Reactions to SONA: ‘Anticipated road map meandered into roadside’ | Inquirer News

Reactions to SONA: ‘Anticipated road map meandered into roadside’

MANILA, Philippines — Certain business groups reacted more to what President Duterte did not say than to what he actually said during his fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday.

“We were hopefully waiting for him to mention Create (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act), which he did, but he did not mention Arise (Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines). We were actually waiting for that,” said Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines.

At a time when the country wrestled with its highest unemployment rate in 15 years, business groups wanted to hear Duterte’s thoughts about the P1.3-trillion economic stimulus bill called Arise.


Arise would help save as many jobs as possible through aggressive government interventions, such as wage subsidies for both formal and informal sectors, generous loans and regulatory relief.


The President’s chief economic manager has dismissed Arise for being allegedly unfundable. The bill was passed in the House of Representatives in June, but its potential to extend a lifeline to many Filipinos in need stopped there.

Instead, the President urged lawmakers to pass the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, which would allot only P140 billion to stimulate the economy.

He also asked Congress to pass Create, which would cut corporate taxes and rationalize tax breaks. The bill faced reservations from export-oriented firms, which fear higher costs of doing business.

More stimulus packages

Asked if the second Bayanihan bill was enough, Nabil Francis, president of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said the chamber would need more stimulus packages “to restore investor confidence.”

John Forbes of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines said the group had recommended amendments to the Public Service Act and the open access for data transmission “to improve the telco sector.”

“He did not focus as much on the pandemic and economic recovery as many had expected,” Forbes said in a text message.



Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo said the Bayanihan 2 bill was like a smaller version of the Arise bill’s economic stimulus package.

Quimbo, an economist and one of the proponents of Arise, said breaking down the bill into separate programs would mean losing an opportunity to monitor interventions “as a singular platform that will address the most important economic concern today, which is the unprecedented level of unemployment.”

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman expressed dismay that instead of tackling his administration’s road map in response to the ravages on our people and economy of the pandemic, Duterte mentioned his master plan “only peripherally.”

“The anticipated road map meandered into the roadside of trite generalities and an invocation that the people should ‘trust its government’ without telling them what actually the government’s plans are,” the opposition lawmaker said.

Marawi compensation

Another group had wanted to hear the President mention the reconstruction of Marawi City, which was devastated three years ago as a result of the battles between Islamist State supporters and government forces.

The Marawi Reconstruction Conflict Watch called on Duterte to certify the Marawi compensation bill, which has stalled in Congress. “We need this to march in step with the rest of our fellow Filipinos toward recovery and resilience,’’ it said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto also found Mr. Duterte’s speech wanting, although he agreed in some of the points that he raised.

Plant, Plant, Plant

“Unfortunately, [the] speech wasn’t inspiring, reassuring, hopeful and even divisive,” Recto told the Inquirer.

“[There was] not much detail on how to win the war against COVID-19. I agree in investing in agriculture. Will support [the Plant, Plant, Plant program] … He must crack the whip on Cabinet to do better and maybe replace a few,” he said.

Duterte said the Plant, Plant, Plant program would be easier for the government to achieve than the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program, noting that the former is only about “convincing farmers to cooperate for their benefit.”

Farmers’ groups, however, were also disappointed with the speech of Duterte in which he thanked the country’s uniformed personnel for ensuring food security, but did not mention those who go out in the fields and the seas to provide food for Filipinos.

“We have no expectations at all because in the past, he said the same things but nothing materialized,” said Raul Montemayor, national chair of the Federation of Free Farmers.

Rosendo So, chair of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, said his group was more after the results. “We can’t feel the changes that he’s been talking about over the years.”

So said the Plant, Plant, Plant program may as well be termed “Plan, Plan, Plan,” since the agriculture department had yet to get full funding for its proposal.

Coco levy

Another issue raised by Duterte was the passage of the coco levy trust fund bill, which he also mentioned during last year’s Sona.

Almost five decades since the landmark legislation was first proposed in Congress, the coco levy has yet to be passed on to coconut farmers. The President vetoed the measure last year, saying that he has yet to find an “honest man” to administer the funds.

This time, he told Congress that its passage was “up to [Congress],” as billions of pesos may be lost if the bill would continue to be in limbo.

Coconut Industry Reform movement leader Joey Faustino said Malacañang should still make a stand on the levy instead of leaving it to Congress.

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With a report from Marlon Ramos

TAGS: Business, Rodrigo Duterte, SONA 2020

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