Full Speed Ahead
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. won an overwhelming majority of the votes during the May 2022 national elections. He won almost 59 percent of the total votes cast in a 10-way presidential race. But now that he has been sworn in as President, he becomes the president of all Filipinos and the leader who will face 100 percent of the problems our country is facing.
I am absolutely certain that Bongbong is delighted to have the opportunity to serve our people again. But his assumption to office comes at a time when our country, and in fact, the world, is facing unimaginable challenges. The war in Ukraine, the US-China scuffles on trade and geopolitics, and the global food crisis have negatively affected our country particularly our economy. Locally, the continuing Covid-19 crisis, the impending food crisis, the plight of our education system, partisan political divisions, and more critically, our economic recovery after the pandemic wiped out all our gains in the past two decades, are weighing heavily on our ability to provide for a bright future for all Filipinos.
Amid this backdrop, President Marcos, Jr. delivered his first State of the Nation Address last July 25, 2022 as mandated by the Philippine Constitution. I cannot imagine the tremendous pressure on the President both from his supporters, who have a long list of campaign promises they want to hear the plans for during the SONA, and from his political foes, who I am sure will dissect the SONA line by line in order to find political ammunition for their criticism of the president and his administration.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” This is his time. This is Bongbong’s opportunity to tell his supporters that they did not commit a mistake in supporting him and to tell his political enemies that this is what we can achieve together if he will be given a chance.
His first SONA has demonstrated that President Marcos, Jr. is prepared for the tasks ahead. He was inside the plenary hall of the Batasang Pambansa more than five minutes before his scheduled speech. And when he started talking he went straight to the point. He did not mess around. Walang paligoy-ligoy si BBM.
With machine gun-like speed, Bongbong demonstrated his excellent grasp of the problems we are facing by rattling off macroeconomic data and targets. He promised sound fiscal management, tax reform, public spending efficiency to enable our country to heal what he called as “economic scarring” and prepare our economy for future shocks. I also like the fact that his plan is more forward-looking by providing for a Philippine Development Plan for 2023 to 2028 designed to sustain our economic recovery even amid what he termed as an “elevated uncertainty international environment.”
In particular, the president mentioned a couple of things that I believe deserve applause. First, he committed to continue President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program. His administration has placed as its target five to six percent of the GDP for infrastructure spending.
Second, after mentioning that he will not declare anymore lockdowns, he stressed that his pandemic response plan will balance the need to foster the health of our people and the country’s economic recovery designed to strengthen our people’s livelihood. He added that his administration through DepEd Secretary Vice President Inday Sara Duterte will allow the resumption of face-to-face classes in our schools.
Third, I also applaud his proposal to Congress to provide assistance to distressed enterprises. I have always said that MSMEs form the backbone of our economy. As such, small enterprises owned by Filipino entrepreneurs will also be at the front line of our economic recovery.
There are other aspects of his plans that I found laudable. I plan to discuss them in my future columns even as the various executive departments unpack the nitty gritty of PBBMs agenda.
I thought it was a very good speech. PBBM showed that he has a good grasp of the problems we face and, more importantly, that he has a plan to address these problems. “The task of the leader,” Henry Kissinger once said, “is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been. Taken together with his inauguration speech and his initial decisions and pronouncements as president, I am confident that with Pres. Marcos, Jr. at the helm we are going to achieve the vision set out in his first SONA.