“The slogan is BBM – Build Better, More. To send home that message, Marcos, in his address, had to inspire and electrify the nation with a hefty combination of bravado, nationalism, and unbridled optimism”
The first State of the Nation Address of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr. makes history. It is the best SONA ever. It is the best delivered SONA.
At 7,700 words and 74 minutes long, it is one of the best applauded SONAs, with no less than 70 rounds of applause, or almost one applause for every minute of robust presidential delivery that echoed the rhetoric flair of the first President Ferdinand Marcos.
The visioning behind Bongbong Marcos’s first SONA is certainly the one that will have a profound impact on the future of the country and in building better the lives of millions of Filipinos, especially the poor and underprivileged, including the 12 million overseas Filipino workers and their families, the three million rice farmers, and the over one million fishermen and their families.
Today, Filipino farmers and fishermen are the poorest of the poor.
The slogan is BBM – Build Better, More. To send home that message, Marcos, in his address, had to inspire and electrify the nation with a hefty combination of bravado, nationalism, and unbridled optimism.
For this President, failure is not an option.
“I know this in my mind. I know it in my heart. I know it in my very soul,” President BBM concluded at the end of his speech, “the state of the nation is sound.” No assertion could have been made in greater or sterner conviction than that.
Marcos, 64, discussed a number of problems and concerns. Seven stand out: 1) food and agriculture; 2) energy; 3) inflation; 4) jobs; 5) health; 6) education; and 7) investments and economic recovery.
To help solve and put framework to these problems, the entire government has been harnessed to produce, by yearend, the Philippine Development Plan for 2023-2028.
The Plan will give flesh, blood, and fulfillment to these targets: a 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent economic growth for 2022 and from 6 percent to 8 percent economic growth during 2023 to 2028; a reduction in poverty incidence from 23.7 percent in the first half of 2021 to 9 percent by the end-2028, a rather tall order; and a per capita income for Filipinos of $4,256 or upper middle income, up from the current $3,600 per person or low middle income.
To achieve a 6-8 percent real growth in GDP or Gross Domestic Product (the total output of goods and services in a given year, less inflation) means a gross GDP growth of 14 percent per year for six years, including the impact of inflation, according to Albay Rep. Joey Salceda.
In fact, government projects a 12 percent per year increase in nominal GDP over the next six years, from P21,672.8 billion (P21.67 trillion) in 2022, to P37,424.7 billion (P37.42 trillion) by end 2028.
The government anchors its optimism on the strong GDP growth of 8.3 percent in the first quarter 2022, on top of the 7.8 percent growth in last quarter, 7 percent in the third quarter and 12.1 percent in the second quarter, all in 20211.
“In the first quarter alone, GDP saw an increase in household consumption and private investments, along with a robust manufacturing industry, high vaccination rate, improved health care capacity, and an upward trend in tourism and employment,” Marcos said.
“This is expected to continue for the rest of 2022.”
To boost food and agriculture, Marcos has pledged to pour research, technical assistance, subsidies and loans into the sector.
Financial assistance to farmers and fishermen will be institutionalized. They will receive subsidies in terms of fertilizer, feeds, seedlings and fingerlings, fuel and outright cash.
The latest in R&D and climate change adaptation and mitigation will be employed in agriculture.
A network of farm to market roads is to be built. Kadiwa Centers or retail outlets for cheap food will be revived.
Very significantly, Marcos has ordered the condonation of about P58 billion in debts of farmer-beneficiaries of the state Comprehensive Agrarian Land Reform Program (CARP) of 1988.
The debt losses will be absorbed by the national government in its budget.
Condonation will free up some 1.12 million hectares of farm lands, valued cheap by the government for loan purposes, which if sold to the open market by the farmers could generate P500 billion in new wealth for farmers, according to Salceda’s estimates.
Without the burden of debts, CARP lands can be consolidated to improve farm efficiency and yield, resulting in more supply of domestic food.
The Philippine imports nearly every kind of food, to the tune of 15 million tons a year or $15 billion a year.
With the right inputs and irrigation, a hectare of land can produce 8 tons per season or 16 tons a year.
Potentially, thus, freeing 1.12 million hectares of CARP lands could take care of a third of the country’s rice supply deficit. That deficit is funded by $3 billion of rice imports a year.
Additionally, the government will give away 52,000 in land grants to qualified people.
Since food is 38 percent to 50 percent of household budget, cheaper food means higher purchasing power for households, and higher purchasing power means lower incidence of poverty.
To lower the cost of energy, Marcos will do two things: 1) tap more sources of energy, like nuclear, wind, solar, waves and renewables; and 2) open up the sector to greater competition with the repeal of the EPIRA Law.
The Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 was supposed to deregulate the electricity industry thru competition and open market operations.
Instead, EPIRA produced a power oligopoly controlled by three of the country’s richest and most influential families or groups.
Philippine electricity cost is among the highest priced in the world and accounts easily for 20 percent of production cost, higher than labor, which averages 15 percent.
With greater purchasing power by consumers and lower cost of energy, the Philippines, hopefully, will become attractive to investors. Marcos wants the Philippines to be an investment destination.
In 2019, $182 billion in foreign direct investments (FDI) flowed into the ten-nation ASEAN.
The Philippines captured just $8.7 billion or 4.7 percent. Singapore, a country of 5.5 million, captured $114.2 billion or 63 percent of total FDI into ASEAN.
As to the problems of jobs, health, and education, Marcos has one solution: Technology. The bureaucracy will be digitalized to improve efficiency and curb corruption.
Filipinos will have a digital ID. Poor and stupid lads will be taugh using IT.
Workers will be trained, using the tools of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – internet, wifi, robotics, AI, virtual reality or whatever system can be processed with nano chips and wirelessly.