President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
Screenshot of the Pre Sona forum
‘Testament of Care’
MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Atty. Mike Toledo (The Philippine Star) - July 28, 2020 - 12:00am

By now, the 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte would have been delivered to a nation still under a community quarantine from the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a SONA of firsts as only a handful were allowed to witness it personally at the Batasang Pambansa while the rest of the country witnessed it online.

Notwithstanding the pandemic, however, the wheels of government and governance did not stop.

And, as in the previous years, in the run-up to the SONA, there was also a need to let the Filipino people know the extent of how government served them and how government seeks to move forward where governance is concerned.

PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar.
Screenshot during the Pre SONA forum

It was in this context and under the current situation that a series of pre-SONA fora were held to explain in greater detail the milestones and achievements of the Duterte administration and on how to proceed forward given the challenges and uncertainties under the “new normal.”

All these under the battle cry of Tatak ng Pagbabago 2020 with the theme Patunay ng Pagkalinga, “Proof or Testament of Care.”

The first pre-SONA forum was on the economy and infrastructure by the Economic Development and the Infrastructure Cabinet Clusters.

There was also a forum conducted by the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster and the Participatory Governance Cluster, as well as a forum by the Security, Justice and Peace Cluster and the Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction Cluster.

PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar hosted the forum.

Exececutive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
Screenshot of the Pre Sona forum

In his welcome message, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said that the pre-SONA forum on the economy and infrastructure will showcase the Duterte administration’s performance of the past year as well as enumerate the plan for the coming year.

Due to the uniqueness of the times, the pre-SONA included the “whole-of-government” response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the outset, it was crystal clear that the priority of President Duterte was to save lives and to protect the communities. During the community quarantine, he had to roll out the largest economic protection program in our history, with special attention to small business workers and informal sector families.

Executive Secretary Medialdea also said that the Philippines was the fastest growing among the major Asian economies before the pandemic. There was, thus, the challenge to maintain this.

Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez.
Photo by Geremy Pintolo

Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez followed with his comprehensive presentation on regaining momentum and accelerating recovery in a post-COVID-19 world. Secretary Sonny assured all and sundry that the Duterte administration would protect our economic gains, support our recovery, strengthen our resilience, and bring us back to the path of inclusive and shared prosperity.

True to form, just recently, Moody’s affirmed the Baa2 credit rating with a stable outlook for the Philippines, while the Japan Credit Rating Agency or JCR upgraded the Philippines’ credit rating by a notch from BBB+ to A-, citing the country’s resilience amid the pandemic.

Even while we were in the midst of an ECQ or MECQ back then, The Economist saw it fit to rate the Philippines as sixth among 66 select emerging economies with a high level of financial strength.

BSP Governor Ben Diokno.
Photo by Geremy Pintolo

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Ben Diokno then gave his presentation on “The Philippine Economy: On the Road to Recovery.” Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the BSP implemented measures to complement the National Government’s broader health and fiscal programs. The decision, though, to unwind COVID-19 policy responses must be done in a gradual, prudent and informed manner.

Governor Diokno also said that the BSP remains committed in implementing necessary policy measures and reforms to help the Philippine economy recover from the COVID-19 crisis and to build its resilience against future crises.

Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar.
Photo by Geremy Pintolo

Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar gave the presentation on the performance highlights of the infrastructure cluster, which included transportation and information and communications. It was a massive presentation, no doubt, because there were many performance highlights to report on.

Special mention must be made of Transportation Secretary Art Tugade and Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gringo Honasan and the remarkable and impactful inroads they have made together with Secretary Villar.

The MVP Group of Companies believes that the ongoing robust infrastructure thrust with government will help kick-start the economy.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles. Screenshot of the Pre Sona forum

Cabinet Secretary and IATF-EID co-chair Karlo Nograles gave the closing remarks that started off on the historical and institutional value of the SONA. He also spoke about how numbers matter more to people now, especially the figures on COVID-19 cases, deaths, and recoveries, and how these have made an impact on how people deal with their lives.

It will also be the numbers, he said, that would show how we would be able to overcome the challenges we face during these times.

The surprise of the moment was the very brief message that President Duterte gave at the end of Secretary Nograles’ closing remarks.

President Duterte said that it was only through collective action and the bayanihan spirit that we would be able to move on and beyond this pandemic.

One left this pre-SONA forum inspired about what she or he has heard and imbibed.

Let us carry this inspiration and use it to move forward, to build the nation during this time of pandemic and beyond.

COVID-19 SONA
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