Juxtaposed: Filipinos’ wish list for Duterte’s 2021 SONA vs the actual speech

July 27, 2021 - 8:26 PM
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Duterte SONA 2021
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his 6th State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on July 26, 2021. (Presidential Photo)

Did President Rodrigo Duterte touch on Filipinos’ major concerns in his final State of the Nation Address?

Polling firm Pulse Asia in a recent survey found that a majority of Filipinos hoped he would talk about the following:

  1. Job creation
  2. Economic recovery
  3. Rise of prices of goods
  4. Ramping up of COVID-19 vaccination
  5. Increase in wages
  6. Improving education
  7. China’s incursion
  8. Efforts against graft and corruption
  9. Peace efforts
  10. Campaign against illegal drugs

They also hoped the chief executive would talk about improving workers’ pay and the educational system, among others.

How well did he actually fare in his sixth SONA?

What he said about creating more jobs

The survey noted that 38% of adult Filipinos wanted Duterte to talk about the government’s plans to create more jobs and livelihood moving forward.

The concern comes as workers lose jobs or get retrenched as a result of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, wherein businesses strive to get by amid community quarantine restrictions.

Last month, it was reported that 4.14 million Filipinos had no jobs or were out of business in April 2021.

Duterte’s response: 

“Rest assured that we will exert every effort to restore the lost livelihood of our affected countrymen. I have recently signed an Executive Order creating the task force that will shepherd the country’s National Employment Recovery Strategy.”

“The Task Force recently partnered with the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines to implement the Reform, Rebound, and Recover Program that aims to vaccinate qualified workers to fill in more than one million jobs.” 

“These jobs will be created by different business associations in the fields of construction, information technology, BPO, and electronics. To our business associations, thank you for joining in our effort to bring back lost income opportunities for our workforce.” 

“Another important component of our employment recovery strategy is the retooling of our workers to prepare them for better job opportunities. Since the start of community quarantines, over [1.2] million [individuals] availed of the TESDA’s free online training programs.” 

“I am directing the National Employment Recovery Strategy Task Force, particularly TESDA, to ensure the upskilling of our workers and increase their employability. I expect the task force to work double time not only to recoup job losses, but more importantly to rehabilitate the economy and help our hardest hit sectors [recover].”

 “Through the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises or CARES Program, we released 988 million pesos worth of loans to over 14,000 enterprises [under] Bayanihan 1. [Under] Bayanihan 2, we released 2.9 billion pesos worth of loans to over 12,000 enterprises including our displaced OFWs and enterprises in the tourism sector to help them start or sustain their businesses amid the pandemic.” 

Think tank IBON Foundation said that job creation under the Duterte administration has been the lowest since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 80s. Jobs created were tallied at 313,000 annually, compared to the previous administration’s 827,000.

What he said about COVID-19 vaccination

About 31% of the represented population in the survey want to know the government’s plans to ramp up its current vaccination drive against COVID-19. So far, only five priority groups are eligible to receive a jab.

These are the healthcare workers (A1), the elderly (A2), persons with comorbidities (A3), essential workers (A4) and the indigents (A5).

To reach herd immunity against the virus, the government plans to innoculate over 77 million Filipinos.

Duterte’s response: 

“Currently, we have received over 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. We expect [to receive at least] 36 million vaccines this month and in August. We have inoculated more than [17] million Filipinos — [around 11 million] of which have received their first dose. At least 17 million.” 

Well, I think the landscape — the health landscape of the country continues to improve as we, you know… With the continuous [arrival] of COVID-19 vaccines, we are ready to boost further our daily vaccination rate.” 

“I am also encouraging our local government units to hasten their roll out and strengthen their inoculation program. San Juan City, for one, [will] have vaccinated 70 percent of their population in a month’s time. Saludo ako sa inyo at kay Mayor Zamora…” 

“But the best solution is still vaccination…”

“That is why I implore our countrymen who are now in the list of sectors to be inoculated to get vaccinated now. To those who received their first doses, please return for your second shot. I also ask for patience to those who are next in line to receive their vaccine. More and more COVID-19 vaccines are arriving each week and you will soon have your turn.” 

There was, however, no mention of the threat of the Delta variant.

Education was mentioned, but…

About 26% of adult Filipinos were hoping Duterte would talk about improving the country’s education system as the government employs the distance learning setup to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Students have been learning through printed modules, online classes and through radio and television broadcasts since last year. But internet connection continuously remains a problem for students, teachers and parents.

Duterte’s response: 

“Well, on learning — education and learning. Despite our inability to conduct face-to-face classes during this pandemic, we remain determined to deliver quality and accessible education to all. The creation of the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan enabled the uninterrupted learning of students in the basic education sector while ensuring their and teachers’ health, safety, and well-being.” 

The president failed to acknowledge what observers say is a worsening learning crisis.

A full text of Duterte’s sixth SONA can be read here.

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