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A Presidential Pep Talk

It is a tradition and a Constitutional mandate. The highest law of the land requires the highest official of the land to address Congress at the start of its session. The thinking behind the requirement should be clear — the President, as chief executive, needs to report on the state of affairs of the country and, in solving our problems, specify legislative solutions to those challenges. It’s like a pep talk before opening a restaurant or an inspirational speech before a big game. The State of the Nation Address (SONA) is an opportunity to take stock of where we are, garner consensus on where we want to go, and lay out the plan on how we intend to get there.


This is the second SONA of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Last year, he delivered his inaugural SONA in an hour-long speech that focused primarily on economic recovery and his wishlist of 19 priority bills. He ended that address with a hopeful note: “I do not intend to diminish the risks and the challenges that we face in this turbulent time in global history, and yet, I see sunlight filtering through these dark clouds. We have assembled the best Filipino minds to help navigate us through this time of global crisis that we are now facing. We will endure. Let our Filipino spirit ever remain undimmed.” This was my favorite part because while a lot of critics demand details, statistics, and numbers (which are all important), I thought that a speech like this should uplift and inspire. The SONAs that I enjoyed the most in my 21 years as a member of Congress are those that inspire our people to be part of the change. You can always read the details of the plan in government documents or in the budget but great speeches move people.


So how was the second SONA of the President? I thought it was a great speech. Detailed yet inspiring. Just like his first SONA, the President opened with a discourse on the country’s economy. This is consistent with his governance strategy: focus on reviving the economy. He correctly pointed out that despite headwinds experienced by the global economy, the “economy posted a 7.6 percent growth in 2022 – our highest growth rate in 46 years.” I have been saying all along – even during the campaign – the President understands the nature of the nation’s problem. He knows that the economy is front and center of our struggle to solve many of our problems.


Inflation, which was the biggest issue when he took office, had been kept at a manageable level. The President reported that “inflation rate is moving in the right direction” from 8.7 percent at the start of the year to 5.4 percent. In other words, the Marcos administration, by correctly identifying the problems, and managing the challenges, “we are still considered to be among the fastest-growing economies in the Asian region and in the world.”


This SONA, just like all others, attempted to cover as many issues as possible and it will take days to unpack all of them. But there are a couple of subject matter that I was pleased to hear the President expound on.


One is on infrastructure. President Marcos correctly pointed out that one critical ingredient to sustaining economic growth is infrastructure development. His administration’s flagship infrastructure program, “Build Better More” will spend ₱8.3-trillion which will keep infrastructure spending at five to six percent of our GDP. Strategically, he said that “intermodal connectivity will be a primary consideration.” This means that the network of roads, bridges, and mass transport systems will be interconnected in order to provide access and passage to vital and bustling economic markets, such as agriculture hubs, tourism sites, and key business districts.”


The newly passed Maharlika Investment Fund law also received special mention in the SONA. President Marcos, who signed it into law last week, stressed that the fund shall be used to make high-impact and profitable investments in infrastructure, among others. To allay fears of abuse, he reiterated the safeguards which included: (1) internationally renowned economic managers shall oversee the fund; (2) investment decisions will be based on financial considerations alone, absent of any political influence; and, more importantly, (3) funds for public health and social insurance shall remain intact and separate.


The fact that the SONA encompassed a lot of issues is testament to the herculean tasks that lie ahead. The President needs all the help from everyone. We may have different circumstances and leanings but at the end of the day we all love our country, and that is the most important ingredient in our drive toward peace and progress.




Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar