Five things to watch after the Sona

More important than the State of the Nation Address (Sona) is, perhaps, tracking down the fulfillment of the five most important promises President Duterte made to the Filipino people.

What are the five potential “game changers” that we should look for in the next 12 months after the Sona?

Topping the list should be the passage of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) that would translate to P9 trillion worth of funds to finance the “golden age of infrastructure” into the year 2022.

The scheme is not just progressive in that the tax burden is shifted from the poor to the rich, but it taxes the more luxurious goods and services rather than the essentials needed by Juan de la Cruz.

The infrastructure boom, on the other hand, will not just create jobs in the countryside but also make the country competitive, infrastructure-wise, with our neighbors in the Asean.

We do not expect the fiercely independent Senate to approve the House version of the CTRP lock, stock and barrel. But as long as the final version remains in keeping with the budgetary fiscal exercise, that should be fine and dandy. A cat can be skinned in as many ways as the imagination can make.

Second is the success of the forays into improving the peace-and-order situation through the passage of the Bangsamoro law and a peace accord with the Reds after decades of fratricidal battles. It will not just precede future decades of peaceful coexistence at last among warring brothers but an opportunity to use the funds heretofore used to wage war into waging development.

Third is the emergence of a truly independent foreign policy. Not substituting one’s former master with another, such policy should instead open new doors for geopolitical stability (rather than tensed strife), commercial trade possibilities and a fresh look at new cultures.

That independence could, perhaps, translate into a peaceful resolution of the West China Sea issue delving into possible coexploration by all claimants for the good of all. Of course, such a landmark economic cooperation venture should also make sure that all international ships crossing the area of development are not denied safe passage.

And one must not see a contradiction in independent foreign policy when huge nations, like the US, China and Russia, are allowed to help the country in our committed fight against the global threat of terrorism.  The Free World, after all, has one common enemy.

It will also be one great exercise of political will if the government finally approves the National Land Use Act. For decades, land-classification turf battles have ensued
between the Register of Deeds, the Department of Energy and Natural Resources and local
government units.

As a consequence, what have been impeded are the speedy run of housing projects, the resolute defense of the environment, ascendancy of authentic food security for the nation and the property rights of the many indigenous tribes.

That the National Land Use Act should come too late in the day speak volumes as to how fragile our institutions have become.

Duterte, in his Sona, was in his elements when he spoke about corruption. One could almost hear the president grit his teeth and grunt in his underbelly as he called on government officials to behave like public servants and avoid the display of pomp and privilege while in public service and that all of them must have clean hands, the left and right.

This is one area where the president can speak with credibility because his actions and preferences do not display any hint at coveting an excess of material goods and privilege.

This is where the president, we think, won the most pogi points.

The drama on mining was unexpected.  After losing Environment Secretary-designate Regina Paz L. Lopez at the Commission of Appointments and the many powerful friends lording over the mining industry, the President made a sudden turnaround.

In no uncertain terms, he told the miners to share more of their net income by way of taxes, restore the damage done to the environment and provide for the welfare of inhabitants at the mine sites, like hospitals, schools and livelihood centers.

“Or I will tax you to death,” was his final threat.

Winning the war against corruption and straightening the collars of the mining bosses will also be scenarios worth watching.


Bingo Dejaresco, a former banker, is a financial consultant, media practitioner, chairman of both the Professional Development and Broadcast Media of Finex and a Life member.

His views here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of Finex. E-mail:



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