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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Solons laud ‘no-nonsense’ accounting of Marcos admin’s first year

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Lawmakers on Monday applauded President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) for its “no-nonsense” accounting of what the administration has achieved and what more must be done, but labor groups and the urban poor said not much has changed for them.

Speaker Martin G. Romualdez said the President delivered his message loud and clear.

Despite the turmoil in other parts of the world, Romualdez said, the country’s economy is doing well and a large number of Filipinos are benefiting from it.

“We in the House of Representatives will support the President’s agenda,” Romualdez said as he vowed that Congress will work on the immediate passage of the legislation identified by the President in his speech.

HALLOWED HALL. An estimated 2,000 guests and dignitaries fill the Session Hall of the Batasang Pambansa to listen to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s second State of the Nation Address on Monday. Ver Noveno

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said the President’s speech was “spectacular and no-nonsense.”

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“As expected, the Chief Executive gave a clear, factual, and comprehensive report to the Filipino people, detailing his administration’s achievements after a year in office, giving us a lot of hope and optimism,” said Barzaga, who chairs the House committee on environment.

“The President went straight to the point, keeping his performance report simple and bereft of gimmicks — no pomp and circumstance. It was terse but meaningful,” Barzaga added.

Barzaga said the speech showed the President is dead serious about getting things done and proving that the administration’s pro-people agenda is not mere lip service.

“I could sense his confidence when he said that the state of the nation is sound and improving and as the song goes, ‘we’ve only just begun’,” he said.

The President assured the people that he is striving to put flesh on his campaign promises of uplifting lives and uniting the country, Barzaga said.

Reps. Salvador Pleyto Sr of Bulacan and Ralph Recto of Batangas were also positive about the President’s speech.

“It’s a compendium of the initial steps the President has done, and it’s obviously a good start,” Playto said. “There are still five more years to go but at least we now have a more concrete idea of the things to come. Simply put – it’s a job well done, Mr. President.”

Recto said: “Overall, it was a good accounting of the state of the nation” even as he said the speech was partly a lecture on the Medium Term Development Plan.

“For those expecting SONA as theater, what he delivered instead was a teach-in. He traded oratorical flair for as many facts as he can squeeze in such a short time,” Recto said.

“He was not fishing for applause, choosing fewer sound bytes so he could mention more sound programs,” he added. “It was a speech designed not to get us excited, like the ones that will make us jump to our feet, but to get us thinking for a long time on the hard work ahead.”

“He dropped a big payload of plans, and to Congress, a huge consignment of bills to be passed, some of which could be unpopular,” Recto said.

Sen. Chiz Escudero described as “well-detailed” the President’s SONA, adding it touched “many things.”

Sen. Grace Poe said what she liked most was the President’s statement that smugglers of agricultural products should be jailed.

Sen. Raffy Tulfo commended the President for highlighting the plight of OFWs and seafarers, as well as the country’s energy situation, while Sen. Francis Tolentino lauded Mr. Marcos for talking about inflation.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said there were many issues the President failed to mention, “but we conceded that the problems of the country cannot be covered in just one or two hours.”

On the economic side, the President reiterated the priorities set by his economic team and the administration—to bring down the prices of goods and services, said Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. chief economist Michael Ricafort.

Philippine Solar and Storage Energy Alliance chairperson Tetchi Capellan said the President identified the biggest stumbling block to renewable energy and energy security—transmission.

“Removing this bottleneck and resolving the interconnection issues require strict governance as the President already identified. But above all, it demands huge investments in building the infrastructure,” Capellan said.

‘Waiting is not an option for a country growing at 7 percent with an aspiration of 50 percent renewable energy in its energy mix. We have to build the lines and substations.”

Jay Layug, the president of an umbrella group of renewable energy associations, credited the President and his administration for doing more than pay lip service to RE.

“We also laud the integrated approach adopted by the [Marcos] administration— one that centers not only on power generation but also on distribution, transmission, and supply. We hope that with the whole-of-government approach, the Philippine economy will prosper with sustainable and affordable electricity supply.”

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), which the President singled out for more action in his speech, pledged its commitment to its energy initiatives and said it would concentrate available resources toward completing the ongoing transition projects while expediting others in the pipeline.

The company also acknowledged the importance of including renewable energy in the country’s energy mix and said it would tap the expertise in RE integration of its partner, the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC).

In contrast to the upbeat reactions, the militant labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) said that all the social problems—poverty, inequality, low wages, high prices, unemployment, and insecure jobs—remain unsolved.

“Nothing has changed and these problems have no clear solutions under this administration,” Rene Magtubo, PM national chairman, said.

Hundreds of PM members joined other workers’ organizations under the Nagkaisa labor coalition to call on the President to hear their appeal, and to fulfill his campaign promises.

Various labor groups trooped near Batasan in Quezon City for a counter-SONA rally.

Magtubo cited the loss of more than 4,000 jobs as two big garment factories shutting down in the Mactan Export Processing Zone as an example of the failures of the Marcos Jr. administration.

Urban poor and labor groups also criticized the administration’s social housing program for being “overly dependent” on private developers and for being “downright discriminatory” against the poorest of the poor.

The administration’s flagship program, the Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino (4PH) aims to produce 1 million “affordable” housing units each year to address the cumulative housing backlog of some 6.8 million.

But leaders of urban poor organizations in a joint statement declared that the program “is neither affordable nor equitable for the poorest among homeless Filipinos.”

They said under the private sector-led housing development program, only the lower to middle-income families can avail of the P1.1million to P1.5 million housing loan from Pag-ibig as the poorest of poor, estimated to be 1.7 million of the 6 million beneficiaries, cannot afford a monthly amortization of at least P4,000.

Housing loans under 4PH are significantly higher than the current loanable amount of up to P750,000 for socialized housing under Pag-ibig, with a monthly amortization of P2,445 a month available for minimum wage earners and low-income families.

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