When President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his last State of the Nation Address at Congress reopens on July 26, he is expected to delve on his achievements in public works, law and order, national security and the still ongoing campaign to control and spread of the rapidly mutating novel coronavirus.
Duterte’s “Build Build Build” campaign has seen the completion of several major projects, including those inherited from the previous administration, such as skyway from Buendia to the North Luzon Expressway, as well as new projects that were planned and executed to fruition in the five years that he has been in office.
Indeed, many localities now have access to sources of potable drinking water, safe concrete bridges and roads that were built during Duterte’s incumbency.
He also increased the salaries of personnel in uniform to deter them from committing corrupt practices as well as improved their health and housing facilities.
Duterte is seen to stress these and other achievements that will make up the legacy of his presidency.
House of Representatives Majority Leader Martin Romualdez has said he expects Duterte in his final SONA to focus on continued recovery plans, delivery of basic services and healthcare programs in addition to expounding on his achievements as Chief Executive.
“There were so many great achievements of President Duterte and I expect him to present these during his final SONA. I expect the President also to focus on the continued recovery plans and healthcare programs to fight the pandemic,” Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), said in a radio interview.
“Like his previous SONA, the speech of the President will be full of optimism and hope. I believe he will discuss the significant achievements of his administration in the fight against criminality, illegal drugs, COVID-19, improvement on the delivery of the government’s assistance to the vulnerable sectors, among others,” added Romualdez, chairman of the House Committee on Rules.
On top of the proposed 2022 national budget, Romualdez said the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco is poised to speedily pass possible additional priority measures in the remaining one year of his administration.
“We are going to wait for President Duterte’s announcement for his plans in the remaining one year of his term,” Romualdez, president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), said.
Romualdez also said that preparations at the Batasan Complex for the final SONA of President Duterte before a joint session of Congress have been in full swing.
“We are all excited for that and we are still waiting for updates on final details from Malacañang. On our part, maybe like before, health and safety protocols are still strict for our physical attendees like requirements for the RT-PCR swab test to ensure the safety of the people who will be there in the House of Representatives, including President Duterte,” Romualdez said.
“Wearing a face mask and a face shield are still required. Physical distancing, one-way travel direction and submission of health declarations will also be implemented,” he said.
The House Committee on Ways and Means, meanwhile, expects Duterte to reiterate the urgency of passing the rest of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program– the Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform Act that is pending at the committee level in the Senate and the Passive Income and Financial Intermediaries Taxation Act (PIFITA) that is also pending at the Senate.
Progress in both reforms is being observed by credit rating agencies that believe that their passage is a net plus for the Philippine’s credit standing, said Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, committee chairman.
“Some weeks ago, [Duterte] mentioned the strategic importance of a well-regulated gaming sector to economic and fiscal recovery. The week after SONA, I believe the House and the Senate will agree on a ratified version of the tax regime on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO). Another potent revenue stream is e-sabong taxes, which the House has already submitted to the Senate,” Salceda added.
“The approval of the amendments to the Foreign Investments Act, the Public Service Act, and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act will be critical to increasing foreign direct investments and creating new jobs. The RTLA, in particular, is now at the bicameral conference stage, while the other two are on the Senate floor.”
Salceda said there is “a need to make the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) work. There are already signs that CREATE has opened the doors to greater foreign investments. The net inflow of foreign direct investments FDIs more than doubled to $679 million in April from $317 million in 2020.”
However, Salceda said that “to maximize its impacts, we need a well-trained and well-equipped labor force capable of filling in the jobs FDIs will create. This is why I believe in a stronger role for the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).”
“I hope President Duterte will reiterate the need to transform TESDA into a Cabinet-level agency capable of implementing a massive national upskilling program. Along with this, I hope President Duterte also emphasizes the need for a skills-centric education system.”
The committee, he added, still has a host of other measures lined up, including a Fiscal Regime for Mining, “which remains very critical to maximizing the recent metals price boom. Other measures include the Ease of Paying Taxes Act, the Motor Vehicle Road Users’ Tax, and the Excise Tax on Single Use Plastics.”