CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama praised President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. for citing water, energy and specialty hospitals as priorities during his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, July 25, 2022.

According to Cebu City’s Public Information Office Tuesday, July 26, Rama said he will lobby for the construction of a dam and upgrading of the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) as a specialty hospital.

While several other local leaders piled on their approval of the new administration’s priorities, however, some residents expressed dissatisfaction with the Sona.

Rama described the first Sona of Marcos Jr. as "very comprehensive" and "in fact, encompassing," addressing all the needs to bounce back from the setbacks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and recent calamities.

The president's direction on agriculture, fiscal management, and right-sizing of employees also received a thumbs-up from Rama as these echoed the policies of the mayor in the city government.

“It is superb for the President to bring the nation to be sound,” said Rama.

Transportation

Rama was also pleased to hear that the Marcos administration intends to complete the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project and finally realize the Cebu Railway System.

The mayor hopes that the monorail and cable cars will be included in the implementation of these mass transportation systems.

Through these, Rama said that becoming a Singapore-like city may not be far-fetched.

Rama hopes the original route of the BRT as planned from Barangay Bulacao will be adopted.

“This will definitely be pursued in view of the pronouncement of the President that he will continue the infrastructure projects put in place by his predecessor,” he said.

Dam

When Marcos Jr. instructed government departments to explore partnerships with the private sector to rehabilitate and improve water systems in the country, Rama said this was an opportunity to push further for the construction of a new dam.

Rama is also looking at the desilting of the Buhisan Dam to increase and return its storage capacity to when it was built 110 years ago.

After the devastation of Typhoon Odette (Rai) in December 2021, both the private and public sectors agreed on the need for the city to have a dam to ensure ample water supply when disasters strike.

The recent announcement of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District to impose an increase in its water tariff has also renewed Rama's objective to build a dam.

Specialty hospital

Marcos Jr. mentioned that there is a need to build more specialty hospitals so citizens would no longer have to travel to Metro Manila for their health needs.

Rama said he would lobby for the CCMC to become one such hospital, whether a heart center, lung center, children’s institute, or kidney and transplant institute.

The CCMC may also be a center for patients with diabetes, cancer, and other critical illnesses if the planned construction for a wellness building will push through.

Traffic

The head of the traffic board in Cebu City also commended Marcos Jr. for mentioning the Cebu Railway System and BRT project in his Sona.

Former city councilor and now chairperson of the Cebu City Traffic Management and Coordination Committee Rico Rey Francis "Koko" Holganza said Tuesday, July 26, that the president's pronouncement was a "good step in the right direction."

Holganza said having a mass transport system like railways can improve the traffic situation of the city.

Tourism

Cebu leaders Tuesday also hailed the Sona for its mention of tourism, the end to Covid-19 lockdowns and economic development outside the National Capital Region (NCR).

Cebu 4th District Rep. Janice Salimbangon said: “The direction of our national agenda in terms of key policy areas is totally in sync with what I envision for the fourth district of Cebu. The declaration of importance of building ecozones to boost economic growth and development in areas outside of NCR is a change I am very welcoming of, considering that we have been pushing for the creation of the Cebu Fourth District Special Economic Zone since the 15th Congress.”

“I am also looking forward to the direction where our tourism industry is headed. I am most excited with the given importance in creating more international airports throughout the country, hoping that our airport in Medellin will be inaugurated within PBBM's term,” Salimbangon added.

“I am hopeful and optimistic about his (Marcos’) future plans, particularly with regard to tourism recovery and the assurance of having no more lockdowns,” said Lapu-Lapu City Lone District Rep. Ma. Cynthia “Cindi” King-Chan.

“Moreover, there is no doubt that everyone is excited about his plans to continue his predecessor, former President Rodrigo Duterte's, infrastructure programs, as these are the backbone of the economy,” King-Chan added.

Her husband, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan, said: “Tourism will be prioritized to promote the Filipino brand of hospitality and create more jobs to boost our tourism industry,”

Tourism is the bread and butter of Lapu-Lapu City.

Digital connectivity

The mayor also voiced support for Marcos’ pronouncements to modernize agriculture, end Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdowns, and continue the Covid-19 vaccine booster rollout.

“I support adding vaccine boosters to ensure that all Filipinos, especially our Oponganons, would not be vulnerable to Covid-19 once our children return to full face-to-face classes in the upcoming school year,” the Lapu-Lapu mayor said.

Chan said the President’s order to the Department of Information and Communications Technology to deploy digital connectivity across the country “gives benefits to students and it can be used such as in digital payments and e-commerce.”

The mayor said the City Government aims to give free laptops to all public school teachers and tablets to all junior and senior high school students in Lapu-Lapu so they can participate fully in the digital community here and abroad.

Chan also applauded the Marcos administration’s plan to build more power plants to have more sources of energy in the country, especially renewable energy sources.

“Probably, solar power energy is also suitable on Olango Island. In fact, we installed solar-powered lights and lampposts in Olango Island, Caubian and other islet barangays during my first term. The President would also look into the water supply, especially in urban areas,” Chan said.

Shelter and Mandanas

Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes was also pleased with Marcos’s Sona, saying late Monday: “I echo the President's sentiment regarding economy, agriculture, social services, health and Emergency Shelter Assistance program, among others, as this is parallel to our five-point agenda for Mandaue City.”

“Lastly, I am glad that the President is open to talk with local chief executives pertaining to the implementation of the Mandanas Ruling on what is practicable and what functions belong to the LGUs (local government units) and what belong to the National Government,” Cortes said.

In the Mandanas Ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the just share of LGUs from the national taxes (or the Internal Revenue Allotment) is not limited to “national internal revenue taxes” collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue but includes collections (customs duties) by the Bureau of Customs.

This is expected to increase the Internal Revenue Allotment of LGUs in fiscal year 2022 by more than 27 percent, according to a presentation by John Aries Macaspac of the Department of Budget and Management.

Several functions currently being undertaken by many national agencies, however, would be devolved to the LGUs to mitigate the fiscal impact of the Mandanas ruling.

Not satisfied

However, not everyone was happy with the Sona where President Marcos discussed a wide range of issues including tourism, agriculture, education, health, economic recovery, disaster response, and the welfare and rights of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and farmers.

Arcel Amerol, 30, from Mindanao, observed that the President did not address issues like corruption, crime, and the drug war, which were the most prominent platforms of previous President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Ang pinaka-importante talaga doon ay yung korupsiyon kasi ang dami nang naging President, hindi pa rin nabago (nasolusyunan) iyon. Kabilang na rin yung krimen and ang drugs," Amerol told SunStar Cebu. (What was most important was corruption because many have been President but this has not changed. That includes the problems of crime and drugs.)

Like Amerol, Charmane Piedad, 20, believes that the long-running fight against corruption should have been included in the speech because it is crucial to the country's economic strength.

Concerning the topic of corruption, Piedad emphasized the inequity and inappropriate distribution of financial support, particularly to those adversely impacted by calamities or the pandemic.

"Ang ganahan nako na ma-address niya unta kay ang corruption kay sa pila ka tuig, mao na gyud ni ang permeng problema nato nga mga Pilipino. Usa sab, dili fair ang paghatag sa financial assistance," Piedad said. (What I would have wanted addressed was corruption because for years, that has been a perennial problem of Filipinos. Also, the distribution of financial assistance has not been fair.)

However, Piedad expressed amazement at Marcos’ mention of unresolved issues that previous Presidents had not mentioned in their Sona.

Piedad spoke of Marcos’ highlighting of the rights of the farmers, single parents, overseas Filipino workers, and the mandatory Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), which she believes is essential for the youth nowadays.

"What I can say of the Sona yesterday of President Marcos is that he said many things not mentioned by other Presidents. I like it also that he mentioned in his platform the rights of the farmers, especially the rights also of single parents and OFWs,” she said in Cebuano.