Eden Eve Lacea

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pushed for the approval of 16 priority legislations during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 24, 2023 inside the Session Hall of the House of Representatives at the Batasang Pambansa Complex, Quezon City.

Photo Courtesy of DA / PND / Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News / Marcial Villania Bolen

In a speech that lasted around an hour and 11 minutes, the president urged the Congress for their support on proposed amendments, new laws, and tax reforms.

Some of these legislations were highlighted in his speech, specifically amendments to the Fisheries Code, Cooperative Code, and the Anti-Smuggling Act; tax reforms on the Military and Uniformed Personnel Pension; and the New Government Procurement Law and Auditing Code.

Reforms on  agriculture, fisheries sector 

Marcos, who is also the current Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, urged the amendment of the Fisheries Code in order to enforce scientific analysis and discovery of fishing areas for the sake of protecting fisherfolk and aquatic resources.

“Our fisheries code must be revised to incorporate and strengthen science-based analysis and determination of fishing areas. This approach will protect both the interest of our fisherfolk and our fisheries and aquatic resources,” he said.

The president also pressed the need to pass reforms on the Cooperative Code in order to encourage more farmers and fishermen to participate in farm and fisheries clustering and livestock multiplier farms as a means to strengthen production and market power. 

“We connect farmers through farm and fisheries clustering and livestock multiplier farms. We have identified 300 clusters that consist of almost 900 cooperatives and have an area of ​​more than 200,000 hectares of farmland to speed up and facilitate the formation of cooperatives. We will need the support of the congress to amend the Cooperative Code. Through this, their production and market force will gradually grow stronger,” said Marcos in Filipino.

Amendments to the Anti-Smuggling Act were also called for, pointing out that smugglers and hoarders are the cause of price increases in the country. 

“One of the reasons for the price increase is smugglers, hoarders, and those who manipulate the price of agricultural products,” the president said.

“Hinahabol at i-aabla natin sila,” he vowed.

Just a few weeks ago, the president ordered a probe to investigate possible cartels, smugglers, and hoarders that controlled the skyrocketing prices of onions, a problem that has troubled consumers since last year.

Military and Uniformed Personnel Pension

During the SONA, a reform on Military and Uniformed Personnel Pension was raised to safeguard a functional and sustainable pension scheme for retired uniformed personnel.

“The pension of the military and the uniformed personnel is as important, as urgent, and as humanitarian as that of all other civilian Filipino employees. Efforts are underway to make it fully functional and financially sustainable,” said the president. 

Marcos pushed the current Congress to pass this reform, which was previously rejected by the 18th Congress during the Duterte administration.

Earlier in March, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno warned that a “fiscal collapse” may happen if the current scheme is not revised. 

“There will come a time when the current budget will only be about one-third or one-fourth of the money that we are paying for the pensioners. So we have to really address that issue. It’s not sustainable. I said if this goes on, there will be a fiscal collapse,” quoted Diokno. 

New Government Procurement Law and Auditing Code

For the sake of streamlining coordinated efforts between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government, the president urged a new Government Procurement Law and a new Auditing Code. 

The said procurement law and auditing code are said to be in compliance with the Constitution and Local Government code, which awaits resolution by the Supreme Court.

Marcos also added that the Devolution Transition Plans of Local Government Units have been completed and will be given assistance to optimize the dispersal of the old system.

“We will give effect to the mandate of the Constitution and the Local Government Code, as clarified by the Supreme Court very soon. Almost all the required Devolution Transition Plans of the LGUs are done. To fully prepare them for optimal devolution, the necessary technical and financial assistance is being extended to our local governments,” he stated.

Other Priority Bills

Near the end of Marcos’ SONA, aside from asking for support on the six legislations previously mentioned, he also called for the Congress’ urgent approval on other bills.

In accordance with the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework (MTFF), Marcos called for the concurrence of the following tax measures:
  • Excise tax on single-use plastics
  • VAT on digital services
  • Rationalization of mining fiscal regime
  • Motor vehicle user’s charge/road user’s tax
Other legislations also include:
  • Anti-financial accounts scamming;
  • Tatak-Pinoy law;
  • The Blue Economy law;
  • Ease of paying taxes;
  • LGU income classification; and
  • The Philippine Immigration Act
As Marcos wrapped up his hour-long national address, he ended his speech with a homage to his campaign slogan, quoting that a “new Philippines” had arrived. 

Edited by Audrei Mendador