By K.M. and H.T.
During his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. laid out several development plans to improve the quality of life of all Filipinos both inside and outside the country.
However, citizens are yet to see its fulfillment as those were faced with unresolved shortcomings and unaddressed concerns a year after they were promised.
Here are the updates on the progress of Marcos Jr.’s vows for different sectors from last year’s address.
Philippine Tax System
Marcos Jr. adjusted the Philippine tax system to keep pace with the country’s “rapid developments.”
The House Bill (HB) 4122 or the Digital Services Tax Bill was approved in November 2022, imposing a 12% VAT on the sale of digital digital service providers like Netflix and Spotify.
According to tax expert Mon Abrea, the bill passes the burden to local consumers and subscribers since the VAT will also result in increased subscription payments.
Inaccuracy in tax reports may also occur with tax regulators only relying on the data submitted by tech giants after the lack of monitoring technology.
Marcos also promised to keep the inflation rate at 2.5% to 4.5% in 2023 and return to 2.0-4.0% by 2024 until 2028.
But last January 2023, the Philippine inflation rate spiked to 8.7% from 8.1% in December 2022. It was the highest inflation rate since November 2008 tallied at 9.1%
The first semester of 2023 closed with the average inflation rate standing at 7.2%.
Marcos Jr., who is also the chief of the Department of Agriculture, focused on institutionalizing loan programs and providing financial assistance to farmers.
During the Marcos administration, livelihood assistance was provided to fisherfolks, especially those affected by the Mindoro oil spill.
However, Filipino farmers and fishermen still suffered significant losses, some onion farmers even took their own lives due to despair.
The term of Marcos Jr. as agriculture secretary also saw surging prices in food staples like onions, salt and sugar.
In terms of Agrarian Reform, Marcos planned to release an executive order to impose a one-year moratorium on land amortization and interest payments to give a break from land payments.
On Sept. 13, 2022, Marcos signed Executive Order No. 4 which allows agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and people who bought land to skip their installment payments and interest for one year.
This measure also enables farmers to invest in their farms, boost production capacity and drive economic growth.
However, Danilo H. Ramos, National Chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said that the order is “no substitute” to resolve the existing land problems faced by farmers.
He said that the government must instead act by “pushing free land distribution, breaking monopolies, providing support services to ARBs, and building rural industry.”
Sonny Africa, Ibon Foundation’s executive director, said that ARBs may “not feel any practical difference” with the condonation as they are unable to pay their debts in the first place.
The current administration has begun projects establishing specialty hospitals such as the Philippine Heart Center, Philippine Lung Center and National Children’s Hospital in other regions outside the National Capital Region.
On July 17, it was announced that the Clark Multi Specialty Medical Center (CMSMC) project in Pampanga would be finished before Marcos steps down in 2028. The medical facility includes a wide range of heart, kidney, cancer, and pediatric care departments, catering to Filipinos residing in Regions 1-3.
According to DOH, the CMSMC is a “step forward” in the PH healthcare system as it offers wider healthcare access and advanced medical services.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation chairman Alejandro Tengco said the first building may be completed in two years. The buildings will receive multi-year funding.
The government is also currently identifying areas where specialty hospitals would be established.
Marcos Jr. believed that it was already time for full face-to-face (F2F) classes for the students after such activity was frozen for almost three years due to the pandemic.
A combination of F2F classes and distance learning was permitted by DepEd from August to October 2022 amid reports of rising COVID cases and lack of proper school facilities and classrooms.
DepEd reported in August 2022 the lack of around 91,000 classrooms for the school year 2022-2023. In October 2022, DepEd confirmed receiving reports of COVID-19 cases in several schools but said that those were “expected.”
Even Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte said that the reported infections in schools were “natural consequences of the reopening of different sectors, like education.”
The Marcos Jr. administration eyed to continue the construction of the Mindanao Railway Project and the High Priority Bus System.
In February 2023, the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center Project Development and Monitoring Facility Committee approved a P100 million fund for a feasibility study on the Northern Mindanao Railway (Cagayan de Oro) project.
The railway was targeted to be constructed in the first quarter of 2023, according to the Department of Transportation (DOTr). However, no updates on the project are available as of press time.
Meanwhile, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved on June 29 a $1 billion loan for an electric bus fleet “at scale” in Davao City’s High Priority Bus System project.
Climate Change & Energy
Marcos Jr. disclosed his plans on expanding solar power production during his administration.
The president welcomed the 18-billion 440-megawatt (MW) Isabela Solar Power Project. The solar power project construction is set to start next year and begin its operation by 2025, producing 700 gigawatt-hours annually, sufficient for one million households.
This would allow at least 2,200 workers to gain jobs from the construction phases and soon, be permanent workers once the place is fully operational.
The Marcos administration also targeted to issue about 92 million National IDs by the middle of 2023. The ID is to be used for smoother and more convenient official transactions.
As of June 16, 2023, only some 39% of its initial target identification cards were issued. There are 36 million ePhilIDs (both printed and digital) issued while 33 million were delivered.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) has registered only 80 million Filipinos to the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) as of July 2023.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III filed a resolution last May, seeking to investigate the delays of issuance in National IDS by the PSA.
Apart from the delays, there have also been complaints about the inaccuracy of personal information and blurry images on the cards, which in some cases, the IDS are no longer readable after three months.
Pimentel also included in the resolution the refusal of financial institutions to recognize the validity of the IDs due to the absence of the holder’s signature.
Last July 13, 2023, PSA 7 Director Ariel Florendo said the delay in releasing the PhillID is due to the verification process and cross-checking of the IDs.
The current administration has also begun issuing digitized and secured Overseas Employment Certifications (OEC) that OFWs can keep on their smartphones.
In July 2023, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) sets off the launch of a DMW Mobile App that contains the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Pass which aims to address the issue of the long process in OEC’s paper-format application.
The OEC serves as an exit clearance for OFWs’ recruitment regularity. However, there is still a two to three-month transition period to aid OFWs with app download and usage, according to Ople.
As of July 2023, the mobile app has not been implemented yet since the Department of Information and Communications Technology has yet to ensure the mobile app’s cybersecurity features for launching.
Marcos Jr. promised to “provide stability” by strengthening diplomatic ties. He said that his foreign trips had generated P3.48 trillion in investment pledges.
Since his inauguration last June 2022, he has visited Indonesia, Singapore, the United States, Cambodia, Thailand, Belgium, China, Switzerland and Japan.
However, according to socio-economic planning secretary Solita “Winnie” Collás-Monsod, these foreign investment pledges are “nothing but words.”
Around 88 million dollars worth of pledges from Marcos’ overseas trips are to be released within the year according to Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual.
Marcos Jr. promised to upgrade airports and build new ones to decongest the volume of passengers.
One of his targets is the rehabilitation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) through the NAIA PPP Project to improve all passenger terminals at the said airport and all its facilities.
The National Economic and Development Authority said Wednesday that the P170.6 billion project was already approved by the NEDA board, headed by the president himself.
The board also approved the upgrade, maintenance and integration of a green and connected airport in the Laguindingan International Airport in Misamis Oriental through a P12.75 billion PPP project.
However, since the beginning of the Marcos administration, NAIA Terminal 3 already experienced four power outages that resulted in delayed flights. Last July 20, 2023, it was announced that NAIA would undergo rehabilitation through the public-private partnership deal. The bidder would be announced within the year.
Marcos Jr. also listed his 19 priority legislative measures in his first SONA, where none was still put into law. The following are:
Approved on third reading by the Lower House
- National government rightsizing program
- Valuation reform (tax package 3)
- Passive income and financial intermediary taxation (tax package 4)
- E-government Act
- Internet Transactions Act (HB 687)
- Government financial institutions’ unified initiative for distressed enterprises for economic recovery (HB 685)
- Setting up a medical reserve corps
- Creating a National Disease Prevention Management Authority (HB 46)
- Creating the Virology Institute of the Philippines (HB 47)
- Mandating ROTC and National Service Training Program
Already been filed in Congress
- Budget modernization (HB 419)
- Creating a Department of Water Resources (HB 55)
- Unified system for separation, retirement and pension of military and uniformed personnel (HB 667)
- National land use law reforms
- National defense reform law
- Law for the natural gas industry
- Amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or Epira
- Amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer Act
Meanwhile, amid the priority bills, the Maharlika Investment Fund, Marcos’ favored legislation, was easily signed into law last July 18.
Marcos Jr. still has a long way to go to address his pending deliverables to the Filipino people. He is yet to update the nation on his progress which may be unknown to the people for his SONA this year, or to make new promises that will only be added to this list.