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SONA 2020: What the President Said on COVID (And Other Issues)

Pandemic response shared airtime with some of Duterte's favorite topics.
by The reportr team
Jul 27, 2020
Photo/s: Presidential Photo via AFP
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President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his penultimate State of the Nation Address on Monday and while COVID-19 was the headliner, he also touched on current events and running issues including China and the war on drugs.

Here's what you need to know about SONA 2020:

What's next in the fight against COVID-19?

Duterte appealed to lawmakers for the passage of a second "Bayanihan" or pandemic response law -- this time aimed at national recovery.

The second "Bayanihan" Law will focus on economic recovery , according to a draft of the Senate version. Among others, it seeks to extend cash aid and grace periods on loan payments for those under lockdown or enhanced quarantine. It also seeks a P140-billion standby fund for test kits, interest-free loans for farmers and fishermen.

Where's the vaccine?

Duterte said a vaccine is "around the corner." He said he appealed to Chinese President Xi Jinping to help make a China-made vaccine available to the Philippines at the earliest possible time.

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The Philippines doesn't produce vaccines and imports all its immunization requirements. It is set to hold human trials with at least five vaccine candidates from China and Taiwan. It is also part of the World Health Organization's solidarity trials and tests by the COVAX global alliance. Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez also said he put the country in line for US-made vaccines.

How about the new normal?

Lining up for government transactions will be a "thing of the past" and face-to-face classes will resume only when the risk of infection is "eliminated," President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday in his State of the Nation Address, as he charted a digital way forward to halt infections.

Duterte said he would enforce consumer and data protection and privacy laws to enable e-commerce. "We must run after online scammers, online transactions. We must continue to protect the Filipinos and remind the world that we are responsible stewards of data."

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What about the economy?

With its credit ratings either retained or upgraded, Duterte said the Philippines is in a good position to weather the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Duterte rallied the public to buy from local businesses and once quarantines allow, travel locally. This will help the economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic as the government moves to secure a vaccine, he said.

While local travel and mass gatherings remain restricted due to community quarantines, he assured the tourism and recreation industry—which are among the hardest hit by the pandemic—that the government would support their recovery.

What about jobs?

Duterete said he would help repatriated Overseas FIlipino Workers (OFW) find jobs and rebuild their lives back home.

He ordered the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority  to organize special programs — aside from the 71 existing free online trainings — that will upgrade the skills of displaced migrant workers.

He said these too...

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ON TELECOMS

Duterte said that just like every mobile subscriber, he got a "cannot be reached" message when trying to make a call. In his State of the Nation Address, he gave Globe Telecom and Smart Communications until December to improve their services.

Duterte stressed the importance of mobile services during the COVID-19 quarantine, where telecommunications facilitates work and business from home. He said telecommunications firms should invest in improving their systems.

ON THE DRUG WAR

Death by lethal injection should befall those who violate the  Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, Duterte said.

After the initial reaction from his audience at the Batasang Pambansa, the President said, "I did not hear clapping so I presume you are not interested," which then elicited applause.

ON CHINA

Duterte said diplomacy is the way to go with China. "Unless we are prepared to go to war, I suggest that we better just cool off and treat this as a diplomatic endeavor," he said.

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ON ABS-CBN

Duterte said he was a "casualty" of the Lopez family that owns ABS-CBN during the 2016 elections. ABS-CBN was kept off the air for good after a House committe on July 10 voted to reject its application for a fresh 25-year franchise.

"Media is a powerful tool in the hands of oligarchs like the Lopezes who use their media outlets in their battles (with) political figures," he said. ABS-CBN has denied allegations of biased reporting.

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