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Sen. Gatchalian’s reaction on Pres. Duterte’s first SONA

First termer Senator Win Gatchalian attends the opening of the first regular session of the 17th Congress, July 25. (Photo by Mark Cayabyab)

Senator Win Gatchalian commended President Rodrigo Duterte for delivering an honest and heartfelt State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the Joint Session of Congress assembled at the House of Representatives Complex in Quezon City on July 25.

“President Duterte’s speech was certainly the most heartfelt SONA ever delivered. His speech, especially the parts that were off-script, showed his fierce passion for achieving genuine change for the entire Philippines. The President is truly a leader who cares deeply for the future of our people,” said Gatchalian, who took his oath as Senator at the upper chamber’s session hall on the same day of the SONA.

Gatchalian said he was impressed by the comprehensive character of the SONA, which touched on a wide array of issues from transportation and infrastructure to foreign affairs and public order.

However, Gatchalian expressed disappointment in the fact that education was only mentioned in passing, with higher education being completely omitted from the speech.

“I wish that the President had laid out a clear and decisive plan for education. Education is the most vital public service in the fight against poverty, and the absence of any concrete proposals to improve our struggling education system was disappointing,” Gatchalian explained.

Still, Gatchalian remained hopeful that the President would support education bills pending in the Senate, especially his proposal to institute a free tuition policy in State Universities and Colleges through Senate Bill No. 198, the Free Higher Education Act.

Regarding the country’s transportation woes, Gatchalian commended the President for outlining several key proposals to quickly improve the state of our roads and public transportation systems.

“I am open to granting the President’s request for special transportation powers as long as he and his cabinet present a detailed plan on how these powers will expedite transportation reforms within the bounds of law,” said he.

In addition, the Senator praised Duterte’s comments on the energy sector, saying that the President’s pragmatic approach to energy policy strikes the correct balance between economic development needs and environmental responsibility.

“The President was right on point when he said that cheap and efficient energy is the key to industrialization and economic growth. Safeguarding the environment is important, but for now we must utilize the resources we have at hand as we continue to develop emerging renewable energy capabilities for the future,” said Gatchalian.

Turning to 4Ps, Gatchalian agreed with Duterte’s plan to help 4Ps beneficiaries graduate from the program while still providing other essential social services to ensure that the beneficiaries would be able to sustain the gains they have made while enrolled in the program.

“4Ps beneficiaries should be given the opportunity to become self-sufficient. I will work with President Duterte to transform 4Ps from a vehicle for political patronage into a truly sustainable livelihood rehabilitation and development program,” said Gatchalian.

Gatchalian also reminded Duterte that the government must balance its resources among all key policy areas instead of investing all efforts in the anti-illegal drugs campaign.

“The war on drugs will be futile if we do not address the root cause of the drug epidemic – pervasive, suffocating poverty. The war must be fought on both fronts if we are to succeed in building a prosperous and drug-free Philippines.”