COVID-19 roadmap, clear stand on West Philippine Sea expected of Duterte at final SONA

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
COVID-19 roadmap, clear stand on West Philippine Sea expected of Duterte at final SONA
Photo shows President Rodrigo Duterte delivering his fifth SONA.
Release / Presidential Communications Operations Office

MANILA, Philippines — A "roadmap" for the country's pandemic response and a clearer stance on the West Philippine Sea are what senators expect to hear from President Rodrigo Duterte at his final State of the Nation Address next week. 

"I expect and hope that there will be a COVID-19 roadmap that the president will lay out so that the next administration will be able to follow up or follow through," Senate President Vicente Sotto III told CNN Philippines "The Source" in a pre-recorded interview aired Tuesday. 

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, told reporters during an online briefing that she wants the president to outline plans to ramp up the country's vaccination program amid the presence of the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country. 

"And then I hope to hear from him a clear stand on the West Philippine Sea," Sotto said. "Once and for all, let's hear it." 

"Malacañang must stand up to China," Hontiveros said in Filipino, emphasizing that the Philippines is not indebted to the regional power despite Duterte's claims. 

"It is time to hold them accountable for their abuse of Filipino fishermen and for their destruction of our natural resources." 

Hontiveros said she also wants to hear updates on Duterte's crusade against corruption, citing that the Philippines recently ranked 115th out of 180 countries in Transparency International's global corruption index. 

Sotto is also expecting an update on the current state of the administration's campaign against illegal drugs.

Asked if he believes Duterte's "drug war" succeeded, Sotto said the following: "That was a very difficult promise to make and to make do. No president will be able to do that in six years." 

Senate to prioritize economic bills 

President Duterte will deliver his final SONA at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on July 26. Congress will resume session that same day. 

When asked, Sotto said he could not entirely rule out the proposal to amend economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution which passed in the House of Representatives. 

However, he said that the Senate would prioritize passing the following key economic bills when Congress resumes session: 

  • Senate Bill No.1840 seeking to amend the Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000 
  • Senate Bill No. 1156 seeking to amend the Foreign Investments Act 
  • Senate Bill No. 2094 seeking to amend the Public Service Act 
  • Senate Bill No. 2232 seeking to impose taxes on Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs)
  • the proposed Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE) Act 
  • Senate Bill No. 2234 seeking to establish a Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos 

"These are vital pieces of legislation that could help us get back on top as far as our economy is concerned," Sotto said. 

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