Taking SONA with a grain of salt

By Dr. Herman Lagon

AS EXPECTED, Marcos Jr.’s recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) outlined various “solutions” to the nation’s pressing challenges. While it is essential to acknowledge sweet efforts to address economic and social issues, it is also crucial to objectively assess the viability and impact of the proposed measures.

Marcos Jr.’s emphasis on sound fiscal management and tax reforms is commendable in terms of the economy. However, there is a need for transparency and accountability in implementing these measures to ensure that they genuinely benefit the Filipino people and not just a select few as what it sadly continues, even worsens, to be.

The Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy’s targets for GDP growth, poverty rate, and fiscal deficit may be ambitious, but the success of these goals relies on robust implementation plans. It is just fair that, as concerned citizens, we must hold the government accountable for achieving these targets and ensuring that they translate into tangible improvements in the lives of ordinary Filipinos, not just end as the usual lip service.

While the government’s juicy plan for increasing food supply and supporting farmers is laudable, addressing the root causes of agricultural challenges, such as whimsical targets, land reform, and outdated practices is crucial. A comprehensive and sustainable approach to agriculture is essential to uplift the sector and secure food security in the long term.

As usual, plans to boost tourism through infrastructure improvements are promising. However, we must ensure that development does not come at the cost of environmental sustainability and cultural preservation. Responsible, sustainable, community-building, and eco-friendly tourism should be at the forefront of our efforts, not investors’ ROIs and government crooks’ kickbacks.

Managing the COVID-19 threat through vaccination and health protocols is vital in healthcare. However, the government must prioritize vaccine procurement and distribution transparency to build public trust and ensure equitable access. A second look at the Pharmally and other past scandals could be proof of good intentions.

The return to full face-to-face classes in the educational sector is a step towards normalcy. However, it must be accompanied by robust health and safety measures to protect students, teachers, and staff. Investing in educators’ professional development, compensation, and workload, and improving educational materials, connectivity, and infrastructures for both public and private schools are equally essential to ensure quality, accessible, and inclusive education. There needs to be more than spicy press releases and  intelligence funds to ensure that the learning gaps, curricular alignment, academic standards, and digital technology readiness in schools are met.

While investing in technological advancements is necessary, the government must prioritize digital literacy and accessibility for all Filipinos. Universal connectivity requires comprehensive planning and cooperation between the public and private sectors. For the country to thrive in the Industrial Revolution 4.0, it must invest robustly in connectivity, research, and development to remain relevant and competitive.

Infrastructure development and public-private partnerships are crucial for progress, but they must undergo thorough scrutiny to prevent corruption and ensure they genuinely serve the public’s interests. With the many examples of poorly managed government infrastructure projects that we have nationally and locally, sincere political will is badly needed in order to put the guilty contractors and “commissioners” behind bars. The culture of impunity must never reside anywhere in the bureaucracy.

Turning to the efforts of the One Repatriation Command Center, while providing support to distressed overseas Filipino workers is commendable, there should also be measures to prevent such situations’ recurrence. Addressing labor rights and working conditions abroad must be a priority to protect our OFWs. On the other hand, serious measures must also be taken to stop the profuse bleeding of the workforce in the country. Brain drain is worsening exponentially in health, education, and engineering sectors, among others.

The proposed legislative measures appear ambitious and comprehensive, but their effectiveness lies in their implementation. Public participation and scrutiny are necessary to ensure that these proposed laws promote Filipino people’s welfare. The minority must also be heard and seriously considered more often to instill a semblance of democracy in our democratic process.

We commend the men and women who outlined Marcos Jr.’s matter-of-fact SONA initiatives well. Nonetheless, it is imperative to remain vigilant and objective in assessing the viability and impact of these measures. As responsive and responsible citizens, we must actively engage in holding the government accountable for its promises and advocate for policies that genuinely uplift the lives of all Filipinos. Only through transparent and inclusive governance can we achieve genuine and sustainable progress and prosperity for our struggling nation.


Dr. Herman Lagon fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. He is a professor of ISUFST, a student of USLS, a retiree of Ateneo, and an alumnus of UP, UI, and WVSU.