THE State of the Nation Address (SONA) is a constitutional obligation and yearly tradition, wherein the Chief Executive reports on the status of the country, unveils the government’s agenda for the coming year, and proposes to Congress certain legislative measures to a joint session of the Congress of the Philippines.
The State of the Nation Address (SONA) in the Philippines is an annual event that brings together all important personalities in the government executive, legislative, and judiciary under one roof, at the Batasang Pambansa. As a governmental tradition, it is a means for the president to inform the people about the current state of the nation and give recommendations to the legislature as regards to his agenda or priorities or proposed measures for the fiscal year.
As a constitutional obligation (see Article VI, Section 15 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution), it mandates the President to deliver a speech about the state of the nation during the opening of the sessions of the national legislature (which is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives).
It’s important to ask these three key strategic questions after the President’s first year in office :
1. Where are we right now ?
2. Where do we want to go ?
3. How do we get there ?
As a health reform advocate , I would like to stay in my lane and see how far have we accomplished in our healthcare goals after one year.
Last year, the President’s main thrust was the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pres. Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. said the country cannot afford another lockdown, and there is a need to balance the health and safety of the public and the economy. He said he had asked the help of several agencies, particularly the Department of Health (DOH), to make sure that the country’s healthcare system has the capacity to prevent a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“Sa ganitong paraan, kahit pa tumaas ang COVID-19 cases, mananatiling mababa ang maoospital at mamamatay. Unti-unti rin tayong masasanay na nariyan ang virus pero hindi na seryoso ang banta sa ating buhay,” he said.
He added that they will align protocols and strengthen the cooperation with the private sector to increase confidence, “so that we can go back to full capacity for our businesses.”
Marcos said information and communication campaign against COVID-19 will also be strengthened along with vaccination.
Today as we speak , the COVID pandemic has been declared by the WHO not as a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern ). The World Health Organization announced in May that it was ending the public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, it declared for COVID-19 more than three years ago. PHEIC is the WHO’s highest level of alert.
Health Secretary Ted Herbosa wants the state of public health emergency lifted, saying the COVID-19 pandemic—which killed at least 66,000 Filipinos and wreaked economic and social havoc—no longer constitutes a crisis. The health chief, however, said that the alert level system for COVID-19 will remain.
I fully agree with his recommendation to PBBM so we can speed up our economic recovery and bring back our lives to normalcy. Marcos Jr. has yet to lift the state of public health emergency. The state of public health emergency will remain in effect unless lifted or withdrawn by the sitting president.
MORE HEALTH CENTERS, HOSPITALS
Pres. Marcos asked Congress last year to pass a law that will create the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as a vaccine institute. He also said that his administration will build more health centers and hospitals not only in Metro Manila but also in other areas in the country. This was the most applauded part of his speech and people are expecting positive news on this goal. The first multispecialty medical center that will be built in Clark Freeport Zone is expected to be finished before Marcos steps down in 2028.
Marcos together with Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio “Anton” Lagdameo, Jr. attended the briefing and site inspection of the Clark Multi-Specialty Medical Center Monday morning at the Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga. The project is a joint initiative of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), Clark Development Corporation, Department of Health, Bases Conversion and Development Authority, and the Bloomberry Cultural Foundation, Inc.
“The need for a stronger healthcare system is self-evident. We will bring medical services to the people, not wait for them to come to centers,” he said.
Aside from building more health centers and hospitals, Marcos vowed last year to bring prices of medicines down and ensure enough supply of it. He said he had started talking to pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices of medicines.
He added that he ordered the Philippine Competition Commission to ensure equality and that cartel among pharmaceutical companies is removed. He said an open market would lead to lower medicine prices and health benefits for more Filipinos.
FULL FACE-TO-FACE CLASSES
Marcos reiterated in his first Sona that it is now time for students to return to full face-to-face classes.
He said the Department of Education (DepEd), headed by its Secretary Vice President Sara Duterte, has already been preparing for its implementation in the upcoming school year “with utmost consideration of the students and teachers’ safety.
He appealed to the public to get booster shots to strengthen their defense against COVID-19 now that students will go back to schools. Marcos tasked the DOH and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to undertake another rollout of booster shots.
In my personal opinion , this is the checklist that we would like to be accomplished in the next 5 years of the PBBM administration :
1. Healthcare workers ‘ shortage
2. Philhealth efficiency and delivery system improvement
3. Medical infrastructures as planned mandated by PBBM in peripheral areas of the country
4. Preventive health education to empower every Filipino to be healthy and educated
5. Legislation e.g. sin taxes for junk food and sodas to raise revenues
6. PBBM marching orders to establish more health centers, including the CDC, vaccine institute
7. Bivalent vaccines implementation and deployment to increase our wall of immunity
8. Curb the epidemic of lifestyle diseases and address the obesity epidemic
9. Work with the private sector and medical community to address our health issues
10. FDA revitalization and strong resolve to address and regulate fake health ads using credible medical professionals that hurt, injure and even kill unsuspecting patients
In closing , we need to support our national leaders to succeed as a country. We need to inspire and motivate our people after the pandemic. Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it. Let’s hope for the best.
We must think and act not only for the moment but for our time. PBBM must listen to the people as we move forward to another challenging but more optimistic year.
“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.” ―Woodrow Wilson. By Dr. Tony Leachon
Anthony C. Leachon, M. D.
Independent Health Reform Advocate
Past President ,
Philippine College of Physicians
Internist – Cardiologist
Manila Doctors Hospital