional 600 kilometers of FMRs, better access to irrigation, fabrication labs, and production and cold storage facilities
  • Boosting water security by creating the Water Resources Management Office and getting ready for El Niño with PH₱14.6bn allocated for water supply projects across the country, buffer stocks and irrigation equipment being prepared, and if necessary, cloud-seeding to bring rain
  • Connecting farmers through farm and fisheries clustering and livestock multiplier farms
  • Amending the Cooperative Code to speed up the formation of cooperatives
  • Providing relief to distressed farmers affected by the increase in the price of fuel and fertilizer by giving out fuel and fertilizer discount vouchers and fertilizer donations from China
  • Strengthening the biosecurity levels of domestic animals as a defense against diseases, and making effective drugs and vaccines against such diseases available in the future
  • Enacting the new Agrarian Emancipation Act that effectively erased PH₱57bn debt borne by more than 600,000 beneficiaries

Infrastructure projects via “Build Better More” program

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.

  • The 1,200-kilometer Luzon Spine Expressway Network Program will effectively connect Ilocos to Bicol from 20 hours to just 9 hours of travel.
  • Under the Mega-Bridge Program, 12 bridges totaling 90 kilometers will be constructed, connecting islands and areas separated by waters. The Program notably includes the Bataan-Cavite Interlink Bridge and the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridges, each spanning 32 kilometers, and the Samal Island-Davao City Connector Bridge.
  • As of June this year, more than 4,000 kilometers of roads and around 500 bridges across the country have been constructed, maintained, and upgraded.
  • Crucial airport and port development projects across the country have been completed, including Cebu’s Pier 88 smart port, and the new passenger terminal buildings of Clark Airport and the Port of Calapan.
  • Several railway projects, with a total length of more than 1,000 kilometers, have been initiated. The southern leg of the North-South Commuter Railway System is now in full swing. In a few years, travel from Pampanga to Laguna will be reduced from four hours to just two.
  • Roads, bridges and mass transport systems will be interconnected to vital economic markets such as agriculture hubs, tourism sites, and key business districts.

Funding high-priority initiatives with the Maharlika Investment Fund

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.”


Power generation and electrification

“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.

Green energy goal

“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:

  • opened renewable energy projects to foreign investments
  • awarded 126 renewable energy contracts with a potential capacity of 31,000 megawatts.
  • conducted over 1000 active renewable energy projects across the country (299 solar, 187 wind, 436 hydroelectric, 58 biomass, 36 geothermal, and nine ocean-powered projects)
  • pushed for more gas exploration, citing the success of the Malampaya project that energizes 20% of Luzon.

Building capabilities: No Filipino should be left behind

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.

Social welfare

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.

Upskilling the workforce

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.

Creating healthier communities

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.

Addressing malnutrition

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.

Strengthening the healthcare system

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:

  • Catching up on the routine vaccinations of children. As of this year, more than 80% of eligible children have been vaccinated against measles, rubella, and polio
  • Development of a strategic and comprehensive plan to suppress the rise of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS
  • Increased public health facilities in number and capability, with more than 3,400 projects completed in 2022
  • Established and integrated specialty centers in government hospitals, such as a planned five-hectare multi-specialty center in Pampanga that will specialize in pediatrics, cardiology, kidney, and cancer treatment. Additional 60 specialty centers were opened to the public last year.
  • Decrease in the prices of primary medications by 40-90%. Strategic VAT exemption also lowered the prices of 59 essential medications, such as those for cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and mental illness.
  • Expansion of PhilHealth coverage through:
    • Konsulta Package that covers preventive care, including consultations, health risks screening and assessment, 13 laboratory tests, and 21 maintenance drugs and medicines
    • Expanding hemodialysis coverage from 90 to 156 sessions
  • Additional assistance under the Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients (MAIP) program, which has helped 3.4m Filipinos in the last year
  • Deployment of doctors to 200 municipalities across the country, and vowing to deploy a doctor for each of the remaining 19 municipalities that do not have one

Attracting foreign investments and promoting ease of doing business

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 for ease of doing business, and to fight graft and corruption

“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.

Taking care of OFWs

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.

Embedding climate change in national policies

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:

  • Reorganizing response teams to make them more adaptable, agile and effective
  • Upgrading evacuation centers to withstand extreme weather events and manmade disasters
  • Committing to global decarbonization goals and reducing carbon footprint
  • Adopting a circular economy to maximize natural resources, minimize waste and reduce the need for new resources

Peace and order

On Bangsamoro transition

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.

On granting amnesty to rebel returnees

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.

On the campaign against illegal drugs

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.


Priority legislations

The President called on Congress to support the following priority legislations:

1. The Essential tax measures under the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework:

  • Excise tax on single-use plastics. Under the Single-use Plastic Bags Tax Act, an excise tax of PH₱100 will be imposed for every kilogram of SUPs removed from the place of production or released from custody of the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
  • VAT on digital services. Digital Services Tax Bill will impose 12% VAT on the sale of digital services (e.g., subscription-based online services, supplier of goods and online services)
  • Rationalization of the mining fiscal regime. The bill proposes a royalty tax of 5% on the market value of gross output of large-scale mining operations and states that a minimum government share of 60% of net mining revenues will be imposed on mining operations.
  • Motor vehicle user’s charge (MVUC)/road users tax. To provide adequate funding for the maintenance of national and provincial roads, the Department of Finance (DOF) proposed an increase in MVUC rates to finance road infrastructure projects, the merger of various road funds with the general fund and the abolition of the Road Board.
  • Military and Uniformed Personnel (MUP) Pension. A pension reform that aims to establish a strong social protection system for MUP retirees

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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