Marcos asked: Where's mention of gov’t debt, low-quality jobs in SONA?

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Marcos asked: Where's mention of gov�t debt, low-quality jobs in SONA?
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa on Monday, July 24.
Martin Ramos / Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. assured Filipinos that the country is on track to attaining economic growth on Monday but remained tightlipped on ordinary Filipinos’ concerns about the quality of available jobs and low wages in his second State of the Nation Address, minority lawmakers said.

The president had also failed to mention the almost P14 trillion outstanding debt of the government and how the recently signed Marcos pet measure, the Maharlika Investment Fund Act, could make repayments more difficult in the years to come, according to minority lawmakers from the House and the Senate.

Speaking to reporters after the president’s SONA, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said it is “premature” to claim that the government has kicked in a job-generating economy due to the poor quality of new jobs available for Filipinos.

“Many of the supposed new jobs created are low productivity and low paying. The drivers of growth mentioned by the government’s economic management team, such as mining, manufacturing and other high-skilled jobs — these have not been delivered yet,” Hontiveros said in Filipino. 

Hontiveros is one of two minority senators, the other being Sen. Koko Pimentel.

Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women’s Party) similarly challenged the president’s claims of economic prosperity which are not felt by most Filipino workers still paid measly sums.

“Ordinary Filipinos are facing inflation rates that haven't been seen in 14 years, high prices amid low wages, and yet the president claims that it is all under control,” Brosas said.

The government's P14 trillion debt, workers' wages, and additional taxes under the proposed Digitax, Excise Tax on Plastic Bags and others were also not mentioned, the Makabayan lawmaker said.

Prior to the delivery of this year’s SONA, several protesters staged mass demonstrations to call for the scrapping of the Maharlika scam, significant wage increases, lower prices of goods, and an end to severe human rights violations, Brosas said.

“However, unsurprisingly, President Marcos Jr. disregarded these calls and chose to downplay the current state of our country,” she added.

Marcos said in his second SONA that job creation, among other socio-economic initiatives, remains the government's top priority. He also mentioned the government's success in "stabilizing" the prices of critical commodities and the "continuing jobs recovery" that has spurred the country’s economic growth.


Brosas also scored Marcos for reportedly downplaying in his speech the amount of government funds that would be needed to bankroll infrastructure projects under the “Build, Better, More” campaign, which is a play on the president’s nickname “BBM.”

“Marcos Jr. also mentioned that under the recently-signed Maharlika Investment Fund, the government will pool a 'small fraction' from under-utilized funds to be used to fund its infrastructure projects under Build, Better, More,” the lawmaker said.

“The P500 billion capital of MIF that the government is going to risk amid the ongoing crisis is not insignificant. This is a billion-peso fund that should have been used for direct services to the people,” she said in Filipino.

In his speech, Marcos said that the newly signed MIF can finance some of the nation’s high-priority projects. He added: “In pooling a small fraction of the considerable but underutilized government funds, the Maharlika Fund shall be used to make high-impact and profitable investments, such as the Build-Better-More program.”

Pimentel on Monday called on critics of the sovereign wealth fund to join him in filing petitions against the law before the Supreme Court, saying that the version of the measure that was signed into law was not the Congress-approved version.

Speaking to reporters, Pimentel bared that two groups of petitioners and their lawyers were already in talks about challenging the MIF before the Supreme Court.

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