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Monday, March 4, 2024

Not good state of the nation

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The SONA is remarkable in the non-mention of certain critical issues (which) are equally pressing in the life of Filipinos

PresidentT Bongbong Marcos’ State of the Nation speech last Monday, which lasted for over an hour, centered around the economy and business.

Throughout the address, the President presented various statistics, aiming to demonstrate the country’s purportedly remarkable economic revival after the pandemic.

Marcos said in recent months, we’ve witnessed a decline in the prices of various goods across different sectors.

We successfully demonstrated our ability to reduce the costs of rice, meat, fish, vegetables, and sugar, as illustrated in a Flourish data visualization.

Yet as has been pointed out, there is need to clarify his assertion regarding the decreasing prices of goods.

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The consumer price index data, which compares average prices to those of 2018, indicates the prices of rice, meat, fish, vegetables, and sugar have either risen or remained stable in the past few months.

During Marcos’ initial year as president and agriculture chief, he had to contend with soaring prices of essential kitchen staples, such as onions (experiencing a peak increase of 560 percent since June 2022), sugar (with a 40 percent surge between June and August 2022), and eggs (witnessing a 40 percent rise since June 2022).

Regrettably, these prices are yet to fully recover.

Marcos also pointed out the employment rate had increased to 95.7 percent, which he deemed as compelling evidence of an improvement from the “severe unemployment” experienced during the pandemic.

However, a noteworthy aspect that Marcos omitted from his speech was the concerning rise of unpaid workers.

However, as has been clarified: Among the recently employed individuals in the nation, more than a million are classified as “unpaid workers.”

An unpaid family worker is characterized by the Philippine Statistics Authority as an individual who toils without remuneration on their family-operated farm or business, and this work is typically performed for another member residing in the same household.

It’s important to note that food or allowances are not considered as part of their salary.

Marcos stressed that in 2022, the gross domestic product (GDP) experienced a growth of 7.8 percent; yet failing to highlight the Philippines was one of the countries severely impacted by the pandemic, facing one of the most significant economic downturns.

Marcos emphasized the inflation rate has improved, decreasing from 8.7 percent in January to 5.8 percent in June.

However, it is important to note that the current figure is still considerably distant from the target range of 2 percent to 4 percent.

Furthermore, recent data from the Philippine Statistics Authority indicates a slight increase in rice inflation, with the price of this staple food rising to 3.6 percent in June, up from 2.7 percent in January.

Marcos started his speech with encouraging economic indicators such as the 7.6 percent economic growth in 2022, “the highest in 46 years.”

However, it is important to note the first-quarter GDP growth of 6.4 percent marked a significant decline of two percentage points from the 8.3 percent growth recorded in the same period last year.

Furthermore, it was also slower than the 7.1 percent growth achieved in the final quarter of 2022.

Marcos failed to mention the 6.4 percent growth in the first quarter is still the country’s slowest economic expansion since it emerged from the recession caused by the pandemic in 2021.

The SONA is remarkable in the non-mention of certain critical issues.

For example, Marcos made no mention of China’s aggressive actions towards Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea, the controversial “Love the Philippines” tourism campaign, pressing public transportation issues, and the reinstatement of the International Criminal Court’s investigation into the Duterte administration’s handling of the drug war.

These issues are equally pressing in the life of Filipinos.

For instance, China’s assertiveness in the region has escalated tensions and posed significant challenges to the Philippines’ sovereignty and territorial integrity, leading to diplomatic disputes and security concerns in the area.

Efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the issue have been ongoing, but the situation remains complex and sensitive.

The nation’s strategic viability and prosperity hinge on its relations with the superpowers, yet the SONA conspicuously sidestepped addressing the most critical foreign policy issue in recent years.

Despite the promise to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty, Marcos refrained from denouncing the global superpower and its persistent disregard for the arbitral ruling, which invalidated its claim over the South China Sea.

The most glaring omissions were on corruption, human rights, and the peace process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

As long as there is social conflict, as long as violence prevails in our society, and as long as impunity prevails in our islands, the state of the nation is cannot be bad and is perpetually in crisis.

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