MANILA, Philippines – In between the numerous plans and targets listed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in his debut State of the Nation Address, ironies concerning his family and his administration made these enumeration seem less attainable..
During the panel discussion after the SONA, Rappler editor-at-large Marites Vitug pointed out the ironies or contradictions in Marcos’ speech, which was delivered on Monday, July 25.
First, one of Marcos’ 19 priority bills is a National Government Rightsizing Program. But Vitug pointed out that he was also pushing for the creation of new offices.
Some of his priority bills include the establishment of a Medical Reserve Corps under the Health and Emergency Management Bureau of the Department of Health (DOH). He also wants to create a National Disease Prevention Management Authority attached to the DOH.
To add, Marcos also wants to establish the Virology Science and Technology Institute, attached to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and a Department of Water Resources as well.
Vitug also said that though Marcos talked about healthcare, he did not mention the “very low” vaccination rates for boosters, and the nursing crisis in the Philippines.
Marcos said he has directed the DOH and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to “undertake another rollout of booster shots,” as preparation for the resumption of face-to-face classes.
He earlier said wearing of masks would be optional if the COVID-19 booster rollout becomes “successful.” However, booster uptake remained low as of July 11, only at 21% of those fully vaccinated.
Vitug also said the President stressed the importance of science-based research, for sectors such as agriculture. But to date he has not appointed secretaries yet for the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Health.
For one, Marcos said “investment in science and technology is imperative” so we can improve our natural disaster resiliency.
“Maganda naman na nalatag niya itong priorities pero dapat meron nang (It’s nice that he laid down these priorities but there should be), somebody who will hit the ground running. I think it’s different when you’re just an acting officer-in-charge,” she said.
So far, Maria Rosario Vergeire has been named officer-in-charge of the health department.
Finally, Vitug recalled the still-unresolved issue of Marcos’ P203-billion estate tax liability.
Marcos wants to adjust the tax system, including the imposition of value-added tax on digital service providers, and simplifying tax compliance procedures.
“There’s an irony here, you know, improving the tax system, making it simple, but you know there’s this big question of our president not having paid the estate taxes of his family as well, which is amounting to billions of pesos,” Vitug said.
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