By CNN Philippines Staff, July 25, 2023; CNN

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 24) — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivered his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, firmly enumerating his administration’s gains in the past year as he sought to assure a nation that remains beset by economic woes.

In his speech that ran slightly shorter than his first SONA, Marcos confidently declared: “I know that the state of the nation is sound and is improving.”

He claimed partial victory from the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis while acknowledging that challenges remain in a number of areas. Among others, the president talked about inflation, issued a stern warning against individuals driving up prices of basic commodities, and exhorted Congress to approve a fresh list of priority measures.

CNN Philippines gives a summary of the issues tackled by the chief executive in his address.

Improving economy

Shortly after taking the podium at the Batasang Pambansa at 4:06 p.m., Marcos dove straight into highlighting the country’s post-pandemic economic progress.

“Nakakita po tayo ng magagandang resulta [We are seeing good results],” he said in his speech that lasted for 1 hour and 11 minutes.

A recent survey by a Manila-based firm found that the majority of Filipinos identify inflation as the most pressing issue hurting Marcos’ overall performance.

This was something the president acknowledged in his address, saying that despite headwinds, the Philippines is still among the fastest-growing economies in the world and that inflation is “moving in the right direction.”

He noted that “while global prospects were bleak,” the Philippines posted a 7.6% economic growth in 2022, its highest in 46 years.

“In spite of the difficulties, we are transforming the economy. We are stabilizing the prices of all the critical commodities,” the president added.

War on smugglers, hoarders

Expectations were high for Marcos – the country’s concurrent Agriculture chief — to lay out concrete plans to help the agriculture sector.

In this area, Marcos vowed to address high prices of commodities and help both farmers and consumers by going after agricultural smugglers, hoarders, and price fixers.

“Hinahabol at ihahabla natin sila [We’re running after them],” the president said. “Bilang na ang mga araw ng mga smugglers at hoarders na ‘yan [The days of those smugglers and hoarders are now numbered].”

Without going into detail, Marcos said his government will continue implementing agrarian reforms. He noted his recent approval of the New Agrarian Emancipation Act, which writes off the loans of agrarian reform beneficiaries. It was the only measure he mentioned in last year’s SONA that became a law.

Meanwhile, Marcos gave assurance that his administration is gearing up for the effects of El Niño, including preparing buffer stocks and eyeing cloud-seeding operations to help bring rains amid potentially prolonged drought.

Push to expand energy sources

Marcos also talked in length about the government’s push to increase the country’s energy production and promote renewable sources.

His administration targets to raise the share of renewable energy in the power generation mix to 35% by 2030, and then 50% by 2040. To achieve this, Marcos said the government has opened renewable energy projects to foreign investments, as he reported that 126 additional renewable energy contracts were awarded in the past year.

The president also vowed total electrification of the country by the end of his term in 2028.

‘New face’ of drug war

Amid renewed attention on the government’s war on drugs, Marcos said the campaign continues but has “taken on a new face” — one which he said is geared more towards treatment and rehabilitation.

“We will relentlessly continue our fight against drug syndicates, shutting down their illegal activities. We will shut down their activities and dismantle their network of operations,” Marcos vowed.

He also said he will accept resignations of law enforcers and other officials involved in the drug trade, saying he will not tolerate corruption or incompetence in his administration.

Earlier, Marcos admitted that the Duterte administration’s drug war led to “abuses,” but he made no mention of these violations in both his first and second SONA. He also left out the International Criminal Court’s resumption of its probe into Duterte’s brutal crackdown — an inquiry the current administration has repeatedly opposed as it questioned the tribunal’s jurisdiction.

More priority measures

Finally, the president concluded his speech by again enjoining lawmakers to pass measures he deems as priorities.

These include a number of proposed tax reforms, including imposing excise tax on single-use plastics and value-added tax on digital services.

Among other measures, he also sought amendments to the Fisheries Code, the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act, and the Cooperative Code.

Marcos likewise asked Congress to pass the proposed reforms to the pension system of the military and uniformed personnel, something Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier said could lead to a fiscal collapse if left unaddressed.