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Promises delivered



Already halfway through his six-year term, President Rodrigo Duterte today faces the nation anew to report on his administration’s accomplishments over the past year in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SoNA).

While he has been on point and had hits on much of his promises from last year’s SoNA, the President still has some deliverables in the pipeline.

The President gets plus points for delivering his end of the deal on matters regarding the country’s peace and order situation, social and health services, economic stability, infrastructure and transportation and foreign relations.

The passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the purchase and delivery of new military armaments, pay raise of uniformed personnel, access to Universal Health Care (UHC), expanded maternity leave and rice tariffication are but a few of the milestones achieved over the course of the past 12 months.

Of course, there are still policies implemented and decisions made by the Chief Executive that produced roaring disapprovals from anti-Duterte watchers, most notable his continuing war on narcotics and his seemingly soft stance when it comes to the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China.

The thousands of deaths which resulted from Mr. Duterte’s unrelenting campaign against illegal drugs were flagged by local and foreign human rights advocates. So much is the concern over the human rights situation in the country that the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution that seeks to look into alleged state-sponsored killings.

While he successfully fostered friendlier ties with China, resulting in dozens upon dozens of business agreements and loan grants, many saw it as the kryptonite to the superpower that is a foreign independent policy the President is trying to build.

The Chief Executive have repeatedly said he cannot do anything about China’s “bullying” in the disputed areas of the South China Sea. Doing so, according to him, would trigger a violent confrontation and, worse, an all-out war.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) decision favoring the Philippines and overturning China’s nine-dash line claim in the strategic waterway, too, was put in the backburner as Malacañang claimed it was “unenforceable.”

Still, the President laying down a solid strategy in asserting Philippine sovereignty is one subject many Filipinos want to hear in today’s SoNA as shown in a recent Pulse Asia survey.

Higher wages and the lowering of prices of goods and basic commodities, meanwhile, are the other topics many are hoping Mr. Duterte would also talk about at length.

Before the country give its mark on the President’s Year 3 report card, here is a rundown of his most notable promises in last year’s SoNA and how he fared in delivering them:

Top rank His achievements in the first three years make the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte among the most productive thus far among the country’s leaders, past and current. AFP

Better Mindanao

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly expressed hope to see the promise of Mindanao fulfilled, or at the very least, approaching fulfillment before the end of his term in 2022. Since then, his administration has taken great strides towards doing exactly that.

Perhaps the most notable accomplishment in the road to achieving long-lasting peace in the region is the signing of the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM) or Republic Act 11054 on 26 July 2018, just three days after he delivered his third SoNA.

Mr. Duterte was expected to sign the OLBARMM, often called the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), during his 2018 address, but it was stalled after the House of Representatives failed to ratify the BOL due to an unexpected change of leadership in the House of Representatives.

Infrastructure buildup

The Chief Executive promised enhanced connectivity and mobility for Filipinos through big ticket infrastructure projects under his administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program and other initiatives.

The entry of a third telco player was also approved, as promised by the President, to finally break the duopoly of Globe Telecom and Smart Communications and hopefully give consumers a cheaper yet more reliable and faster Internet service.

Mislatel, now officially called Dito Communications, was awarded its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) early this month and is expected to initially roll out its services towards the end of the year.

Various road projects were either already completed or nearing completion, expected to dramatically lessen the number of vehicles traversing major thoroughfares around Metro Manila, particularly EDSA.

Among them are the Skyway Stage 3 linking Makati and Quezon City, NLEX Harbor Link, and the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road.

Railways maintenance

Existing roads are also getting facelifts through the joint initiatives of the Department of Transportation (DoTr), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and various local government units by ridding streets of obstructions, such as illegally parked vehicles.

The breakdown prone MRT-3 railway system is finally in the middle of its long overdue overhaul, while the construction of MRT-7 that will connect commuters from Quezon City to San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan is nearing halfway into completion.

The LRT-2 East Extension, meanwhile, will have two new additional stations in Marikina and Antipolo set for completion by the fourth quarter of 2020.

Now in the works is the Malolos-Clark Railway Project (MCRP) and Metro Manila Subway system, while in the pipeline are the PNR Bicol and Mindanao Railway Project.

Airports building, rehab

The DoTr, which has been in the forefront of ensuring the President’s vision of enhanced connectivity and mobility for the country, was realized by the construction of new airports and upgrading and rehabilitating existing ones.

Two world-class gateways outside Manila were inaugurated heading into the Chief Executive’s third year: the new Bohol-Panglao International Airport, touted as the country’s first “eco-airport,” and the Terminal 2 of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, a “resort airport” in the heart of the Visayas.

Upgrades to airports in Tacloban, Tuguegarao, Virac and San Vicente have been completed, while expansion works are ongoing for the Clark International Airport, Vigan Airport and Sangley.

New airports, meanwhile, are slated to be built in Bicol, Bukidnon and Bulacan.

Economic takeoff

Mr. Duterte in his last SONA did not really make any assessment for the Philippine economy. Instead, he took it as a chance to urge Congress to pass key legislative measures that will help further stabilize the economic growth.

In the past 12 months, some of the key milestones include:

Rice tariffication, which was resorted to after the country hit its highest inflation rate to date and affordably priced supplies of rice scarce.

The President signed into law Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Act last February.

The government’s economic managers expected the new charter would help stabilize the food supply and eventually pull down the prices of the food staple as it paves the way for imported rice to pour into the market.

Two other notable legislations enacted into law are RA 11211, or the New Central Bank Act, and RA 11213, also known as the Tax Amnesty Act.

Signed in February, RA 11211 introduced reforms that will further align the operations of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) with global best practices, improve the BSP’s corporate viability, and enhance its capacity for crafting proactive policies amid rising interlinkages in the financial markets and the broader economy.

No opening for TRABAHO

First is the second tranche of the CTRP, or the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities (TRABAHO) bill, which was not passed after it failed to reach the bicameral conference committee level of Congress.

While the House of Representatives passed its version of the measure, which would have lowered corporate income taxes and modernized incentives given to businesses to be able to attract more investors, the Senate’s version remained with the Ways and Means Committee until the 17th Congress adjourned.

The next all-important bill that did not get signed was the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Bill.

Mr. Duterte exercised his veto power on the proposed law as he deemed it lacking in “vital safeguards to avoid the repetition of painful mistakes committed in the past.”

While he successfully fostered friendlier ties with China, resulting in dozens upon dozens of business agreements and loan grants, many saw it as the kryptonite to the superpower that is a foreign independent policy the President is trying to build.

According to him, he does not see the end goal of the measure reflective of the “ultimate goal of accelerating the full utilization of coco levy assets and funds for the benefit of marginalized coconut farmers and the coconut industry.”

The Chief Executive likewise vetoed its partner legislation, a proposal to reconstitute the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), a bill which he earlier certified as top priority.

Mr. Duterte did not enact the measure because of the provision granting added farmer representation to the PCA board as opposed to the number of government representatives.

Had it been enacted, the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Bill would have ordered the revamped PCA to manage the P100 billion in coco levy funds and help boost the country’s coconut industry.

Environment protection

The President touched on the need for government to step up its efforts in protecting and preserving the environment in his last SoNA.

A couple of months earlier, he ordered the closure of the then “cesspool” that is Boracay for half a year for a full-blown restoration and rehabilitation.

Shortly after the famed island’s reopening in October last year, other rehabilitation efforts in other tourist destinations, such as El Nido and Coron in Palawan, followed suit.

Mr. Duterte also directed the cleanup of the heavily polluted Manila Bay and formed an inter-agency task force to oversee its rehabilitation, as well as lead the coordination with the different local government units surrounding the body of water.

Ban on open-pit mining

Upon the Chief Executive’s directive, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued an order delimiting area that may be mined, while its 2017 ban on open-pit mining on select minerals is still in place.

The President also warned of additional “restrictive policies” following tragedies which occurred in areas known to be mining communities — Itogon, Benguet and Naga, Cebu.
Mr. Duterte’s appeal for Congress to pass a measure creating a department of disaster management, however, is yet to be answered.

Stamping out narcotics, crime

Although controversial and often harshly criticized, the President said there will be no let up in his efforts to attain law and order, especially when it comes to his campaign against narcotics.

While he admitted that he “failed” in delivering his promise of solving the problem of illegal drugs in the country “within three to six months” since assuming office, Mr. Duterte vowed that his war against the menace would only be “more dangerous” and “bloodier” for the remainder of his term.

Independent foreign policy

Last year, the President pledged to “continue to assert and pursue an independent policy” and he did just that by strengthening ties with existing allies and ruffling the feathers of others.