President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will deliver today his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) in a very unenviable position. His administration has inherited a nation with a myriad of problems: An economy battered by more than two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, an astronomical debt burden that is nearing P13 trillion, rising fuel and consumer prices, joblessness, an education crisis, worsening poverty, impending food supply shortages due to trade disruptions caused by the Russia-Ukraine war. He will outline where the country and its people stand and lay out the plans to achieve his administration’s goals for the next six years. Everyone expects the economy to take center stage in the President’s Sona and hopefully assure the people that the government has the roadmap to resuscitate it.
Lawmakers and big businesses have made known what they wish Mr. Marcos will tackle in his Sona, the majority of them relating to the economy and the government’s pandemic response. Sen. JV Ejercito says Mr. Marcos should discuss a comprehensive economic plan “that will go beyond proposals to raise existing taxes and levy new ones.” He also hopes the President will unveil his infrastructure development plans to strengthen the “Build, Build, Build” program as promised during the campaign, as well as projects on food security amid the impending food crisis. Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Jinggoy Estrada also wish the President will discuss his plans for economic recovery and job generation.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda says the administration’s plans to counter problems in agriculture, inflation, and the lack of jobs should be the focus of the Sona. He agrees that the top concern must be agriculture, especially with most of the country’s food products being imported as local production suffers from higher production costs. Mr. Marcos heads the Department of Agriculture, indicating the priority he is giving to the farm sector. Sen. Grace Poe wants improvement in the country’s digital connectivity and e-governance and is looking forward to the President’s earlier marching orders to improve these to reach residents of far-flung communities. Meanwhile, Sen. Sonny Angara is eager to hear about the President’s plan on tie-ups with the private sector. Local business groups and foreign chambers have listed their wishes in their call on the incoming Congress to pass 24 legislative measures they feel are important.
The private sector groups are urging the new administration to enact measures aimed at enabling inclusive growth for the country. Outside of the economy, detained former senator Leila de Lima hopes Mr. Marcos will tackle human rights and criminal justice reform. “I’m hoping that issues on human rights and criminal justice reform, including prison reform, will not be forgotten during the Sona,” she says in Filipino on Twitter. An alliance of fisherfolk, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, wants Mr. Marcos to flesh out his plans on asserting sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, empowering local fisheries production, and protecting coastal communities. Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman wishes to hear a more elaborate articulation of how to sustain the gains of peace, especially in Mindanao.