“We cannot move forward if we allow the past to pull us back” – the tough-talking president open his first state of the nation address with these poignant words to remind the public not to obsess about the past and live in the present, while preparing for the future. The SONA received a strong reaction of support from across the business community among local and foreign groups alike.
For starters, the president reaffirmed his commitment to the war against drugs and other illegalities running rampant across the country. He called upon the armed forces, police, and local government leaders to be more vigilant. Wary of the rise in police related violence, the president assured that the abuse of power will not be tolerated and human rights shall be upheld.
Aware of the threat of the Abu Sayyaf, the president committed the full force of the armed forces to crush the terrorist group. He acknowledged that there is indeed strength in numbers and vowed to strengthen coordination with Indonesia and Malaysia to suppress the kidnappings in the seas of neighboring countries. He added that stronger laws against terrorism in all its forms and related crimes must be ratified.
On West Philippine Sea, the administration affirms the decision of the Hague permanent court of arbitration as “an important contribution to the ongoing efforts to pursue the peaceful resolution and management of our disputes.” In the same breath, the president declared a unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA) effective immediately. The NPA leadership, later on, has responded positively on the president’s announcement.
In terms of economy, the administration will maintain current macroeconomic policies underscored by prudent fiscal and monetary policies. The president assured the public that they will seek to lower personal and corporate income tax rates and relax the bank secrecy laws. The government is set to increase spending on infrastructure to improve access of goods and services particularly in rural areas.
To ease congestion in NAIA, the administration is looking into Sangley point as an alternative airport for private planes and shift more air traffic to Clark Airport. Rail projects in Metro Manila, Davao, Cebu, North and South Luzon, and Panay will also be pursued.
On information and communication technology, the president has instructed the Deparment of ICT to develop a National Broadband Plan that will accelerate the deployment of fiber optic cables and wireless technologies to improve internet speed. Free Wi-Fi shall be provided in selected parks, plazas, public libraries, schools, government hospitals, train stations, airports, and seaports. The government is also eyeing a national portal for clients to submit document to government agencies.
Lastly, in order to communicate the planned Federalism, the president directed the Department of Interior and Local Government to conduct a nationwide information drive on federalism partnering with several local government units, civil societies, and grassroots and faith-based organizations.
Link to the full SONA in the Official Gazette here.