Palaweños give Duterte’s SONA a grade of ‘8’

By Celeste Anna Formoso

For not deviating from his speech, and mainly, for its good content, Palaweños gave President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA) a rating of “8” out of “10”.

His declarations on the war against illegal drugs, corruption, Universal Health Care (UHC) , No Balance Bill Act, not wavering on West Philippine Sea (WPS) claims, establishment of the Coco Farmer’s Trust Fund, and lowering interconnection rates by telecommunication companies (telcos), all top the list of what they most favored in the President’s shortest SONA so far.

Lieutenant Colonel Bill Pasia, commanding officer of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 12, said the whole SONA showed the “full intent of his political will to make needed changes in the lives of Filipinos.”

“His stress in this SONA on the continuation of the war against illegal drugs only shows that no matter how much criticism he gets, he will not waver. Tama naman ang sinabi niya tungkol sa human rights versus human lives na dapat unahin muna ang human lives kaysa sa rights ng mga pusher (What he said about human rights versus human lives is precise on the fact that we should save lives first instead of those pushers),” he said.

He agrees with President Duterte’s assertion on the need to reboot the Philippines’ relationship with China, particularly in the fight against transnational crimes.

Pasia said despite the long-standing dispute in the WPS due to contrasting claims, it is still advantageous that the President is choosing amicable means to deal with China while defending the Philippines rights.

“Yan ang katotohanan sa isyu ng WPS (That is the reality on the issue of the WPS). We cannot just go there and make claims,” he said, giving President Duterte a grade of 8 on a scale of 1-10.

Sangguniang Panlalawigan Board Member Eduardo Modesto Rodriguez, who was surprised by the “very genial” SONA, also gave the President a rating of 8.

He was particularly interested in President Duterte’s declaration about the UHC or Senate Bill No. 1458, which seeks to include in PhilHealth coverage preventive, promotive, and rehabilitative health services.

“Sana nga ipasa na dahil maraming makikinabang din na mahihirap na Palaweño sa batas na yan. But sana ma-include din ang professional fees ng mga doctors na ma-cover ng UHC kasi yan ang mas inaalala ng mga pasyente (I hope the bill will be passed soon because a lot of Palaweños will also benefit. But I hope the UHC will also cover the payment of the professional fees of the doctors because they are also what worries our indigent patients),” he said.

If it happens, he said the UHC will make concrete the President’s assurance “to give all Filipinos a comfortable life.”

Meanwhile, on the SONA’s take on open-pit mining destroying the country, Jose Bayani Baylon, Vice President for Corporate Communications at Nickel Asia Corporation (NAC), said operations under the 1995 Mining Act are far more responsible for corrections are almost immediately made.

Giving the SONA a rate of 8, he said there have been irresponsible junior operators for decades whose injury to their area and to the image of the mining industry will take decades to correct.

“The problem rests with the legacy of those that operated under the old law and were not required to rehabilitate and are long closed,” he said.

Lawyer Grizelda Mayo-Anda of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), on the other hand, said more than the policy statement, what is needed is “concrete action.”

She said this after noting that just recently, ELAC found out that there remain more than 60 applications for mining in Palawan, and some will operate open pits.

“What is the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) doing? It’s good he has that statement because it will become policy, but more than that, what we need is something concrete,” Anda stated.

Entrepreneur Rizalina Torres said President Duterte’s pronouncement on making telcos lower interconnection rates should happen soon and should be monitored as they are prone to not disclose certain fees to consumers in advance.

“Hidden charges are a growing concern and violate consumer rights. Ang tagal na nito, noon pa pinag-uusapan na and yet wala pa ngayon (It has been discussed long before, and yet nothing has happened). I hope under his term, President Duterte can finally do something to make communication available to all,” she said. (PNA)