What went down in SONA 2022

By Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro, Paolo Alejandrino, Wendell Adrian Quijado

Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb

In President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA), the militant progressive groups depicted him as a party boy, attending lavish and opulent gatherings while the rest of the country bears up against economic and health crises.

For his sister, however, she described it as “simple and traditional” as he spoke of his plans before members of the Philippine government at Batasang Pambansa, Monday, July 25.

From mandatory ROTC, reviving nuclear power plants, “Build Better More,” and more, here’s a rundown of what happened during his SONA:

1. No more lockdowns: COVID-19 recovery plan

(Photo by Vince Imperio/TomasinoWeb)

After various levels of restrictions and lockdowns imposed over the last three years due to COVID-19, the president vowed on lifting them as he reiterated that Filipinos cannot afford stricter lockdowns.

Amidst the emerging new variants of the virus, he added that there was a need to balance the health and safety of the citizens as well as the economy. He also urged the cooperation of private sectors in order for businesses to return to “full capacity.”

“Sa ating sitwasyon ng pangkalusugan, nariyan pa rin ang banta ng COVID-19, lalo’t may mga nadidiskubreng bagong variants ng coronavirus. Pero hindi na natin kakayanin ang isa pang lockdown. Wala na tayong gagawing lockdown,” Marcos Jr. said.

He plans to focus on the country’s vaccine booster rollout and improve the dissemination of factual information on COVID.

2. Full face-to-face classes, English as the medium of instruction, and boosting STEM

(Photo by Genise Danga/TomasinoWeb)

Marcos Jr. also highlighted VP and education secretary Sara Duterte’s plans for children to resume full face-to-face classes in November.

They will ensure the condition and availability of the classrooms before allowing the academic community to return. “Children should always be equipped with the best,” he pointed out, emphasizing that children need internet connectivity and computers to be part of the digital community and competitive world.

Marcos Jr. also posed the possibility of instituting that the medium of instruction in schools should be English. After all, Marcos Jr. argues, it is “[t]he language of the internet — for better or for worse.”

“[T]he question of our medium of instruction must be continuously re-examined to maintain that advantage that we have established as an English-speaking people,” Marcos Jr. said.

In the Senate, however, UniTeam bet and neophyte Senator Robin Padilla proposed the equal use of both Filipino and English, lamenting that Filipinos are “too Amboy” (American boy).

For Marcos Jr., it is not really about “history, or what is being taught.” Instead, he says, he was talking about materials that are necessary for effective teaching in this day and age.

The K-12 curriculum has recently occupied much of the news. Marcos Jr. says he is aware of this and that “[they] have also been lengthy discussions on the continuation and viability of the K-12 school system.”

“We are giving this a careful review, and all necessary inputs and points of view are now being considered,” Marcos Jr. assured, with the caveat that the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics field will be the one given priority.

3. Bringing back mandatory ROTC

(Photo by Jacqueline Martinez/TomasinoWeb)

Part of Marcos Jr.’s legislature measures is to reinstitute the controversial mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program for Grades 11 and 12 in public and private senior high schools.

This comes four months after the death anniversary of Mark Welson Chua, a Thomasian cadet who was killed by a fellow cadet after uncovering the corruption of the ROTC unit of UST in 2001. In 2019, ROTC cadet Willy Amihoy was also killed by his ROTC commander.

Though hailed by pro-administration supporters as a way to instill discipline and even reduce homosexuality, others begged to differ. #ROTC trended again just after his SONA, with several threads linking the mandatory program as another unhelpful burden prone to exploitation.

Youth and student groups such as League of Filipino Students and Kabataan Partylist have slammed its revival for years, linking it to the perpetuation of more abuses and the culture of militarization.

4. Reviving nuclear power plants

(Photo from Noel Celis/AFP)

presidency of Marcos Jr.’s father, the late dictator, when the now-closed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was built.

In the campaign trail and most of the online influencers for Marcos Jr., the topic of energy and nuclear power are mentioned, with talks of reviving the Bataan plant.

During the speech, however, Marcos Jr. noted that he is open with talks regarding this. “In the area of nuclear power, there have been new technologies developed that allow smaller scale modular nuclear plants and other derivations thereof,” he said.

“[W]e must examine the entire system of transmission and distribution for the purpose of finding ways to lower the price of energy to the consumer,” he added.

5. “Build Better More”

(Photo from AFP)

“Build, Build, Build” was one of the core infrastructure promises of Marcos Jr.’s predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte. But only 12 out of 119 under this flagship project were completed, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Marcos Jr.’s response to this? “Build Better More.”

With reference to Duterte’s claim on infrastructure focus, Marcos Jr. promised that he will not suspend any existing projects “as those have already been shown to be of benefit to the public that they serve.”

According to him, he will allot five to six percent of the Gross Domestic Product to infrastructure. But given the country’s ballooning debt and the continuous rise of inflation, how can the government fund this? Marcos Jr. says it is through the Public-Private Partnership; another core program expeditiously implemented during Benigno Aquino III’s presidency.

“Our infrastructure development is of primary importance as it is a necessary element to improve many other sectors — to include agriculture, tourism, general economic activity, and even to governance,” he said.

6. ‘Will not abandon even any square inch of territory of Republic of the Philippines to any foreign power’

(Photo from Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian/Facebook)

Marcos Jr. swore not to abandon “even a square inch” of territory belonging to the Republic of the Philippines to any form of a foreign power while seeking to achieve a harmonious relationship with foreign countries.

Marcos Jr. said the Philippines’ diplomatic relations have always reflected the Filipino culture’s welcoming attitude and has always done things the “Filipino way,” where foreign ties are always encouraged. As such, it is a manner by which Marcos Jr. plans to make the Philippines “a friend to all” and “an enemy to none.”

“If we agree, we will cooperate, and we will work together. And if we differ, let us talk some more until we develop a consensus,” Marcos Jr. said, explaining how he wants to maintain peaceful bonds with other countries.

Yet the “Filipino way” of settling international matters will be challenged by the long-existing territorial disputes between the Philippines and China, which was entirely out of the picture during the new president’s SONA.

Although it has already been six years since an international tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated China’s nine-dash claims over the West Philippine Sea, the relationship between China and the Philippines is still far from fixed.

7. On environmental protection, and climate change

(Photo from International Rice Research Institute)

Marcos Jr. brought up the persisting problem of climate change in the Philippines, the enduring repercussions it causes, and the measures he plans to take to address it.

He mentioned that the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries that has been suffering the repercussions of climate change despite being a minor contributor to it, making the country disaster-prone.

How does Marcos Jr. plan to address these conflicts? Through the use of renewable energy, investment in science, and fresh water.

He said that the utilization of various forms of renewable energy is at the top of his global priority in addressing climate change. But he also plans to look into the precarious fresh water and rehabilitate its worn out state since the 1950s.

“The use of renewable energy is at the top of our climate agenda. We will increase our use of renewable energy sources such as hydropower, geothermal power, solar, and wind,” he said.

He also emphasized that, “if we cannot mitigate climate change, all our plans for the economy, for our future, will be for naught.”

Marcos Jr. has discussed the state of the nation in a vast scope. He also outlined the measures he plans to take to address the nation’s challenges. But above these measures, his priority legislative actions are at the center of his steps toward a better country.

Among the legislative measures that the newly-elected president is eyeing to prioritize are laws concerning the government, the national budget, tax, the Philippine economy, the medical sector, water, defense, electricity, fuel, and public-private partnership.

These measures are still far from the material, and approaching them will entail more than enforcement. It will necessitate numerous dialogues in the council, meaning that it is not certain whether these measures will make their way as laws.

As Marcos Jr. steps ahead on his journey as president, concretizing these plans will require his full attention and commitment.



The Premier Digital Media Organization of the University of Santo Tomas

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The Premier Digital Media Organization of the University of Santo Tomas