Marcos: ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ has arrived
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. doubled down on his ending remarks for his first State of the Nation Address (Sona), saying in his second Sona that, in 2023, the country’s status continued to be sound and improving.
Marcos ended his speech on Monday before Congress by saying that Bagong Pilipinas — his new slogan that came from a 2022 campaign catchy jingle that literally means ‘New Philippines — has arrived.
“I have stated before that my confidence in our future was grounded in our world-class quality workforce — be they the farmers in the field, corporate giants, government officials, school teachers, health workers, or employees. That confidence has been further buoyed by their demonstration of love for the Philippines, And thus, with this in my heart, I know that the state of the nation is sound, and is improving. Dumating na po ang Bagong Pilipinas,” Marcos said.
He started his Sona by saying that rising inflation was the biggest problem he faced since the beginning of his term.
“Inflation rate is moving in the right direction. From 8.7 percent in January, our inflation has continued to decrease in all regions settling now at 5.4 percent in June. What this means is that in spite of all the difficulties we are transforming the economy. We are stabilizing the prices of all commodities. Inflation is expected to decrease further by the close of year, and projected at 2.9 percent by 2024” Marcos said.
Marcos also mentioned his requests to Congress to pass 20 bills identified by the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) as priority measures.
He also talked about digitalization, saying: “Digitalization is the call of today, it is here, and it is needed today. Government must fully embrace digitalization to provide better services to the people. The first bill that I signed into law was the SIM Registration Act, because we are mindful of the risks and vulnerabilities that can lead to negative consequences, digital users and consumers shall be protected from identity theft, phishing, other online scams through essential systems and safeguards.”
OFW, health workers’ concerns
Marcos also reiterated his previous statements about the crown prince of Saudi Arabia committing to the payment of pending salaries of over 14,000 overseas Filipino workers.
He also said that the government had started working to update the training of seafarers after the European Union gave the Philippines a chance to meet standards.
“The unpaid salaries and other related claims of some 14,000 OFWs who have been put out of work in Saudi Arabia during the pandemic are now being processed. The crown prince of Saudi Arabia himself personally committed to me that the unpaid claims of Filipino workers would now be paid,” Marcos said.
“The continued employment of some 50,000 workers and the deployment of many more Filipino seafarers aboard EU vessels has also been assured. The lesson for us is that our education and skills training must always be attuned to the high exacting and constantly developing global standards,” he added.
He also assured that the government was focused on healthcare, as the country is moving towards supporting more medicine provision and laboratory tests. He also promised that health workers both in private and public healthcare facilities would receive their COVID-19 emergency allowances and other benefits not yet given.
“We are getting closer and closer to the goal that all Filipinos will get healthcare services… Now we already have 2,000 Konsulta Centers nationwide — more than 35 percent compared to last year. My countrymen, dialysis is now free for most Filipinos,” Marcos said in Filipino.
“To repay the sacrifices made by our health workers in private and public hospitals in the past pandemic, their COVID Health Emergency Allowance and other benefits are already being distributed.”
Marcos also showed a firm stand against agricultural smuggling, warning hoarders and price manipulators that their days would soon be over.
“Isa sa mga dahilan ng pagtaas ng presyo ay ang mga smuggler, mga hoarder, at mga nagmamanipula ng presyo ng produktong agrikultura. Hinahabol at inahahabla natin sila, sadyang hindi maganda ang kanilang gawain at hindi rin ito tugma sa ating magandang layunin,” Marcos said.
“One of the reasons why prices of goods are high is because of smugglers, hoarders, and manipulators of agricultural good prices. We are going after them and we will jail them, as their actions go against our good objectives. What they are doing is cheating. They are putting into jeopardy not only farmers but also us consumers. That’s why we won’t allow this system,” he said.
Several lawmakers of the 19th Congress had been blaming agricultural smuggling as the cause of high prices of food during the latter part of 2022.
At one point, onion prices skyrocketed to around P500 to P700 per kilogram, far from the usual P80 to P200 per kilogram.
According to Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo, the hearings done by the House Committee on Agriculture and Food showed that onion cartels have been manipulating prices by creating a fake shortage of cold storage facilities needed to keep onions fresh.
Several of the President’s allies in Congress — including his cousin, House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez — said that he was able to clearly state his message that the country maintains a strong economy despite external shocks and conflict.
However, opposition lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc downplayed Marcos’s claim of economic gains, saying that the country had been facing a bad inflation spate since 2022.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said that Marcos tried to make it appear that the Philippines was in a much better state under his administration, but inflation had risen to 14-year-high levels.
She also scored Marcos for being mum on human rights abuses and other issues.