"I hope to hear from the SONA that the administration will prioritize improving the livelihood and welfare of the public, especially those in the countryside."
The President will deliver his fourth State of the Nation Address on Monday. In my more than 20 years as a legislator, I consider the SONA a compass of the legislative priorities of the administration. As Minority Leader during the 15th and 17th Congress, I expressed —through the Kontra Sona—that there are other equally important, and urgent national issues that need to be addressed apart from the drive against narcotics.
The country is beset with a number of issues such as food security, water and energy shortages, unemployment, lack of adequate housing, and the never-ending problem of poverty.
In the previous State of the Nation Addresses, President Duterte expounded on many national issues, but hardly mentioned the problem of poverty, housing, natural resources, agriculture, and food security. New laws have been enacted this 2019 such as Rice Tariffication Law; establishment of the new Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development; Community-Based Monitoring System Act which shall facilitate data collection and comprehensive poverty analysis; Agricultural Free Patent Reform Act which removed restrictions on land covered by free patents and grants patent holders title in fee simple of the land covered; Magna Carta of the Poor which secures the fundamental rights of the poor; Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program Act which institutionalized the conditional cash transfer program to poor households; and Sagip Saka Act which established the Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Program. While these are promising, we have yet to see the government strengthen its commitment in bringing about change in the living conditions of Filipinos.
As governor, my primary and sole concern now is the welfare of our constituents—the programs which shall directly affect them and we shall implement. We have existing programs, but these will not suffice without the full commitment of the government in ensuring that these are responsive to the needs of the people. For instance, food security may be addressed by increasing support to farmers and fishermen through more incentives, subsidies, provision of equipment, and promotion of research and development. Idle lands should be utilized and planted with crops suitable to the soil to increase agricultural productivity. Alternative water sources should be tapped and developed to meet growing demand. We should resort to and look for sustainable energy sources such as liquefied natural gas power plants to ensure stable power supply.
That said, I hope to hear from the SONA that the administration will prioritize improving the livelihood and welfare of the public, especially those in the countryside. From the Kapitolyo, may I take the liberty of calling upon the Cabinet and national agencies to implement the new laws, and prioritize poverty alleviation and livelihood programs. Seeing the adverse effects of underspending, I am confident that there will be full utilization of the funds, and that the funds will be released on an expedited basis. After all, the President has three years remaining in his term. In matters of development-focused programs in agriculture, tourism, education, and in the environment, we, in the LGU, are looking forward to changes that are inclusive and progressive.