Palace: Pinoys can expect better Christmas, future

Edith Regalado - The Philippine Star
Palace: Pinoys can expect better Christmas, future
File photo of a man arranging Christmas lanterns for sale in Manila.
Interaksyon / Bernard Testa

MANILA, Philippines — Amid the threat posed by the Delta variant, Malacañang said yesterday that with vaccination aiming for herd immunity in the fourth quarter of the year, Filipinos can look forward to a better Christmas and achieving economic growth in 2022.

“As the government continues to strive to achieve population protection by vaccinating 70 percent of the country’s eligible population by the end of the year, Filipinos can look forward to a better Christmas and a better future for all,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said in the midyear report.

Roque said economic managers have projected that with the continued and fast-tracked implementation of the vaccine rollout and recovery measures, the country’s economy is expected to grow by six to seven percent this year, and seven to nine percent in 2022.

His remarks came on the eve of President Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA) in which the Chief Executive is expected to summarize his achievements in the last five years.

Previously, the Palace said Durerte’s speech would zero in on economic recovery, social and infrastructure programs, peace and security, and foreign policy and would enumerate the administration’s vaccination program and other remaining priorities.

While concerns have been raised about the impact of the more transmissible Delta variant, the administration remains optimistic that economic growth can still be achieved next year.

“Government programs and services that aim to raise Filipinos’ living conditions toward a more resilient Philippines are continuing amid the ongoing pandemic,” Malacañang said in its midyear report.

“Indeed, the national government has not wavered in its commitment to alleviate the plight of its people toward a COVID-19-free future. With the cooperation of all Filipinos, the goal of achieving population protection by the end of the year and economic recovery and growth by next year, will hopefully be realized,” it added.

Roque said the national government focused on the reopening of the economy in the first half through the gradual lifting of community quarantine restrictions and the rollout of the national vaccination program. As more vaccine supplies arrived, the number of vaccinated persons gradually increased, giving the national government the confidence to gradually relax some restrictions and reopen more businesses and industries, he added.

“The gradual lifting of restrictions enabled millions of workers to regain their jobs and income sources in the first quarter,” he said.

Citing data from the National Economic and Development Authority, Roque said the Philippines has surpassed pre-COVID employment by 2.8 million jobs as of March 2021 while unemployment rate fell to 7.1 percent, the lowest since the height of the pandemic.

The midyear report also mentioned the distribution of cash and livelihood assistance like emergency subsidies and work to sectors affected by pandemic restrictions.

Last Saturday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire expressed hope that in his last SONA, the Chief Executive would announce the creation of the country’s own Center for Disease Control (CDC).

“One thing we want to push with the Congress and Senate would be the Philippine CDC,” Vergeire said during the Laging Handa public briefing. “This will be helpful for our future responses in times of pandemic.”

The CDC, Veregire said, will also ensure that the government will have the necessary human resources, such as healthcare workers, technical experts and scientists.

Only Paolo will attend SONA

On his last SONA, Duterte will only have his son, Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Duterte, physically representing the family at the congressional session hall.
The President’s eldest said he will be attending together with his wife January.

But his siblings – Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte – will not be at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

Sebastian is still in quarantine after he tested positive of COVID-19.

Their mother, Elizabeth Zimmerman, the President’s estranged wife, will also be skipping the SONA today.

On the other hand, the President’s long-time partner Cielito Avanceña and their daughter Veronica are expected to be present.

The COVID-19 threat has limited the allowed live audience for the SONA, numbering only about 350.

Since only those who are fully vaccinated may be present at the Batasan this afternoon, Vice President Leni Robredo would have to witness Duterte’s address via Zoom, her spokesman lawyer Barry Gutierrez said.

She is set to receive her second dose of AstraZeneca vaccine on Aug. 11.

Robredo was initially invited to virtually attend the President’s SONA and then, days later, invited to be physically present at the Batasan, said Gutierrez.

Earlier, the Vice President called on Duterte to deliver an “honest assessment” of the country’s current situation in his last SONA.

She said the President doesn’t need “to paint a very good picture of the country” amid the pandemic.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the House of Representatives is fully prepared for the yearly event. – Helen Flores, Mayen Jaymalin, Delon Porcalla

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