Yes, as President Marcos Jr. said in his SONA last Monday, the country and its economy are stable and improving, “and the new Philippines (Bagong Pilipinas) is here.”
But BBM has five years to go, and I am sure while the economy in his first year was stable and improving, he knows full well the challenges and threats he must face.
We cannot underestimate the continuing challenge and threat to food security.
And for this reason, the President knows he must continue as secretary of agriculture since the challenges and threats to food security are enormous because they involve all of us, the people especially the poor, and the producers farmers.
The farmers must have enough incentives and modern tools to produce more.
The President knew this when he gave emphasis on the need for farm-to-market infrastructure and affordable fertilizers.
The President also knows full well the people and consumers must have food on the table at affordable prices.
And BBM knows the smuggling of agriculture products must be stopped, and the cartels involved that continue to hoard and manipulate prices must be stopped
It is for this reason why he was emphatic about amending the anti-smuggling act, obviously to make smuggling of agricultural products “economic sabotage.”
Yes, the country and the economy are “stable and improving,” but the challenges and threats to food security are still up.
Other challenges are on water, energy, science and technology, especially the need to ensure energy supply.
While the President did not mention the need to resort to nuclear power, I am sure he had this in mind.
On water, which consumers complain about when El Nino comes about resulting in rationing in the allocation of water by concessionaires when Angat Dam starts dipping down, the President emphasized the need to create a Department of Water Resources Management.
Similarly, along this line, it would have been better if BBM asked Congress to also enact the long-awaited DDR or Department of Disaster resilience, something the country needs since the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable when it comes to calamities and disasters,
All in all, BBM’s second SONA was honest and frank, as far as I am concerned.
But, Santa Banana, as President, how he will meet all the challenges and threats bears watching!
State public emergency lifted
The best and certainly the most welcome news is that the State of Public Health Emergency has been lifted following a proclamation by President Marcos Jr.
Santa Banana, with the lifting of the public health emergency, there is also some lifting of health protocols, making masking optional, in hospitals and indoor closed spaces!
However, the President maintained all emergency use authorization (EUA), issued for vaccines by the Food and Drug Administration in 2020, will remain valid for one year for the sole purpose of exhausting the remaining vaccines.
BBM also stressed the need for all government agencies to ensure that their policies, rules and regulations will take into consideration the lifting of public health emergency and amend existing rules or promulgate new ones.
Another good news is the bivalent vaccine may still be administered for free to qualified individuals for another year.
Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa had said the public health emergency had been de facto lifted, and the DOH was just waiting for the recommendation of the IATF or Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases to recommend to BBM the lifting.
The latest DOH data showed that as of March 20, some 78.4 million people had been fully vaccinated or the 100.4 percent of the targeted people, and over 23.8 million people had availed of the first booster shots, while 4.4 million got their second booster shots.
As of July 14, only 48,354 individuals had availed of the more than 390,000 available bivalent jabs donated by the Lithuanian government.
The lifting of the public health emergency means that coronavirus is now classified as among the usual colds, coughs and flu that Filipinos are prone to.
This means the vulnerable citizens like my wife and myself have to be still very vigilant and remain proactive on our approach to health and safety.
What is important is that the country now is in a state of economic recovery after we suffered economic recession and the government’s suffering its biggest anti-poverty challenge.
The COVID-19 pandemic battered the economy with the country suffering its worst post World War II recession with the increase of joblessness and unemployment and the need for the government to provide for the poor, bringing up calls for higher wages and more aid.
Does the lifting of the state of public emergency mean the end of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Of course not,
Only the health protocols, especially lockdowns which we Filipinos had to undergo.
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed 23 million Filipinos into poverty.
Inflation also battered the country, especially the poor with hardly anything on their table.
Note that as of Jan. 30, 2002, some 4,171,006 Filipinos had been infected by the coronavirus and that no less than 66,542 had died.
NAIA’s solicited project
The National Economic and Development Authority has approved a P170.6 billion Ninoy Aquino International Airport rehabilitation and modernization project.
NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balicasan was quoted to have said the “solicited proposal to rehabilitate, operate, expand and transfer the NAIA project would be undertaken through the Public-Private partnership scheme.”
The NEDA is chaired by President Marcos Jr.
The project, costing P170.6 billion, is supposed to commence in 2024 under the Department of Transportation and Manila International Airport Authority to increase the main gateway’s annual capacity of 35 million to at least 62 million passengers and improve overall passenger experience and service.
The project has a concession period of 15 years and an additional 10-year extension depending on the performance of the winning bidder. This includes improvement on all passenger terminals and all facilities, including those previously identified as causes of inconvenience.
The goal of the project is to address long-standing issues of NAIA such as inadequate facilities that cause passenger inconvenience and also to increase air traffic movement from 40 per hour to 48 per hour.
With NEDA’s decision to go with the solicited mode of the NAIA rehabilitation, NEDA hopes last April’s unsolicited proposal of six conglomerates to rehabilitate and modernize NAIA at a cost of P276 billion will opt to participate in the solicited proposal.
The six conglomerates had an unsolicited proposal which was hailed by many. It is not clear, however, if the solicited NEDA proposal would include the updating of the navigational, communication and air flight communication that caused a great embarrassment to the country when the airports system had a problem on January 1 of this year when no less than 56,000 passengers got stranded, and inbound and outbound flights were canceled, also stranding passengers at NAIA Terminal 3.
There had been occasions when NAIA’s air conditioners did not work.
All these hopefully will erase the label that NAIA is perhaps the worst international airport in the world.
Those who traveled frequently like myself as a journalist can agree with that label.
One of the elements of the project is the concessionaire will operate NAIA or manage it.
This is most welcomed to end once and for all corruption and even human trafficking at the airport, hopefully.