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On Duterte’s 4th SONA: Time to accomplish ‘unfinished business’

MANILA, Philippines – An afternoon tableau showing the life of informal settlers living in the shadows of the country’s main seaport, as seen in this 26 May 2017 file image. Government data show a poverty incidence among Filipino individuals hitting at 21% in the first half of 2018. The Duterte Administration aims to significantly lower it to 14% in 2022. Photo by MARK CAYABYAB/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

For President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA), Senator Win Gatchalian said he wants to hear the president present plans on how to accomplish all “unfinished business” during the remainder of his term.

In particular, Gatchalian said he wants to hear the chief executive discuss policy reforms on how to increase the country’s foreign direct investments (FDI) and agricultural output, and give concrete actions on how to fix the perennial traffic woes and airport congestion. He also wants to hear the president offer solutions on how to fight red tape and how to continue to reduce poverty in the country.

“The are all unfinished business that the president needs to prioritize if he wants to keep the promises he made in 2016 and previous SONAs,” Gatchalian said.

The lawmaker said that according to the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), shows that numbers FDI has not only stagnated, it has actually gone down.

“The latest numbers show that the net FDI from January to December 2018 slightly went down by 4% to $9.8 billion from $10.3 billion in the same period in 2017,” Gatchalian said. “What is more alarming is that FDI from January to April 2019 dropped by 14.1% to  $2.903 billion from $3.377 billion in the same period in 2018.

“We need to arrest this decline immediately,” the senator stressed.

Gatchalian said Duterte should also give attention to the country’s agricultural sector as agricultural output has hardly grown.

Citing PSA data, he said agriculture grew by only 0.67% in the first quarter of 2019.

“While production increases were noted for livestock, poultry, and fisheries from January to March this year, crops recorded a decrease in output,” he said.

“The gross value of agricultural production of the first quarter of 2019 amounting to P429.7 billion also show a decrease of 3.12% compared to last year’s level,” the lawmaker added.

Moreover, Gatchalian said Duterte should prioritize solving the traffic problem in Metro Manila, noting a study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in partnership with NEDA showed the Philippines is losing ₱3.5 billion a day due to traffic congestion in the metro.

“We are already on the second half of President Duterte’s term and he should focus on the traffic situation considering that this was one of his campaign promises in 2016,” he said.

“We at the legislative branch are ready to help the President with this. While Congress may have not granted the President’s request for emergency powers, there have been a number of bills filed in both Houses with the aim of decongesting our streets,” he added.

Gatchalian said he also expects the President to certify as urgent three key investment measures that would ease restrictions on capital from overseas and improve ease of doing business in the country, namely bills amending the Foreign Investment Act, Retail Trade Act, and the Public Service Act.

Finally, the senator said he would like to hear the President discuss concrete steps to curb poverty incidence in the country.

Again citing the latest figures from PSA, Gatchalian said the poverty incidence among Filipino individuals, or the proportion of the population living below the poverty line to the total population, was estimated at 21% in the first half of 2018.

“We need to work double time and be more proactive if we are to achieve the 14% poverty incidence target by the end of President Duterte’s term in 2022,” Gatchalian said.