Compiled by Ali G. Macabalang (with Noralyn A. Macabalang)
No more lockdowns
PBBM in his Monday’s SONA promised that his administration will do away with lockdowns in the country despite any signs of increase in COVID-19 infections.
“For our health situation, the threat of COVID-19 is still there, especially now that variants are being discovered. But we cannot afford another lockdown,” Marcos said.
“We will not implement another lockdown. We have to balance our health and the welfare of our citizens at one end and the economy on the other.”
But PBBM pointed out that the country will sustain observance of COVID-19 alert level, assuring that different state agencies were working together to contain the pandemic infections.
He called for added layer of vaccine booster rollouts for protection against the pandemic, even as he pushed for the creation of a Philippine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and a vaccine institute.
Mandatory ROTC in senior high school
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (or PBBM) has urged Congress to pass a law mandating the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program for senior high school students.
The proposal will “reinstitute the ROTC program as a mandatory component of senior high school programs grades 11 and 12 in all public and private tertiary level educational institutions,” PBBM said in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
“The aim is to motivate, train, organize, and mobilize students for national defense preparedness, including disaster preparedness and capacity building for risk-related situations,” he added.
PBBM ostensibly took cue from an earlier pronounced desire by Vice President Sara Duterte for the revival of the ROTC program under their administration. The lady Vice President is concurrent secretary of the Department of Education.
Military training such as the ROTC was made optional through the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act of 2001 (Republic Act No. 9163).
The option prevailed when University of Santo Tomas sophomore cadet Mark Welson Chua was killed earlier in 2001 after he exposed corruption in his school’s military training program. This fueled calls to abolish mandatory military training.
All-out Face-to-Face classroom activities
In the same vein, PBBM also highlighted in his SONA his administration’s intent to revive face-to-face classes in all stages of the academe from elementary and secondary to tertiary and even in graduate studies for Filipino learners to cope with backlogs wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The President said he has tasked the Department of Education and other related government agencies to put their efforts and resources together in paving the way for the resumption of face-to-face classroom activities.
Disease control center and vaccine institute
In another related thrust, PBBM announced his administration’s intent to establish a Center for Disease Control and Prevention and a vaccine institute to address further threats of spread in the health pandemic.
He said the government would implement means to disseminate accurate information regarding COVID-19 as well as the importance of vaccines.
“Sa pakikipagtulungan ng Kongreso, itatatag natin ang sariling Center for Disease Control and Prevention at ang isang vaccine institute,” Marcos said.
He said his administration would also build hospitals and health centers, urging Congress to legislate enabling laws.
A bill that would create the Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control was recently pushed anew in the House of Representatives.
The bill was filed by Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez, now House speaker, and Tingog party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre.
If the bill is enacted, the center will absorb several Department of Health (DOH) offices like the Epidemiology Bureau, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and the Bureau of Quarantine.
Institutionalized assistance, loans for farmers
In the same SONA, PBBM highlighted the urgent need to provide focal attention to Filipino farmers and fishermen.
He pledged that loans and financial assistance for farmers and fishermen will be an “institution” in his administration.
PBBM, who acts as concurrent secretary of the Department of Agriculture, said: “Ang mga pautang at financial assistance sa mga magbubukid at mangingisda ay magiging institusyon at patakaran ng aking administrasyon.”
Corolarilly, he also vowed that the government will provide cheaper farm inputs, fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, and feeds while modernizing the agriculture and livestock industry through science and technology.
The Marcos government also pledged the establishment of a national network of farm-to-market roads as he bats for greater coordination of the value chain of the agriculture sector.
“Hindi ito magagawa sa isang araw, hindi magagawa sa isang buwan, o isang taon lamang,” Marcos said. “Ngunit kailangan na natin simulan ngayon,” the President said in batting for public cooperation and understanding.
Stakeholders’ favorable impression
PBBM’s SONA has generally generated favorable impressions from the public, including known advocates against the government’s perceived deficiency in providing necessary attention to Filipino farmers and fishermen.
“Finally, the muffled cries of farmers echoed in the halls of Congress,” former Agriculture Secretary Manny F. Piñol said in a prominent comment he posted on social media while PBBM was delivering his SONA.
Piñol described Marcos’ speech as a “SONA of hope” and appreciated its inclusion on an unprecedented element of focal concern to marginalized players in the aqua-agriculture industries.
Even leading journalists running the Rappler, an online media network known for its critical stance towards the return of the Marcos family in Malacañang, have expressed favorable reactions about the SONA.
They appreciated the SONA’s setting of goals in various development dimensions. (AGM and NAM)